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.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year - the Gate of the Year

So we are now in 2012, and we can all wish one another a happy and prosperous New Year. What it will actually bring is, of course, largely hidden from us. Some things are clearly going to happen - we can look forward to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and to the Olympics - though the latter will keep me well away from London in July and August if I can help it - and we shall have to endure coverage of both a French and a US presidential election. Apart from that, and a predictable continuing economic crisis, we do not know what is going to happen. The experts normally fail to forsee events - just think back to this time last year. Who predicted the Arab Spring, the phone hacking scandal or the scale of the Eurozone problem? We can say that those will continue to make the news, but in what way, and with what consequences - that we do not know. The one thing we can predict at any New Year is that the unpredictable and unpredicted will happen.

Given the times in which we are living I am minded to think of the lines, originally published in 1908, which King George VI quoted in his Christmas broadcast in 1939 and the advice of the man who stood at the gate of the year, and to put one's hand into the hand of God:

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart bestill:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

There is an article by Christopher Howse about the poem and its author here.

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