Play # 73: St. Anselm and the Spring

The play is set in a walled garden, near Canterbury, England.  It is a morning in early spring, and the garden is sparkling with newly bloomed flowers.  There is a stone bench in the garden, upon which sits—rather solidly--the stalwart figure of St. Anselm, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury.* A little girl plays innocently nearby.

Girl (bouncing up to the sedentary saint):  Good morning, Stern Father of the Church!

Anselm (regarding her sternly): You ought to be at your prayers.

Girl: I’ve been at my prayers, and now I’m playing amongst the flowers!  Aren’t they beautiful!!

Anselm (sternly): They are sent to lead us astray.

Girl (puzzled): Astray? [she looks around].  But we are in a walled garden.  You can’t get lost in a walled gardcn!

Anselm (even more sternly):  Yes you can.

Girl (cheerfully):  Only if you really want to, I bet!

Anselm (smiling despite his wish not to): Wise beyond her years. 

Girl (unperturbed):  Are you enjoying the warmth of the sun? Isn’t it lovely!!??

Anselm (with a certain finality): The sun lulls us into complacency.  Its warmth is a snare.

Girl: And so many flowers!

Anselm (sternly):  Too many.

Girl:  Look!  Lovely blue Irises!

Anselm (almost fearful): Their blue will burn you.

Girl: And look, primroses!

Anselm: Baubles paving the way to perdition.

Girl: And brave Forget-me-nots!

Anselm: Ironically named flowers! Their very purpose is to make you forget!

Girl (puzzled and disappointed):  Forget what, Holy Father?

Anselm: Your place under heaven.

Girl:  I don’t think so, Venerable One.  I know my place under heaven.  It is to play amidst the new-bloomed flowers in this paradise-garden. 

Anselm (brooking no nonsense):  Things are harmful in direct proportion to the number of senses they delight.  This garden is therefore a hotbed of sensory dangers.  There are too many blossoms to see, too much fragrance to breathe in, too much warm stone to touch, too many singing birds to hear—and too much childish prattle to try to ignore!

Girl:  How alive you must be, Holy Father, to do so much denying!!

Anselm: Nature must not be simply enjoyable.  Nature is a manuscript from which we are required to read sobering truths. 

Girl: Well, I wouldn’t know about that, stern Church Father.  I don’t know how to read yet.  Maybe when I learn, I can then become as sad as you are!

Anselm (risking a faint smile):  Let us hope so, my dear.


* Anselm was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109 A.D.