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, 2 February 2012

Newman on Candlemas

I like this poem by Newman which we sing at the Oxford Oratory as a hymn for Candlemas because of the way it links the images of candles at Christmas through those burning at Candlemas through to the Pascal Candle. In so doing Bl. John Henry draws the sacral year together so as to express its liturgical and theological coherence.

I also like the poem because the same idea struck me many years ago when I was parish clerk at Pontefract, and it is always satisfying when someone agrees with one, especially a beatified Cardinal...


The Angel-lights of Christmas morn,
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.

Comfort of earth is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone
Old Simeon’s tapers shine.

And then for eight long weeks and more,
We wait in twilight grey,
Till the high candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.

We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer;
While song is hush’d, and lights grow dim
In the sin-laden air.

And while the sword in Mary’s soul
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.

And still, though Candlemas be spent
And Alleluias o’er,
Mary is music in our need,
And Jesus light in store.

Bl.John Henry Newman, The Oratory. 1849

With acknowledgements to Why I am a Catholic blog


John F H H said...

Thankyou for posting this. What tune to they use at the Oxford Oratory? We sing it to Winchester Old (While shepherds watched) which helps with the backwards/forwards theme of Candlemas.

There are several more hymns for Candlemas:
Fr.Faber's "Joy! joy! the Mother comes:"
Santeuil's "O Sion, open wide thy gates," translated by Caswall,
the Anglican, Christopher Wordsworth's " O Jerusalem, beloved,",
A.E.Alston's "Praise we now the holy Light,"
W.J.Copeland's translation, "Hail! Mary, full of grace," from the Paris Missal.

Let me know if you would like the words of any of these.

Kind regards,
John U.K.

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

I have enquired of the organist at the Oratory and we sang the hymn to the tune Martyrdom, usually associated with "O God of Bethel".