The Instinct of Hope

A strenuous and stressful three days commuting to and from sunny Swindon for the STFC Astronomy Grants Panel are now over, just in time for the onset of teaching term next week. For reasons of confidentiality I can’t talk about the actual business of the grants panel, and it’s nowhere near finished anyway – there are several more meetings to come before any results come out. I would say, though, that it’s a curious job that manages to be both inspiring and depressing at the same time. The inspiring thing is that you get to read about so much really exciting science being done by all kinds of people in departments all over the country; the depressing thing is knowing that there isn’t anywhere near enough money to support all the things that one would like to in an ideal world. And our world is becoming less like an ideal one every day…

I decided for these three days not to stay in Swindon but to commute to and from from Cardiff. On balance, I think that was a good decision: I got to sleep in my own bed, didn’t have to arrange for someone to do Columbo’s jabs, and also saved STFC quite a bit of money – a day return from Cardiff to Swindon, a trip of almost exactly one hour each way, is only £26.80 at peak time. The downside was that I’ve been up at 5am each morning and have been in a vegetative state by the time I got home each evening, including this one!

Anyway, lacking the energy to put together a proper post, I’ll just put up this poem by John Clare which appeared in the  Guardian last saturday and which, for some reason, popped into my head during the train journey home. Somehow it seems apt.

Is there another world for this frail dust
To warm with life and be itself again?
Something about me daily speaks there must,
And why should instinct nourish hopes in vain?
‘Tis nature’s prophesy that such will be,
And everything seems struggling to explain
The close sealed volume of its mystery.
Time wandering onward keeps its usual pace
As seeming anxious of eternity,
To meet that calm and find a resting place.
E’en the small violet feels a future power
And waits each year renewing blooms to bring,
And surely man is no inferior flower
To die unworthy of a second spring?


3 Responses to “The Instinct of Hope”

  1. pity those of us still on the train… and AXL has probably only just taken off from heathrow

    • I was remarkably lucky with trains. Yesterday, in fact, I got to Swindon station assuming I’d missed a train by 10 minutes and was expecting to wait. However, the train was 12 minutes late so I got pretty much straight on…

  2. […] After reading an example of his verse in last week’s weekend Guardian, I decided to buy a book of Selected Poems by John Clare in […]

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