A verse by Mervyn Peake

Probably my favourite verse. I read this in a Mervyn Peake newsletter or review that I got years ago when I was in the Mervyn Peake Society. For the life of me I can’t find where I’ve put it and I can find no mention of it on the internet, so this is entirely from memory but I’ve never forgotten it. Not for the religious.

There is a brotherhood among the kindly
Closer and defter and more integral
Than any of aisle or coven
For love rang out before the chapel bell

I’ve been thinking about religion lately and I like it no more than I ever have. The root meaning of the word “religion” is ‘to curve back in on oneself’ and religion seems limited in that respect. It seems to be more about what some book says or what somebody said hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Unfortunately, what a person’s heart says seems to be lost in a flood of belief’s and of musts and must-not’s. Not that hearing the heart is an easy thing, I hasten to add. The deluge of noise from busy, modern day life can only hinder such a thing, not to mention the clamour of the religious who (well meaning though they may be) believe that their way is right for you. I find this attitude incredibly juvenile. It’s kind of like saying the music I like is better than the music you like (so get a life!). But it aint. It’s just different. Jazz music, for instance, quite simply appalls me (oh, and add Gospel music to that list 😉 ). How anyone can listen to that stuff, I’ve no idea. But, some people love the stuff. On a religious level, Christianity, Islam etc, leaves me cold, but it seems they would have me accept these things as truth. It’s like asking me to suddenly like music I really don’t like. If I did say I like it then I would only be lying to myself and that would not be listening to my heart, right?

As another example, let’s take creativity. People express their creativity in many different ways (or not at all). Some gravitate to music, some to art, some to sculpture, some to gardening, some to film-making and on and on and on. Within those categories there are sub-categories. In art some people prefer impressionism while other prefer surrealism; in music some prefer classical while others prefer folk. Who is right and who is wrong? I don’t think anybody is right or wrong. I think it’s the same with an individual’s spirituality. Some will gravitate to Buddhism, some to Christianity, some to Islam, some to Druidism etc. And, of course, they all have their sub-categories. Who is right and who is wrong? Again, I don’t think anybody is. People are just different, thankfully. I don’t think I could bear a world where everyone was the same.

Anyway, I could go on all night about this and it’s been a long day. But before I get off my soap box, I’ll just say that I think that love is the common thing we share amongst all people and it’s the quietest religion on earth. It’s a religion we’ve all signed up for whether we like it or not and it’s what we will all ‘curve back in on’ in the end. I just think Mervyn Peake’s verse sums that up beautifully.

I’m outta here,


By | 2009-01-17T00:02:28+00:00 January 17th, 2009|Jimbob's Eclectic Mix|


  1. Joan Pederson 20th February 2014 at 1:25 am - Reply

    These lines turned up today on a site called Stack Exchange: English Language & Usage (URL below), where they were attributed to Maeve Gilmore’s memoir of her husband, Mervyn Peake, “A World Away.” She indeed wrote that book, although whether the words are his quoted by her or hers alone I have no idea. In any case, the lines you recall are of a piece with the rest of the poem.

    How foreign to the spirit’s early beauty
    And to the amoral integrity of the mind
    And to all those whose reserve of living is lovely
    Are the tired Creeds that can be so unkind.
    There is brotherhood among the kindly,
    Close and defter and more integral
    Than any brotherhood of aisle or coven
    For love rang out before the chapel bell.
    There is no intolerance and no bitterness
    As between sects where the full-hearted are
    And to pray for the non-natural and to have pity
    On those of alien faith whose eyes are clear
    Is to be insolent, is to be ignorant,
    Is to deny the god-head – is to withhold.


    • admin 15th March 2014 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      Hello Joan,

      Sorry for such a late reply! Thank you for your post. I actually asked Peake’s son Sebastian about the verse (which at the time I thought was the whole thing) and he put me onto one Peter Winnington who edits Peake Studies a bi-annual publication about the great mans work. This is what he had to say:

      “The lines you recall so accurately are the second verse of “How foreign to the spirit’s early beauty” which you will find in MP’s Collected Poetry — see this page for further details.”

      Nice to see the whole poem, so many thanks for that! 🙂

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