From THE LAODICIAN by Thomas Hardy
The quiet time of evening, the secluded neighbourhood, the
unusually gorgeous liveries of the clouds packed in a pile
over that quarter of the heavens in which the sun had
disappeared, were such as to make a traveller loiter on his
walk. Coming to a stile, Somerset mounted himself on the top
bar, to imbibe the spirit of the scene and hour. The evening
was so still that every trifling sound could be heard for
miles. There was the rattle of a returning waggon, mixed with
the smacks of the waggoner's whip: the team must have been at
least three miles off. From far over the hill came the faint
periodic yell of kennelled hounds; while from the nearest
village resounded the voices of boys at play in the twilight.
Then a powerful clock struck the hour; it was not from the
direction of the church, but rather from the wood behind him;
and he thought it must be the clock of some mansion that way.
... balanced between believing and not believing in his own
future, he was recalled to the scene without by hearing the
notes of a familiar hymn, rising in subdued harmonies from a
valley below. He listened more heedfully. It was his old
friend the 'New Sabbath,' which he had never once heard since
the lisping days of childhood, and whose existence, much as it
had then been to him, he had till this moment quite forgotten.
Where the 'New Sabbath' had kept itself all these years--why
that sound and hearty melody had disappeared from all the
cathedrals, parish churches, minsters and chapels-of-ease that
he had been acquainted with during his apprenticeship to life,
and until his ways had become irregular and uncongregational--
he could not, at first, say. But then he recollected that the
tune appertained to the old west-gallery period of church-
music, anterior to the great choral reformation and the rule
of Monk - that old time when the repetition of a word, or half-
line of a verse, was not considered a disgrace to an
Willing to be interested in anything which would keep him out-
of-doors, Somerset dismounted from the stile and descended the
hill before him, to learn whence the singing proceeded. He found that it had its origin in a building standing alone
in a field; and though the evening was not yet dark without,
lights shone from the windows. In a few moments Somerset
stood before the edifice.
... The 'New Sabbath' still proceeded line by line, with all the
emotional swells and cadences that had of old characterized
the tune: and the body of vocal harmony that it evoked
implied a large congregation within, to whom it was plainly as
familiar as it had been to church-goers of a past generation.
With a whimsical sense of regret at the secession of his once
favourite air, Somerset moved away ...