Yesterday saw the arrival of all our Freshers. It is a very long time since my own days as a Fresher but I still remember that feeling of starting out on something new, something unknown; of being in a position to make myself whoever I wanted to be. Who needs the Guild bar? That alone is completely intoxicating.
This afternoon I walked across campus, revelling in the fact that it was alive again after those quiet summer months that seem so alien to what a university ought to be about and listening to the bubble of voices beginning to cement friendships that may last a life time between people who haven’t yet known each other for even twenty-four hours. I wanted to hug them all and be the hundredth person telling each one that they must cherish and make the most of the three years ahead of them.
I knew there were some lines of, what I thought to be appropriate, poetry nagging at the back of my mind and when I came in I tracked them down. I’m sure you all know the work anyway, but you can never share too much poetry. To all those of you whose academic year is also starting this week, my best wishes. I hope you have a good term and remember to make time for the wine and the music.
To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence
I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.
I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.
But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and I’ll,
And prayers to them who sit above?
How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.
Oh friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.
Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.
James Elroy Flecker (1884 – 1915)