Friday, January 11, 2008

Fair Cambridge

One of the hymns that I grew up singing was “Jerusalem” whose lyrics derive from a poem by William Blake.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

This typically British hymn is built on the premise that Christ visited England during his adolescence. And it was used in one of my favorite movies, “Chariots of Fire” which derived its title from the second stanza.

Well, the connection here is that one of the featured runners in “Chariots of Fire” is Harold Abrahams, a student at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University.

While I certainly cannot claim to have seen all the places in England that I want to see, I have seen quite a few places. In addition to London, I have visited Bath, seen Stonehenge, seen Salisbury Cathedral. I have been to Blenheim Palace (where Winston Churchill was born, in what is really his ancestral home); I have visited Coventry and seen Coventry Cathedral. I have visited Stratford-on-Avon, twice. And I have visited Oxford University.

But I had never seen that other fabled English university, Cambridge. So, one of the places we visited during our recent trip was Cambridge. The day we traveled there was a cold and rainy day, and at first I thought that might ruin the visit. Not so. The various colleges at Cambridge were mostly deserted, so close to Christmas, and there certainly were very few tourists there. So, unlike Oxford which we had visited in the middle of summer while it was crawling with tourists, Cambridge was a lovely enchanting place.

Kings College Chapel, where the Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols takes place, had the BBC setting up for that service. My daughter and I went in quickly to peek around. One of the unique features of the chapel is the fan vaulting.

Other colleges had lovely quads, and interior lush lawns. St. Johns’ College has a replica of the Bridge of Sighs, in Venice.

One of the famous activities is punting—and even on the winter’s day we were there, there were tourists punting on the Cam.

Cambridge has many famous alums, including: Charles Darwin; John Milton; Jan Smuts; Sacha Baron-Cohen; Jane Goodall; John Cleese*; Graham Chapman*; David Frost; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Alan Turing; Emma Thompson; William Wordsworth; Isaac Newton; Germaine Greer*; Sylvia Plath; CS Lewis.

What a lovely day we had.

Note 1: all photos here are from our day in Cambridge.

Note 2 *: on the off chance you missed the significance of these particular alum, Cambridge is where MONTY PYTHON got its start! Yes, Germaine Greer was one of those involved in the earliest comedy of the gang that eventually became Monty Python.


mon@rch said...

Thanks for sharing your great day/photos of Cambridge! Hope to visit one day and so much history with these buildings!

Ginger said...

I love these photos! I have been to Oxford for a conference, but have not yet visited Cambridge. Will have to put that on my "to do" list for the future!

Beverly said...

Oh, how wonderful! I must got out my DVD of Chariots of Fire and watch it again. It, too, is one of my favorite movies.

Thank you for including the hymn. I am not familiar with it.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

A lovely tour.

An interesting list of graduates.

You left out some on the most interesting, The Cambridge Five (spies) of WWII: Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt, Caincross

JeanMac said...

Mighty buildings, architecture. Your photos are great. Thanks.

RuthieJ said...

OMG, Donna--those buildings are so beautiful! I'm always amazed they were able to build such fantastic structures in the age before giant cranes, laser levels and power tools. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and stories about Cambridge.

Mauigirl said...

Wonderful pictures - Cambridge looks beautiful. We've visited the same places you had done previously (Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Stongehenge, Bath, etc.) but not Cambridge either. So that must go on our list for next time!

Cuppa said...

Thanks for the tour. We have never been to England but it is on my wish list to do someday.

Anvilcloud said...

That was a fine film and that piece certainly works well in it, strange concept as it is.

My maternal ancestors are from Cambridgeshire, so if I ever get over there, the university would be a wonderful place to visit.

Mary said...

Donna, I don't think I've ever seen such exquisite architecture anywhere. What a beautiful visit you had. And you probably enjoyed it even more during Christmas, without the tourist season in full swing. The universities - their reputations - the photos you took prove it's all true.

So nice!

Island Rambles Blog said...

Nice pictures Donna even if you say it was raining the light was good...always wanted to see Cambridge... now I have seen it through your lens..funny how someone miles away can post your dreams for you. cheers, ocean