I Said to the Man who Stood at the Gate of the Year
by Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)
Quoted by King George VI in his 1939 war time Christmas broadcast to the British Empire, the “Gate of the Year” poem by Minnie Louise Haskins speaks to readers in all of life’s difficult and dangerous situations:
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. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
About the poet Minnie Haskins:
Minnie Haskins grew up in Bristol in the West of England, where she taught Sunday School in a Congregational Church. In 1907, in her early thirties, she travelled to Madras, India, with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, to serve in what was known as the Zenana mission to women. There she published a collection of poems in 1912 called The Desert. It contained a poem entitled God Knows, to which she added the now famous “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year” preamble. Back in England in 1915 due to ill health, Minnie published another collection of poetry called The Potter (1918). Later, her senior tutor at the London School of Economics would describe her as a “A woman of unusual capacity and character…a rare understanding and sympathy and infinite patience, combined with a great deal of love and interest in people.” Minnie wrote one further collection of poems in 1942 called Smoking Flax. She died in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on 3 February 1957. If you visit Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England, you can see her famous words inscribed on a plaque displayed at the entrance of the George VI memorial chapel in St George’s Chapel.