On the Origins of (the University of) King’s (College)
May 1998, Encaenia
Given the passage of time which causes many facts to become forgotten, it may be useful that we set down, for present and future generations, some degree of clarification in terms of the origin and foundation of King’s. This is, I think, a setting straight of the record, which is no criticism, implied or real, of the University year book.
Let me say right at the outset that I am not one that subscribes to the notion that the foundation of King’s was ordained in the Bible. Nor do I seek my sole direction and insights as do many others by “going to the Charter,” assuming that all can be told from that document alone. Moreover, there is a political element here. I refuse to align myself in any way with the factions which are, as we speak, springing up all over the campus.
Having said all that, there are niggling Bible references, and possible attributions concerning the Charter that should be addressed. But in the interests of peace and good government, these should be dispensed with. The “Bible and Charter Origins Group,” or B-COGS” as they seem to like to call themselves, are wont to quote 2 Kings 11:12, where “Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king.” I believe this is a singular (and widely quoted) mis-representation of a quite unrelated event. I have it on good authority that this refers directly, and only, to a former lead player with our sister institution in California ….The L.A. Kings.
The B-COGS quote frequently from these texts, usually with similar erroneous interpretations. But it will take more than scowls and disinterest to dissuade this group from their wicked ways. Take for example their interpretation of Ezekiel 19:12, “But it was uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. The east wind made it shrivel, it was stripped of its fruit; its strong branches withered and fire consumed them” as their support for a biblical prediction of the Windsor fire and relocation to Halifax. Preposterous!
King’s origins are old, older indeed than many think. Its foundations were as a world class centre of learning. Troubled, yes, with many controversies and setbacks over its history. In my view, this was all quite clearly spelled out in the first recorded King’s reference, that being Plutarch, around about 100 AD, in his “Of the Training of Children.” This is of course the Foundation Charter. He says, and note this well: “Nothing made the horse so fat as the king’s eye.”
Some may consider this obscure and cryptic. I beg to differ. For cryptic, I go (as do many others) to Nostradamus where the concept so clearly expressed by Plutarch is made manifest.
I quote Centurie X:
On the boundary of Caussade and Caylus,
Not at all far from the bottom of the valley:
Music from Villefranche to the sound of lutes,
Encompassed by cymbals and great stringing.
Now this is an insightful and thoroughly thought provoking bit of poetry, is it not? Clearly the reference is Windsor, Nova Scotia, and the music is that of the Pipes of Pan (by our very own Bliss Carman).
The humane realm of Anglican offspring,
It will cause its realm to hold to peace and union:
War half-captive in its enclosure,
For long will it cause them to maintain peace.
Ah! And here we have reference to the church, the fires of war. The movement to Halifax is here. And behold! The ensuing conflicts with Dalhousie (and I shall assume federal and provincial funding agencies as well). These are the environmental factors which keep King’s constrained, and small, “half captive in its enclosure.” But has this forced relocation and marriage been all that bad really? Consider our celebrated community of Windsor, portrayed by none other than Edmund Waller:
In such green palaces the first kings reign’d,
Slept in their shades, and angels entertain’d;
With such old counsellors they did advise,
And by frequenting sacred groves grew wise.
This is assuredly Windsor’s “Poet’s Walk” and “Convocation Hall” and its glorious soccer pitch. It must have been hard to leave. Hard to settle and build on that pile of rock called “Halifax” when one had been weaned on meadows. But it has not been all bad.
It could have gone either way: Sir Charles G.D. Roberts gave us the options of “Kings in Exile” or “Lovers in Acadie” but we have, I should think, settled on “A Sister to Evangeline; being the story of Yvonne de Lamourie and how she went into exile with the villagers of Grand Pre”. But of course views differ on this issue.
The Bring King’s Back to Windsor Movement (BKBW) ( pronounced “BickBoo) who closely align with the B-COGS, have posters all over the place that reference 1 Kings 19:15 (their standard reading text as you know): “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram’.” I hear they read this to mean that King’s should “advance to the rear” and then take possession of the entire University of Nova Scotia from the ramparts of Fort Edward! Can you imagine?
In my view the poetry that is King’s, celebrated over the ages, will continue, and grow, regardless of its physical domain. Hear what William Shakespeare had to say about us in King Richard III:
True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings;
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.
And Percy Bysshe Shelley says on the challenges we face (whether as gods, or kings one wonders):
Kings are like stars,–they rise and set, they have
The worship of the world, but no repose
For we are taught to lead, as we are taught to learn. We enter a wider world as wave-breakers in a society largely chaotic. But we will not be bound by convention. Note what Edmund Burke had to say:
Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.
How excellent these men, these women of King’s?
Excellent enough to have our own language. How else is one to understand the meaning of The King’s English by Henry Watson Fowler, published, sadly, by that upstart College at Oxford in 1908. In any event this excellent volume became, in time, the foundation of our respected School of Journalism.
Excellent enough to grab the attention of the Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns, who in the eighteenth century immortalized King’s with these (sadly pre-politically correct) lines:
From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs,
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
“An honest man ‘s the noblest work of God.”
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