Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The days were dark. Very dark indeed.

The Germans had already annexed Austria. Next came Czechoslovakia. Then the German blitzkrieg rolled across Poland like a giant tsunami. Come the following spring — 1940 — country after country would be inundated by the German might: Norway, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, and finally France. 

But after Poland, everything stopped. Or seemed to stop. And so began the "Phony War," a title taken from a comment by U.S. Senator William Borah. There were a few naval battles, when Winston Churchill (later Sir Winston) was First Lord of the Admiralty. But little else.

But Churchill, and some others, knew what was likely to come next. And knew it would be terrible.

Christmas, 1939. King George VI of England prepares his message for Britain, the Commonwealth and the world.  The King's Christmas Message is a tradition which his father has started. What can he say for Christmas, in so difficult a time, to being some hope, reassurance, and cheer?

Eventually, he finds the words. And he includes a poem by a teacher at the London School of Economics, Minnie Louise Haskins.

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.

- - - - - - - -

For the background to this post, check here and here.


Chatty Crone said...

Trust in the Lord. sandie

Jackie said...

Thank you, again, Rob, for a well-written blog.
I thank you, also, for including the poem by Haskins. I hadn't heard nor seen it, and I am moved by the wisdom of her words.
Praying that all will find the Hand of God....the Light of the World.

Rob-bear said...

® Chatty Crone & Teacher's Pet: Thanks.

Manzanita said...

A segment of almost forgotten history. Somehow, I clearly remember the invasion of Poland, although I was only 9 at the time. I've never heard the poem before but it must have brought some solace and hope to the people.

Diana said...

This may sound strange to some but your post and that poem reminded me of how I felt just moments before going under the anesthesia for my surgery.
I remember saying to myself the moment before I closed my eyes " O.K., I'm your your hands now God." and then I drifted off.
I think this can be a very hard thing for people to do, letting God take over the situation that is.
In my mind, Faith means in a way being able to close one's eyes and just fall, knowing that God will catch you. I only wish that I had learned this sooner in life.
Love Di ♥

Rob-bear said...

® Manzanita: Almost-forgotten history. That's why the History major turned journalist does it this way. Amazing that you're of an age to remember that. Thanks.
The poem (to which there is more) became very popular, once people had been introduced to it by the King. Many liked the sentiments.

® Diana: "So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God,
trod gladly into the night."
I can understand that kind of feeling coming as you're about to enter surgery. Or, perhaps, another frightening time. Thanks.

Stella Jones said...

Lovely post Rob, lots of food for though there and the poem is beautiful.
Funnily I think things like that when my plane takes off. It's almost like 'here I come God, closer to you, wheeeeeeeeee' daft but significant, perhaps.

About Last Weekend said...

Very well written post, like a poem in itself. Amazing how people can find comfort and strength in the simple power of words...

Lydia said...

That's beautiful! For me, personally, that resonates more profoundly than the "one set of footprints on the sand" analogy/vignette.

Thanks, Bear.

Just Two Chicks said...

What a beautiful poem to end this post with!

Speaking of Germany, DId you know that Hitler's nephew wrote a paper in school titled "Why I hate My Uncle" and later served in, I think the US military. He settled with his family in the Northern United States later in life.

Anyway... that popped in my head. I hope you have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

This was a great post. I am a history lover....I like the way you, so eloquently, recapped WWII with a very nice ending message of hope! Thank you for sharing!!

Rob-bear said...

® Star: Thank you. Interesting how our experiences lead us to particular feelings.

® About Last Weekend: The simple power of words that create images which give us a new perspective, perhaps. Thanks, Jody.

® Lydia and Just Two Chicks: Thank you both. The image is beautiful, and lyrical. And Shauna, a very interesting bit on Hitler's nephew. (And great new pic.)

Rob-bear said...

® Alice Lynn Alfred: Thanks for coming to visit. I appreciate your dropping by. I find the poem very moving, and so suitable for the time.
(Bit of personal background: history major come award-winning journalist, as well as pastor and male Bear.)

Elizabeth Grimes said...

An inspirational message.

Rob-bear said...

® Elizabeth Grimes: Thank you for dropping by the Bear's place, and leaving a kind comment.
On a totally different matter: "Hotel California" as a waltz? Who knew? Very creative of you. And a very haunting song — "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Hmmmm.