PMGenesis: Chapter 16

Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)


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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
Pre-conscious World
Local Patriotism
Wimbledon in Wartime 
Pastoral Peace
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
Student Revolt  
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
A Scholar's Paradise  
To and Fro in Japan  
Words, Words, Words  
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
Lost Years  
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
Two International Conferences  
Catholic Shakespeare  
Last Words  
Bibliographical Afterword  









Little Moreton Hall















 Feeding a seagull




















Who is Peter Milward?

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier


Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan











  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward














     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward












Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 














 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism













 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.












All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 












16. Literary Pilgrimages


   From the student revolt of 1968 my way led me almost directly, via the two voyages of the floating university in 1968 and 1969, to a series of tours I now began to organize for my Sophia students from 1970 onwards.  Among many other blessings it brought us in disguise, the student revolt had the advantage of making us think – it is always a good thing to be made to think! – about its causes.  One of those causes was, no doubt, the too rapid expansion of the university during the 1960s, with the mistaken idea that, the more students we attracted to our university, the more influence we could exercise over them and over the wider society of Japan.  Rather, it was the contrary.  The more students we had, the less was our influence over them.  Even when they weren’t members of one or other radical discussion club, there were many who lived their student lives without any personal relationship with their teachers except in the impersonal atmosphere of the classroom.  Such students weren’t necessarily radicals, but they didn’t seem to mind if the radical students took over the campus and ran things according to their ideas.  On the other hand, one thing I had learnt from my two voyages on the floating university, whether named “Margarita” or “Ilich”, was the proximity I could enjoy with the students on board for the space of several weeks.  It seemed to me an almost ideal form of university.  If only our time together had been longer, and if only the students had all been members of the English Literature department!


   All this time at Sophia University tours were being organized by the Jesuit fathers of SJ House for different departments – tours of Spain for the Spanish department, tours of Germany for the German department, but no tours of England.  So when it was suggested to me that I should do the same for the English Literature department, I was a willing listener.  It was therefore agreed that I should lead my first tour in 1970, through a student travel agency I had discovered in England, over a period of two months taking up the whole of our summer vacation.  Obviously, only university students and teachers, as privileged members of society, if not exactly drones, could spare such a long time out of Japan.  Also from my voyages on the floating university I had learnt a negative lesson, that seven or three hundred students traveling together was far too many, even for a voyage by sea.  For a tour on land, however, traveling around on a chartered coach, the most that could be conveniently accommodated on one coach was forty, or preferably thirty, since two coaches were too many.  So for my first tour I got just the right number, a little more than thirty, with a good balance between students and teachers.  The students were mostly, but not necessarily, from Sophia, and the teachers were mostly not from Sophia but personal friends of mine.

   From the outset I called the tour not a tour, with implications of “tourism” and idle sight-seeing, but “a literary and historical pilgrimage of the British Isles”.  I was very ambitious in planning our itinerary, so as to make the most of the limited time at our disposal – even two months was too short by my reckoning.  I wanted to visit as many places of literary and historical interest as possible, not only in England but also in Wales and Scotland, and even Ireland.  I was aware, being myself half Irish, that the Irish don’t like to think of themselves as belonging to “the British Isles”.  From their viewpoint, which I share, Ireland isn’t Britain or even part of Britain.  But for various murky historical reasons, the English have laid claim to sovereignty over the Irish and have tried to enforce this claim by armed might.  The English have made such a nuisance of themselves to the peoples round about them in the course of their long and troubled history!  At least, under their Norman and French kings, then under their Welsh and Scottish kings, not to mention Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan soldiers, they have inflicted immense and unnecessary sufferings upon the Irish.  So now that the Irish, at least in the South, have achieved political independence from the English, they have every right to object to the geographical term “the British Isles”, to which I was accustomed from my boyhood poring over atlases.  Unfortunately, however, there is no commonly accepted alternative term for the group of islands to the North of France.  Even in Ireland they speak English and share in the culture and literature of England.  That is why, with due consideration for their feelings, I have come to call my tours pilgrimages round “the British Isles” – in the assurance that this description of my tours will come to the attention of very few Irish.


   For myself, moreover, there were many advantages in taking such tours to my native country.  Not only would I be with my students, as well as professor friends of mine, during the whole summer vacation, and so I could get to know them all by name, like the good shepherd.  I would also be free to plan the whole itinerary, visiting whichever places I particularly wanted to visit but hadn’t yet had the opportunity of visiting.  In this respect I was a real glutton, desiring – like my professor friends, who were all in the field of English literature – to visit as many literary places as possible.  My students, on the other hand, might well have been content to stay in one place all the time, in what the Japanese commonly call “home stay”, not having yet received sufficient grounding in English literature to yearn after such “literary spots”, except for Oxford and Stratford.  Anyhow, I wanted to show them how many lovely places there were in the world outside Japan, and that in this respect my native England was not inferior to Japan.  I also wanted to introduce them to English cooking, which, for some strange reason which I have never properly understood, has a poor reputation in Japan.  The Japanese chiefly know England for our pubs, not for our restaurants, so they must imagine we live by drinking rather than eating!  Another important reason for me was that it gave me the opportunity of returning home for the summer, and thus, while the others were spending the last week of the tour in London, where guided tours for upwards of thirty members were impractical, I absented myself from the group and spent a quiet time with my family in Wimbledon.  My father was still there for my first two tours, but towards the end of the second, in August 1972, he peacefully passed away.  As for my mother, she remained in good health till January 1987, with my bachelor brothers.  Finally, and most practically, I was able to do all this without incurring any personal expenses, since as tour guide and leader I was free.  And as guide and leader I might well claim to have earned my upkeep.


   Yet another important advantage for me took the form of a little automatic Olympus camera, such as the Emperor of Japan himself had delighted to use.  I also delighted to use it, so long as it remained in good repair.  Wherever we went, I made a point of taking artistic photos with attention to “composition”, so that I could show them to my students back in Sophia as visual aids for my classes.  In fact, the classes I gave with slides of England and other countries in Europe proved to be among my most popular courses, especially when I combined the pictures with appropriate puns.  The slides I found most appealing to my students, like the scenes that most appealed to the members of my tours, were not so much those of historic buildings or ruins – though these were the principal places indicated on our itinerary – as those of animals and birds.  Pictures of cows and sheep and horses, not to mention cats and dogs, as well as ducks and geese, swans and sea-gulls, drew cries of “How cute!” from my students, especially those of the female sex.  Nor was it only for my classes, particularly those on “English Culture” for freshmen and freshwomen, that I could make profitable use of them.  Also from this time onwards I became a prolific author of “readers” for Japanese students on things English and Western and Christian, and for such books my slides gave me a fund of illustrative material.  Even without the slides, these tours have provided me with an abundance of pleasant and not so pleasant experiences and memories, and even the not so pleasant ones have strangely become pleasant in the course of time, undergoing what Shakespeare calls “a sea-change into something rich and strange”.  These memories, moreover, have entered into the substance of my books, in that they all serve to reinforce my faith in the “divinity that shapes our ends rough-hew them how we will”.  In myself I have discovered this ability, not unlike that of Hamlet, of rough-hewing my ends in innumerable ways and so providing divine providence with endless opportunities of shaping them to his own designs.


   Each time I bring such a group to England, moreover, I make it a point never to follow the same route more than once – though there are some places that have to figure in some way in any “literary pilgrimage” to England, such as London and Oxford, Stratford and the Lake District.  In two months, of course, without sacrificing our precious time to a summer school or “home stay”, we could visit so many places – though by no means all the places I wanted to visit.  Only, with the passing of time and the rising of prices, I had to shorten the length of the tour for the same price as at first, till what began as two full months dwindled to a mere two weeks.  Anyhow, for quite a time the length remained at roughly six weeks.  Each time I tried to give the tour a special “point”, such as a “Thomas More Pilgrimage” for the fifth centenary of his birth in 1977, a pilgrimage “in Search of the Sources of English Christianity”, including visits to such out-of-the-way places as Lindisfarne and Iona in 1982, a “Shakespeare Pilgrimage”, beginning with a week’s seminar at the Shakespeare Institute, now back at Stratford, in 1984, a “Hopkins Pilgrimage”, in memory of the centenary of his death, in 1989, and a “Newman Pilgrimage”, in memory of his centenary, in 1990.  These are only a few of the tours I have led to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  Then there are other tours or pilgrimages I have led to places beyond England, such as that “in Search of the Sources of European Culture” to France and Italy, Greece and the Holy Land in 1979, another “in Search of the Middle Ages” to England, France and Northern Spain, allowing each country ten days, in 1987, and yet another “in Search of the Renaissance” to Greece, Italy and Southern Spain, commemorating my namesake, Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America, in 1992.  I have also managed to include the Holy Land with a week each time on no fewer than four of my pilgrimages.  So many places and so many pilgrimages!  I have even come to compare myself with Ulysses, recalling the words of John Keats, “Much have I traveled in the realms of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen.”


   Now, however, I fear this chapter on my literary pilgrimages is degenerating into a mere list or catalogue, whereas just to narrate one of them in detail would fill more than a chapter.  In fact, not a few of them have furnished me with material for a book each.  So many episodes take place in the course of them, usually without any planning on my part beforehand.  The Japanese are, I find, all too fond of planning everything down to the minutest detail, they have so little trust in divine providence.  But my idea, which no doubt comes to me from my Irish mother, is that it is wiser to content myself with planning only the bare essentials, such as transport and accommodation with the itinerary, while leaving as much as possible to the benign interference of divine providence.  In this way I find that interesting, even fascinating episodes are always happening, according to my favourite motto, “Man proposes, but God disposes.”  On the other hand, when everything goes according to plan, the pilgrimage isn’t so successful.  For example, one thing that specially tickled my fancy on my first tour in 1970 was when I asked one of my colleagues from Sophia what had most impressed him in the course of our tour.  He replied that it was on our visit to Brighton, when we had enjoyed black-currant ice-cream on the front looking out over the English Channel.  He had never tasted black-currant ice-cream before!  A real Japanese professor, with such a simple taste!  I was so impressed, reflecting, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven!”  During the same tour another professor friend of mine consented to have his picture taken while sitting in the village stocks at Great Tew in Oxfordshire.  It was such a charming picture he made, though we refrained from adding to the charm by pelting him with rotten eggs and tomatoes!


   In the course of the second tour of 1972, we were staying at the Jesuit retreat house in Dublin, which was open for tourists during the summer.  We could also mix socially with the Irish novices from the neighbouring noviciate of Dollymount.  While we were enjoying merry conversation and making quite a noise one evening, I was called to the door by the novice-master.  I feared he was going to tell me off for making too much noise, like Malvolio in Twelfth Night, but what he had to tell me was much worse.  Word had come that my father was dying, and would I go to Wimbledon at once?  So I did.  The next morning I took the first plane from Dublin to London, leaving the other members to fly by way of Manchester according to the original plan.  Thus I could be at my father’s bedside for a few days before he passed away at the ripe old age of 82.  The members of my group were still in London when he died, and when I offered his funeral Mass at our old church of the Sacred Heart, not a few of them came for the occasion.  Then according to plan, without any rush, I was free to return with everyone to Japan.


   The pilgrimage that stands out most in my memory, however, was that which I had entitled “in Search of the Sources of English Christianity”.  The Japanese word I used for “search” in this sense wasn’t the ordinary motomeru but the special tazuneru, whose usual meaning is “visit” but in this usage (and with this kanji) it has the original meaning of “warm”.  This was because I had in mind my other favourite motto from Confucius, “Onko chishin”, which means, “By searching or studying or warming the old, we know or understand the new.”  To my mind it is such a wonderful, profound proverb!  For this purpose we first spent a week at the mediaeval place of pilgrimage in Norfolk, with the holy shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, where we could settle down for a time in a holy spot.  Then we went on, by way of the Benedictine Abbey of Ampleforth in Yorkshire, where we could put up for the night in one of the boys’ dormitories, to the holy isle of Lindisfarne, sacred to the memory of St Aidan and St Cuthbert.  There we could feel the holiness of the place, though the old abbey (unlike the new one of Ampleforth) lay in ruins round the new statue of St Cuthbert.  From Edinburgh we went not only to Loch Ness, in memory both of Nessie and of St Columba (who had actually met and spoken with her as long ago as the seventh century AD), but also to the other holy isle of Iona in the Scottish Hebrides, where St Columba had founded his monastery.  To get there, we had to spend two nights at the port of Oban, in the county of Argyll, so that we might spend a day on the voyage by ferry to and from the island.  On our way we were followed by innumerable sea-gulls, who showed consummate skill in catching the food we threw them in mid-air.  One, more venturesome than the others, swooped down and neatly caught the food held between the fingers of one member of our group.  He was so skilful in swooping, and she was so brave in holding out the food, and at the same time I proved my skill with my camera by taking the bird in flight at the moment of his snatching the food from her fingers.  It was my photographic masterpiece!  That was only on the way to Iona.  The climax came when we reached our destination.  There we found the old abbey church of St Columba rebuilt according to its old plan, and they were very willing to have a Catholic priest come and say Mass there.  So I was able to celebrate Mass in that old-new church for all the members of my group, both Christian and non-Christian.  After Mass was over, I was so impressed by the holy atmosphere of the island, with the continual roar of the waves beyond the church, that I was tempted to hide somewhere and let the others return to the ferry and so to Oban.  But then I reflected that this might be interpreted as dereliction of duty, and so I had to return with them – rather, if I may compare the small to the great, as Jesus had returned with his parents from Jerusalem to Nazareth till the time came for his manifestation in Israel.


   Finally, I may make mention of four pilgrimages, in the proper sense of the word, which I led to the Holy Land, or what I used to know as Palestine but is now officially called Israel.  There is so much for me to say about them, but for me the most impressive pilgrimage was, needless to say, the first.  I had allowed six days at the end of our pilgrimage “in Search of the Sources of Western Culture” for the Holy Land, and these I divided in two between Jerusalem and Galilee.  In spite of all the quarrels taking place between the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs, it seemed to me that Jerusalem, or at least “the old city”, was conspicuously a Christian city.  For the Jews there was the Wailing Wall, which is all that is now left of the Jewish temple built by King Herod but destroyed by the Romans about 70 AD.  For the Muslims there is the Dome of the Rock, which stands on the very site of the Temple, and was subsequently associated by them with the ascent of Mohammed into heaven.  Apart from the Temple area, however, all the places of interest in the old Jerusalem seemed to be connected with Jesus Christ, especially the story of his passion, death and resurrection, or else with the Old Testament.  But it is by no means a hospitable place.  It has a strange, remote, sullen feeling, an appropriate place for the tragedy of Jesus’ passion and death.  It is a desert place, surrounded by even more desolate desert.  Thus I could easily sympathize with the desire of Jesus to meet his disciples after the resurrection not here in Jerusalem but there in Galilee.  Only, they wouldn’t believe him.


 This sympathy or fellow feeling of mine grew all the stronger as we traveled by coach up the Jordan valley from Jericho to Genesareth.  Jericho is a kind of earthly paradise surrounded by the desert of Judea, but we found Galilee, centred on the lake, a paradise in its own right, like Lake Kawaguchi in Japan or Lake Windermere in the English Lake District.  The desert belongs to the old Southern kingdom of Judea, but in Galilee the people are devoted to agriculture or fishing.  So the audience of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount would have consisted of farmers and fishermen, as also were many of his disciples.  A climax in one of these tours took place on the very hill where the sermon may have been preached.  Now there is an octagonal church in memory of the eight “beatitudes” (i.e. “Blessed are you poor”, etc.).  Outside, we were able to have Mass at an open-air altar, surrounded by the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. 

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