Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Lead Kindly Light

Supremacy and Survival had this post yesterday, which as an Orielensis caught my eye, and which may interest others in this year of Newman's beatification.

June 16, 1833--Newman's Journey Home

On June 16, 1833, John Henry Newman was finally returning to England, eager to take up a new cause. He had been travelling on the Continent for eight months and had been deathly ill in Sicily.
He described the circumstances of writing the poem "Lead, Kindly Light" which he first called "The Pillar of the Cloud" referring to the journey of the Hebrew people guided in the desert thus:

Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, "I have a work to do in England." I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, Kindly Light, which have since become so well known.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that
Thou Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Newman would find that work to do within a month of writing this poem when he heard Keble's "National Apostacy" sermon on July 14, 1833: The Tractarian or Oxford Movement!

The blogger, Stephanie Mann, adds that last year whilst in Oxford she was unable to tour Oriel College, it being closed to visitors every time she called in. She wanted to see the
 stained glass window pictured above (at least to see the details as described in the piece from the college website). I was a college Bible Clerk for part of the time when the window was being made and installed - we began to wonder if it would ever appear. There was a lavish Evensong and dinner to mark its dedication. The window is a fine piece of work and worth seeing if you do have the opportunity.

It occurs to me that depending how you pronounce Lead in relation to the window Lead Kindly Light  could apply  to the glazing, but that is just me being silly...

1 comment:

Stephanie A. Mann said...

Thank you for linking to my post and adding my blog to your roll.
I do hope to return for another Oxford Experience visit next year; this year family matters prevented me. It's a fun program and there is still so much to see in Oxford.