The Gate of the Year
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. Minnie Haskins 1875-1957
Queen Elizabeth the wife of King George VI, brought him a poem that had deeply touched her. Spoken by George VI in his Christmas 1939 broadcast to the Empire these words struck a chord with a country facing the uncertainly of war. George VI took the first lines of the poem, “God Knows” (“The Gate of the Year”) by Minnie Louise Haskins to illuminate the spiritual comfort he believed his subjects might look for.
An obscure poem, “God Knows” was written in 1908, but nobody was able to identify the poet until the day following the Christmas broadcast when the BBC announced that the author was Minnie Louise Haskins, a retired LSE academic.
Minnie Haskins was born and educated near Bristol. Whilst studying she carried out voluntary work for the local church. Her voluntary work took her to Lambeth before leaving to work in Madras, India for the Wesleyan Methodist Society in a Women’s mission. In 1912, to raise funds, Minnie Haskins published a small volume of poetry The Desert which included the poem God Knows, originally written in 1908, to which she added the famous preamble. The poem was just a small part of an illustrious career which included work in the East End of London, industrial welfare and finally academia. In middle age, Minnie enrolled at LSE to study for a Social Science certificate followed by a diploma in Sociology. After qualifying she worked as tutor in the Social Science department
After her 1939 retirement Haskins returned to the School during the Second World War, finally retiring in 1944. She died in Kent and Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells on 3 February 1957. Her words live on, inscribed at the entrance to the George VI memorial chapel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and in a window at the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy. The poem was read at the funeral of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 2002.
Minnie was described as “A woman of unusual capacity and character …a rare understanding and sympathy and infinite patience, combined with a great deal of love and interest in people.”
Although King George VI quoted these words in 1939, his speech has often been replayed from time to time. The words have always resonated with me and reminded me of the sure knowledge that God can be trusted in even the darkest circumstances. Whilst watching the Queen’s 90th birthday celebratory service at St. Paul’s this poem was read very movingly by David Attenborough who was also 90 years old. It must have reminded the Queen of her father’s moving Christmas broadcast and brought back memories of the Queen Mother’s funeral.
In 2022 we are faced with many problems, health worries, social and economic stresses. The same God can be trusted to guide us through as He did in the days after the Second World War. We can read the words of Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp onto my feet and a light on my path”.
We are again in the hand of He that had the whole world in His hand. When we pass through the gate of this new year into 2023, we can follow the words of the poet. God will be our traveling companion and will hold our hand in his as we walk along this new year. As we put our trust in Him we will be safe.
Wishing you all a happy and fruitful New Year.