HMC Law student wins Sir Roger Newdigate Prize

Photograph of Nicholas Stone in Radcliffe Square wearing a suit and tie and smiling at the camera.

The Principal and Fellows of Harris Manchester College offer their warmest congratulations to Law student Nicholas Stone, on being awarded the 2022-2023 Sir Roger Newdigate Prize, for best composition in English verse not exceeding 300 lines in length on the subject ‘Outermost’. 

The prize was founded in 1806 as a memorial to Sir Roger Newdigate (1719–1806), and the winning poem is announced at Encaenia. Notable winners have included Robert Stephen Hawker, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Laurence Binyon, Oscar Wilde, John Buchan, John Addington Symonds, James Fenton, James Laver, PM Hubbard, and Alan Hollinghurst

Nicholas said of winning:
‘I'm a second-year law student at Harris Manchester and enjoy reading and writing verse. On the face of it, law and poetry may not seem to have much to do with one another, but they are both concerned with the logical relations between different arrangements of words and the ideas denoted by them. An important difference is that poetry can gain richness from ambiguities that do not necessarily need to be resolved, whereas law demands clarity, and thus argument as to which of a range of possible meanings is preferable. I think studying law has improved my appreciation of poetry and vice versa. I wrote half the poem in the college library so am also grateful to HMC for providing a good place to think, as well as to the judges of the prize for their kind comments.’

Nicholas' winning poem is:

The girl I saw through the James Webb Telescope

Somewhere, out there, the light is setting off
In lengthening strides through space
From stars obliviate.
I see it, as it was, before it was,
The dust that used to be
Before it came to me.

I see the form that holds what now is mine,
These leaseheld particles
The matter of a life.
Years after dust, the image also falls:
The photon passing through
Still brings me news of you.

Out there, upon a desolated world,
The sparkling of your eyes
Exceeds the atmosphere,
Leaping reflected past the empty skies
To spark a current lust
In this successor dust.