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John Bradburne - his life and poetry

Ballade Extraordinaire      

A Notre Dame de la misericorde
(Ma Dame, si belle, si si)
For viol and voice and harpsichord
(Viol da Gamba and Tenor a broad)
Theme to a Maiden of Glee:
This is the shape of the loveliest sound
From Africa's Cape, high Tromsdalen round
And into the Hebrides, onto the ground
Of all we call the free!
What is the shape of the loveliest sound
Other than that of a Belle
Foundry of which could not ever be found
Except in Iz-rah-elle?
Viol da Gamba and Tenor a broad
Are Gabriel's both and the harpsichord
More is a Virginal score for the Lord:
She bore Emm-an-u-el.
Prince of the merciful, Lord of the peace
Less Roman and British and proper to Greece
Than risen in Galilee, lilies are gay
Less than our Lady of Light: Au Lait!

John Bradburne, the son of an Anglican clergyman, was born in England in 1921 and joined the army in 1939. He served in Malaya and Burma during the Second World War and something in Malaya (a conversion experience thought to have involved an apparition of Our Lady) turned him from adventurer to pilgrim. Invalided home, he became a Catholic in 1947 and then wandered between England, Italy & the Middle East until he came to Zimbabwe in 1962, having written to his army friend, now Jesuit priest, Father John Dove asking "Is there a cave in Africa where I can pray?" There he soon confided to a Franciscan priest that he had three wishes: to serve leprosy patients, to die a martyr and to be buried in the habit of St Francis. In 1969 he was appointed warden of Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement where he remained up until his abduction and death on 5 September 1979.

On 40th anniversary of John’s assassination, there was a special ceremony at Mutemwa, held by Archbishop Ndlovu, where the cause was officially launched. 15,000 people turned out with 400 clergymen. To learn more about John's remarkable life, his beautiful poetry and support for his beatification, visit the John Bradburne Memorial Society's website.