Virtual Reality

I am quite sure that you are thoroughly fed up of this awful pandemic and being separated from friends and family. I certainly am! Last week I shared with a church friend a poem that I wrote last year for my college (Regent’s Park) magazine. It was back in April, during the first lockdown but my friend encouraged me to share it somehow as it remains relevant, so here it is below.
Some explanation is necessary as it was written for college and there are some “insider” references:
  • Stephen was the operations manager for Regent’s and would send out regular emails to keep all the students updated. He also edited the magazine!
  • The “marbled star” is a star-shaped inset into the floor in the college reception area – a traditional gathering point.
  • Helwys hall is the dining hall, named after one of the founders of the Baptist church, Thomas Helwys.
  • “The Bible & Fish” is my own nickname for Regent’s – the college coat of arms reflects its Christian heritage and features a fish set above an open bible.
  • A bit of Latin. Mea Princeps = “My High” and Dominus Illuminatio Mea = “the Lord is my light” (happily, this is the motto of Oxford University).
  • Bob is the maintenance manager.
  • The college Chaplain (who retired last year) was Myra, who is cheerful, diminutive and Scottish.
  • “None shall sleep” references / translates the aria “Nessun Dorma”. 
OK, got all that? Here’s the poem and I really hope it touches you.
Much love,

Virtual Reality
A ping from my inbox and what has come in?
The latest of updates from Stephen McGlynn
Reminding the students that we must stand firm
But keep safely distant this Trinity term
The virus must keep us apart from each other
Friend far from friend and sister from brother
Student from Tutor and I, dear, from thee
Till Regent’s and Oxford are deemed virus-free
Beloved Oxford! No-one ever tires
Of hallowed halls and dreaming spires
Glorious Regent’s! Most blessed of all!
From marbled Star to Helwys Hall
My College, my fortress, oh mea Princeps!
I know we must keep to the distancing steps
Alas! and Alack! And… Ah! How I wish…
To be once again at the ‘Bible & Fish’
For there is good Bob, resplendent in shorts
Attending to all of the maint’nance reports
His tools are all with him, except for the few
Strategically left at the stairs by the loo
I stand and I dream as I wait by the chapel
Savouring flavours of coffee and apple
But soft! Whose the foot that I hear on the stair?
The wee, beaming Chaplain, ready for prayer
Offering smiles and a thought for the day
Taking my thoughts for a moment away
To heavenly realms, where there is no wrong
And then I’m brought back as we break into song
Familiar the words, all drawn from the Psalter
And gathered together in front of the altar
My cohort, my friends, my partners-in-crime
For surely we’ve stolen this beautiful time?
Given, you say, and all by God’s grace?
Ushered by Him to this wonderful place
Of learning and laughter, of young and of old
Of wisdom that’s shared and secrets untold?
When comes our return? The timescale’s so vague
Oh, how I detest you, importunate plague!
The death and the grief and the fear that you bring
But Faith, Hope and Love will outlast your sting
A night will come soon when all through our nation
We’ll take to our beds in antici… pation
“None shall sleep! None shall sleep!” the church bells shall clang
“None shall sleep! None shall sleep!” as the great tenor sang
For early next day, the spell will be broken
And slumbering hopes shall all be awoken
And into the streets the people will pour
With handshakes and hugs and kisses once more
In days of deep darkness, how we need the Light
To show us the path and strengthen our fight
So never forget - let it ring in your ear -
Simon Lace, 04/02/2021