William Blake lived near Beachy Head in Sussex, part of the range of chalk cliffs he drew as a background for this verse.
Virginia Woolf was to drown herself in the nearby River Ouse a century and a half later, but today it is the cliffs themselves that attract the lonely, depressed and overwhelmed who are tempted to take their lives.
The Beachy Head Chaplaincy team are Christians from local churches ‘and although we reach out with the love of God, we never impose our faith on the people we seek to help.
‘We believe that by receiving skilled crisis intervention support at their time of crisis, people in suicidal distress can be awakened to the hope that there are other ways forward to address the problems they face.’
The Apostle Judas went out and hanged himself after seeing Jesus arrested and condemned, but the artist of Strasbourg Cathedral’s west front shows us the Lamb of God coming to release him from his noose and away from the mouth of Hell to go in at Heaven’s Gate.
In their different ways, the well-to-do and well-connected Virginia Woolf, and the disciple who was trusted by Jesus, were both privileged, yet both knew despair. It is not for us to condemn them, or any other suicide; rather let us support with prayer and alms brave good neighbours like the Samaritans and the Beachy Head Chaplains, not forgetting the official first responders, Police, Ambulance, Fire, Coastguard and Lifeboats.
And may we be ready with small talk or even a just a smile for anyone we meet. Lead, Kindly Light!