During my stay in the United States this summer I read Arthur Hailey’s Airport, then heading the best-seller lists. Fiction it may be, but not entirely. Read, for example, the airport manager’s response to a delegation of complaining citizens: “There will soon be more powerful, even noisier engines … plus a sonic boom.… We’re in for trouble, all of us.”

These are not comfortable words for the pastor of a church near London Airport whose opening prayer is disturbed by the Sunday morning Pan Am Clipper Washington-bound, and whose sermon is regularly concluded in competition with Flight BE 250 heading for Athens. Even perennial discussions in Britain’s parliament have done little to solve the general problem; it seems accepted that noise, like the poor, is always with us.

There are, of course, noises and noises. Those of our British isles, in stark contrast to Caliban’s lyrical statement, can scarcely be described in terms of “sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.” John Milton three centuries ago left a word for our modern condition when he complained, “A barbarous noise environs me”—though his reaction was against an assortment of cacophonous birds and beasts. Around the same period, Richard Vaughan also was wiser than he knew when he wrote of heaven’s being “above noise and danger.” This was before the time when the Bishop of Woolwich with frightening dogmatism decreed where heaven was not located. And though I do not go to either of the Brownings for my theology (and look with scaly eye on the man who does), Robert has a striking combination of words in speaking of “earth’s returns for whole ...

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