‘The flood is round thee, but thy towers as yet
Are safe, and clear as by a summer’s sea
Lo! On the top of each aerial spire
What seems a star by day, so high and bright
It quivers from afar in golden light.
But ‘tis a form of earth, though touched with fire
Celestial, raised in other days, to tell
How, when they tired of prayer, Apostles fell’.
John Henry Newman's poem ‘On Oxford’ published within a section called ‘Champions of the Truth’ in the verse collection, Lyra Apostolica, which he edited in 1836, encapsulates Newman's vision of Oxford and its colleges. Oxford was portrayed in the poem as an embattled but triumphant ‘city on a hill’ (in spite of its valley location surrounded by hills); a bulwark against contemporary forces, religious, and political, which for Newman, seemed to threaten it in the 1830s. The poem reminds us that the Oxford Movement, the great movement of religious revival within the Church of England commonly dated from 1833, the movement which Newman famously led and inspired, was rooted in Newman's keen and abiding sense of place (genius loci, as he put it), of memory, tradition, ethos, and association.