The turn of the month was marked by National Poetry Day in the UK. One of our great alumni, Sir Philip Sidney, stands immortalised in statue form above the war memorial at the Moss Gates entrance to the School. Sidney was enrolled at Shrewsbury School at the age of 9.
In his day, lessons were conducted almost exclusively in Latin; and began at 6am. He was an exceptionally diligent and gifted scholar. His untimely but dignified death on the battlefield at Zutphen, at the age of 31, sealed his legend as an epitome of the Elizabethan gentleman-scholar-soldier.
Centuries on, and Shrewsbury School is of course a very different place. But Sidney’s zeal for learning and his apparently immaculate manners still provide a helpful, if historic, role model to boys and girls alike.
Sidney’s famous work, The Defence of Poesy, argues for the power of well-crafted verse. He disdains the reader who has “so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry”. That’s us told!
On National Poetry Day, and indeed throughout the year, I take solace and inspiration from poetry. In fast-moving and challenging times, a moment spent in the reflective mind of another can do us the power of good. Or as Sidney put it: “Poetry, a speaking picture to teach and delight”.