THE END OF HARD TIMES

The great wheel of earth seemed to revolve without the shocks and noises of another time.” Those words come towards the end of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, which I’ve just finished reading. The book, harsh in its description and criticism of the worst aspects of industrial ‘Coketown’, ends with two of its more sympathetic characters out on a Sunday walk. “Under their feet, the grass was fresh; beautiful shadows of branches flickered upon it, and speckled it; hedgerows were luxuriant; everything was at peace.” And, instead of the mechanical noises of the factories and the noises of people and vehicles going about their business, the two women could hear larks singing.

In our present situation, when much industry has ceased, shops and businesses are shut and people are behind closed doors at home, spring continues to evolve, planet earth still turns, the birds sing and, as Her Majesty the Queen said, “Easter isn’t cancelled.”

There is grief and hardship, sorrow and uncertainty, fear and loneliness. But earth still revolves and life continues. As John Ellerton puts it, in his hymn, The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended:

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

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