Change and Decay

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

From the viewpoint of evolutionary biology, this hymnwriter (Henry Francis Lyte)  got it wrong, because the opposite of Change and Decay is not Thou who changest not but rather Change and Renewal.

From the the philosophical point of view,   I prefer Dylan Thomas’ response to  Earth’s joys grow dim:

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, Rage against the dying of the light.

So what has all this to with cycling?   Well, today’s ride in the Wybunbury area seemed to have a lot of decay:

Was there really more decay than usual on this ride?    Or was I just looking out for it?  It was certainly no more than innocent curiosity that took me down this bridleway:

How could I resist a turn-off like this after a few miles of quite boring road?  Very soon I encountered the unexpected and the theme of decay began to take shape.

The name Ruston Bucyrus, initially appropriatre and then exotic, appeared on a number of abandoned machines:

A little further on I came to a broken fence:

Beyond the broken barrier was a whole graveyard of Ruston Bucyrus, which sounds just like an obscure species!

It turns out that the firm Ruston Bucyrus were given a top-secret job during the war of developing the personal brainchild of Winston Churchill, which was to be a 77 foot long nocturnal trench-digging machine called White Rabbit Number 6, or sometimes ‘Nellie.’

No, I am not making this up!

I get the impression that this was a vanity project and a white elephant  (hence Nellie?)  The army weren’t interested, but Churchill insisted, and the machines were built but never used.

Poets with a lyrical gift and a deep religious faith produced great verse that is still appreciated by cynical atheists like me.  I found myself warming to Henry Francis Lyte when I read that he started up a Sunday School for poor children, with very short sermons and long games and parties.  This brought back vivid memories of my own Sunday School picnics in Fountains Valley outside Pretoria.  (Another post for another day).  To cap it all the Rev Lyte lost much of his congregation who defected to the Plymouth Brethren.  As a defector from the Plymouth Brethren he has my whole-hearted sympathy. 

Rev Lyte wrote  Abide with Me as he was dying of tuberculosis.  It was put to music by William Henry Monk, soon after the death of his young daughter.  Both men turned personal pain and loss into something beautiful and lasting.  Dylan Thomas’ poem does so too but without the religious element:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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About abikerideaday

I like riding my bike about for work and for fun. Having a blog lets me sound off and generally express things. If you like my blog, please pass the address on to other cyclists in the area!
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One Response to Change and Decay

  1. martin murray says:

    came across your page whilst browsing, the ruston Bucyrus machinery in your pics are owned by my father who also owns the name rights to ruston Bucyrus ltd. and are sat on their land awaiting restoration, or parts for sale , it is an eery site though.

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