Love unknown

Finding himself travelling west on Good Friday in pursuit of worldly business, John Donne imagines himself straining to look east to witness the crucifixion, but also relieved that he cannot look: Who sees Gods face, that is self life, must dye;What a death were it then to see God dye? Donne’s response to this impossibleContinue reading “Love unknown”


Yesterday a colleague sent me the video of our choir singing Parry’s (1848-1918) ‘My Soul there is a Country’ with the Sistine Chapel Choir in front of Michaelangelo’s vast and terrifying Last Judgement. Parry’s anthem is one of the Songs of Farewell, composed in the final years of his life and tried out in draftContinue reading “Peace”

Epstein’s Lazarus

I wrote this reflection last year for the University Church’s Passion and Compassion project, a trail of stations of the cross using art objects around Oxford. The reflection seems especially pertinent now, as we are living in a time poised between death and life, longing for the promise of rebirth. For the full set ofContinue reading “Epstein’s Lazarus”

More wisdom from John Donne (1572-1631)

John Donne died on this day in 1631, after a long illness. His literary life is marked by a circling back to the themes of death and decay, inspiration and resurrection, that seem vital to me in these strange times. Here is a small selection from his poems and sermons to give you hope inContinue reading “More wisdom from John Donne (1572-1631)”

Pizza for dummies

Reflection by Susan Bridge While we are finding our new routines, staying connected at a physical distance is the current challenge. And so I love hearing about the imaginative and kind and silly things my fellow grads are doing to maintain social connections. Last week there was Virtual Bar Night, when MCR committee members delivered drinksContinue reading “Pizza for dummies”

Feeling the fear

One of the things I treasure about being a historian (well, a literary historian) is the frequent reminder that nothing is new under the sun. Recently I’ve been re-reading John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, which I was planning to use as the basis of the final chapel service this term. Donne’s wild and evocative meditationsContinue reading “Feeling the fear”