I thought today I would write about the poem ‘The Gate of the Year’ – it is the first thing you see when you come to my blog homepage after all.
This poem (or at least, this verse of the poem!) has come to mean a lot to me over the years, but before I share why I should probably introduce the poem.
The poem was first written in 1908 by a British lady called Minnie Louise Haskins. The actual poem is titled ‘God Knows’ and the verse that I have pictured was actually written as the preamble which leads into the full poem. This is a little known fact – making this poem probably one of the best known, and yet unknown poems out there. A few years after writing the poem Minnie published a small volume of poetry called ‘The Desert’ which contained the poem ‘God Knows.’ But both the author and the poem remained relatively unknown.
It wasn’t until Christmas 1939 that the poem was catapulted into stardom, when King George VI read this verse at the end of his Christmas speech to the nation and Commonwealth. At this point, Britain had been at war with Germany for 3 months, and nobody was under the illusion that what was to come would be anything less than brutal, and indeed, tragic.
The First World War had only been 2 decades ago, and people, and the nation, were still bearing the scars. Now, faced with yet another war, where people would lose husbands, brothers and sons, the King was faced with a dilemma. What words do you speak to a nation who faces loss and great suffering? What words do you speak when you cannot guarantee that people’s loved ones will be spared, or that they themselves will be protected?
There seems to be some debate as to how the King got a hold of these words – some say his wife, the Queen Consort Elizabeth gave them to him, but the book that I take this from says that his daughter, our now Queen Elizabeth II, handed him a piece of paper with this poem. (If you haven’t read the book ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’ you should definitely check it out. The book is about the Queen’s personal faith and truly is inspirational. Much like the Queen herself – another one of my many hero’s.) Elizabeth would have been 13 at the time, and it is said that she handed her Father the poem thinking that it might be helpful. And it was. The King’s speech (not the one referenced in the movie of the same title – just in case you were wondering!) would turn out to be profoundly significant, strengthening hearts and giving hope to millions at such a terrible time. Here are the words that were spoken to a nation facing the uncertainties of war and the coming new year –
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 why do these words mean so much to me? Well, at some point in time, my Grandfather got a hold of these words. I like to think that perhaps he was listening to the radio broadcast when the King gave his speech, but I do not know that for certain. What I do know, is that however he first heard them, they made a lasting impact on him, so much so, that when my Mum was a little girl, these are the words that he wrote in her much cherished autograph book. These are the words that he chose to give to his daughter.
And years later, these are the words that she passed on to her daughter. The picture that I have on my home page is a picture of the card that my Mum gave to me one year. She thought that as I regularly ‘step out into the unknown’ these words, which she also holds dearly, would serve me well. To this day I keep the card on my fridge. A daily reminder that as I step out, no matter what I may face in the coming day, I need only put my hand into the hand of my Lord and King. His hand is always open, and He is always there to light the way.
And now I pass these words onto you. As my Mum suspected (she is really very wise you know) these words have served me well – words which I now cherish and hold dearly also. And I hope that they will serve you well too.
So today – as you continue to walk your path – may you put your hand into the hand of God – the only one who can truly direct our steps.
Yours In Joy