Thought for the Week


15th June 2020
BY Lucia Quinault, English Don

The longer the College stands empty, the more haunted it becomes.

I don’t wish to imply that I’ve communed with Thomas Ken in Chamber Court, or seen the Grey Lady. I’m talking about all the people who have been happy here, their memories, and our memories of them.

Some do their haunting in person, as visitors, or dons, but the Old Wykehamist with whom I associate the lines below returned to be received Ad Portas (the highest honour the school can bestow upon a guest, with a ceremony in the medieval heart of the College) in an astonishing line-up of his friends and contemporaries, all Fellows of the Royal Society or the British Academy. I’ve never forgotten his transparent joy at being back in the school he loved.

John Lucas (Coll: 42-47) died this April, aged 90. You can read all about his distinguished philosophical career in The Trusty Servant, but I remember him in a fraying greenish academic gown held together with what looked like electricians’ tape, standing at the lectern in Merton Chapel to read this poem.


 They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remember'd how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, 
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.

William (Johnson) Cory, 1823–1892

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