Simple Life of a University Tutor

Blessed John Henry Newman, born on Feb. 21, 1801, was a dedicated university teacher or Tutor at Oriel College, Oxford University.

He fought to overcome pride and vainglory. Even though he had to struggle against these temptations he could rightly liken himself to the Ivy on a college wall and compare this simple flower to a Rose, a Lily or a Dahlia. And he acknowledged the Divine Hand that suddenly made his “leaves exhale
Fragrance of the Syrian gale.”

Snapdragon’ a Riddle for a Flower Book

I am rooted in the wall
Of buttress’d tower or ancient hall;
Prison’d in an art-wrought bed.
Cased in mortar, cramp’d with lead;
Of a living stock alone
Brother of the lifeless stone.

Else unprized, I have my worth
On the spot that gives me birth;
Nature’s vast and varied field
Braver flowers than me will yield,
Bold in form and rich in hue,
Children of a purer dew;
Smiling lips and winning eyes
Meet for earthly paradise.
Choice are such,—and yet thou knowest
Highest he whose lot is lowest.
They, proud hearts, a home reject
Framed by human architect;
Humble-I can bear to dwell
Near the pale recluse’s cell,
And I spread my crimson bloom,
Mingled with the cloister’s gloom.
Life’s gay gifts and honours rare,
Flowers of favour! win and wear!
Rose of beauty, be the queen
In pleasure’s ring and festive scene.
Ivy, climb and cluster, where
Lordly oaks vouchsafe a stair.
Vaunt, fair Lily, stately dame,
Pride of birth and pomp of name.
Miser Crocus, starved with cold,
Hide in earth thy timid gold.
Travell’d Dahlia, freely boast
Knowledge brought from foreign coast.
Pleasure, wealth, birth, knowledge, power,
These have each an emblem flower;
So for me alone remains
Lowly thought and cheerful pains.
Be it mine to set restraint
On roving wish and selfish plaint;
And for man’s drear haunts to leave
Dewy morn and balmy eve.
Be it mine the barren stone
To deck with green life not its own.
So to soften and to grace
Of human works the rugged face.
Mine, the Unseen to display
In the crowded public way,
Where life’s busy arts combine
To shut out the Hand Divine.

Ah! no more a scentless flower,
By approving Heaven’s high power,
Suddenly my leaves exhale
Fragrance of the Syrian gale.
Ah! ’tis timely comfort given
By the answering breath of Heaven!
May it be! then well might I
In College cloister live and die.

John Henry Newman
Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010