A short while ago I did a shoot in Oxford and couldn’t help but stay for a while longer and explore the beautiful city. Considering that it is so close to London, I rarely go but this trip reminded me that I really should. From trendy Jericho in the North-West, through the colleges and cobbled streets in the centre, to the East of the city with its cheap eats and ‘tucked away’ bars, this really is a stunningly diverse city.
In a little cafe in the centre of the city, I was in my own world waiting for my coffee and flicking through the photographs on my camera, when someone at the table next to me struck up a conversation. He wanted to talk about C.S.Lewis (only in Oxford!) and how beautiful his poem on Oxford is. I hadn’t read it, so when I got home I looked it up. It is beautiful. And it captures wonderfully the spirit of the city:
“It is well that there are palaces of peace
And discipline and dreaming and desire,
Lest we forget our heritage and cease
The Spirit’s work — to hunger and aspire:
Lest we forget that we were born divine,
Now tangled in red battle’s animal net,
Murder the work and lust the anodyne,
Pains of the beast ‘gainst bestial solace set.
But this shall never be: to us remains
One city that has nothing of the beast,
That was not built for gross, material gains,
Sharp, wolfish power or empire’s glutted feast.
We are not wholly brute. To us remains
A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.
She was not builded out of common stone
But out of all men’s yearning and all prayer
That she might live, eternally our own,
The Spirit’s stronghold — barred against despair.”
~ “Oxford” by C.S.Lewis