John William Burgon Poems

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John William Burgon
John William Burgon (August 21, 1813 - August 4, 1888), English divine, was born at Smyrna, the son of a Turkey merchant, who was a skilled numismatist and afterwards became an assistant in the antiquities department of the British Museum. His mother was Greek. After a few years of business life, Burgon went to Worcester College, Oxford, in 1841, and took his degree in 1845. The same year he took the Newdigate Prize for his sonnet Petra, referring to Petra, the inaccessible city in the present Jordan, which he had heard described but had never seen: It seems no work of Man's creative hand, by labor wrought as wavering fancy planned; But from the rock as by magic grown, eternal, silent, beautiful, alone! Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine, where erst Athena held her rites divine; Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane, that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain; But rose-red as if the blush of dawn, that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn; The hues of youth upon a brow of woe, which Man deemed old two thousand years ago, match me such marvel save in Eastern clime, a rose-red city half as old as time. The poem is now chiefly remembered for the famous final couplet. Burgon was elected to an Oriel fellowship in 1846. He was much influenced by his brother-in-law, the scholar and theologian Henry John Rose (1800-1873), a conservative Anglican churchman with whom he used to spend his long vacations. Burgon made Oxford his headquarters, while holding a living at some distance. In 1863 he was made vicar of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, having attracted attention by his vehement sermons against Essays and Reviews, a series of messages on biblical inspiration in which he defended against the findings of textual criticism and higher criticism the historicity and Mosaic authorship of Genesis, and Biblical inerrancy in general: "Either, with the best and wisest of all ages, you must believe the whole of Holy Scripture; or, with the narrow-minded infidel, you must disbelieve the whole. There is no middle course open to you."

Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city - half as old as time!

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