16 December 2016

A student poem

One of the real joys I've experienced this past term is teaching two sections of a humanities course, Western Culture and Tradition I, which forms part of the new core curriculum at Redeemer University College. I love teaching political science, of course, but I've found that preparing this new course has allowed me to bring more of myself and my various interests into the classroom. Altogether I've taught around seventy-five students, or about half of the incoming class.

Among other things, we discussed the history of the earliest Christians who were often subject to persecution under the Roman imperial authorities. We noted that the ancient symbol of the faith, by which Christians were able to identify each other, was the fish. The Greek word for fish at that time was ΙΧΘΥΣ, an acronym for:

Ιησούς = Jesus
Χριστός = Christ
Θεού = of God
Υιός = Son
Σωτήρ = Saviour

Throughout the term, the students handed in journal reflections on either a text we studied or a cultural artefact such as a building or a work of art. I allowed for some creativity in the assignment, and one student came up with a striking poem on the fish symbol in the form of perfect Petrarchan sonnet:


I tread alone in vacant Roman roads
And hide in shadows cast by morning glows.
I glance from side to side for any foes
Who might appear from dubious abodes.

A sudden light in front of me forebodes
A passerby who might a danger pose.
My hand, though hesitating to disclose,
A single arch upon the sand encodes.

A mirror arch he scratches in the sand.
A fish we've drawn, two parts becoming one.
His shining face the rising sun now greets.

I've found a brother in a hostile land.
We fully trust in Father, Spirit, Son,
And stride abreast through swarming city streets.

Daniel Vander Hout, first-year student, HUM-110, December 2016

I commend Mr Vander Hout who, at such a young age, already manifests promising poetic skills. Bravo!

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