Tag Archives: George Herbert

A Sonnet for Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding

Little Gidding and Nicholas Ferrar's monument

Little Gidding and Nicholas Ferrar’s monument

This year I am leading the Annual Pilgrimage to Little Gidding. It takes place this Saturday, starting at 10:30 at George Herbert’s church at Leighton Bromswold and continuing by easy stages to Little Gidding where we will celebrate Evensong and then have tea in Ferrar House. I have written a new sonnet ‘For Nicholas Ferrar‘ especially for the occasion which we will read at Nicholas’s tomb just outside the chapel. Nicholas died the day after Advent Sunday at 1 am the hour he had always risen for prayers, and my sonnet touches on that. Certainly the place in which he and his community kept prayer going at all times, recited the psalms, and lived out their gospel harmony, is still soaked in prayer, still, a place through which the eternal light shimmers into time, still, as the inscription on the chapel says, ‘The very gate of Heaven’.

I would like to dedicate this sonnet to the memory of Susan Gray, who died this April, a friend and parishioner who loved Little Gidding, both the place and the poem. When I took her last communion to her in the Hospice, she spoke the line from Little Gidding ‘In my end is my beginning’.

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

For Nicholas Ferrar

 

You died the hour you used to rise for prayer.

In that rich hush beneath all other sounds,

You rose at one and took the midnight air

Rising and falling on the wings and rounds

Of psalms and silence. The December stars

Shine clear above the Giddings, promised light

For those who dwell in darkness. Morning stirs

The household. From the folds of sleep, the late

Risers wake to find you gone, and pray

Through pain and grief to bless your journey home;

Those last glad steps in the right good old way

Up to the door where Love will bid you welcome.

Love draws us too, towards your grave and haven

We greet you at the very gate of Heaven.

 

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A Sonnet for George Herbert

George_HerbertOn February 27th the Church of England keeps the feast and celebrates the memory of George Herbert, the gentle poet priest whose book the Temple, published posthumously in 1633 by his friend Nicholas Ferrar has done so much to help and inspire Christians ever since. In an earlier blog post I gave a talk on George Herbert and the Insights of Prayer, today I offer this sonnet, part of a sequence called ‘Clouds of Witness” in my most recent poetry book The Singing Bowl. The sequence is a celebration of the saints, intended to complement my sequence Sounding the Seasons.

You can get this book in the UK by ordering it from your local bookshop, or via Amazon, and I am vey happy to say that both book s are now available in North America from Steve Bell who has a good supply in stock. His page for my books is HERE

As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

George Herbert

Gentle exemplar, help us in our trials,

With all that passed between you and your Lord,

That intimate exchange of frowns and smiles

Which chronicled your love-match with the Word.

Your manuscript, entrusted to a friend,

Has been entrusted now to every soul,

We make a new beginning in your end

And find your broken heart has made us whole.

Time has transplanted you, and you take root,

Past changing in the paradise of Love,

Help me to trace your temple, tune your lute,

And listen for an echo from above,

Open the window, let me hear you sing,

And see the Word with you in everything.

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Ringing in The New Year

bellsOn New Years Eve a group of us will gather in the mediaeval Bell Tower of St. Edward’s church in Cambridge to pray, and reflect, and to ring in the new year. We will be participating in a long tradition. George Herbert imagined Prayer itself as ‘Church Bells beyond the stars heard’ and the great turning point in In Memoriam, Tennyson’s great exploration of time and eternity, mortality and resurrection, doubt and faith, comes with the ringing of bells for the new year and his famous and beautiful lines beginning ‘Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,’ and concluding:

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be. (For more of this passage and my talks on Tennyson click Here)

I love to hear our bells, the oldest of which has chimed in our tower since the fifteenth century, and so I have made my own small contribution to the poetry and meaning of bell ringing in the following sonnet, which is taken from my collection ‘Sounding the Seasons’

Sounding the Seasons and my new book The singing bowl are both available from Amazon or on order from your local bookstore

As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the title or pressing the ‘play’ button.

New Year’s Day: Church Bells

 Not the bleak speak of mobile messages,

The soft chime of synthesised reminders,

Not texts, not pagers, data packages,

Not satnav or locators ever find us

As surely, soundly, deeply as these bells

That sound and find and call us all at once

‘Ears of my ears’ can hear, my body feels

This call to prayer that is itself a dance.

So ring  them out in joy and jubilation,

Sound them in sorrow tolling for the lost,

O let them wake the church and rouse the nation,.

A sleeping lion stirred to life at last

Begin again they sing, again begin,

A ring and rhythm answered from within.

The Bell Tower at St. Edward King and Martyr Cambridge

The Bell Tower at St. Edward King and Martyr Cambridge

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Night Muse! My reading at Trinity College Chapel

The Antechapel with Newton in the distance!

The Antechapel with Newton in the distance!

Trinity College Literary Society and the Chapel team have recently worked together to put on a series of readings by contemporary poets in the antechapel under the title Night Muse. I was honoured to be one of the four poets chosen to read, closing a series which began with Rowan Williams. I know that a number of my friends, and more widely, other readers of my poetry, would like to have been there, so I am posting a recording of the reading here, together with the poster and a pdf of the beautifully printed little booklet of the poems which Trinity produced for the occasion. Do feel free to download and print that to accompany the reading if you wish. The Antechapel is full of monuments to distinguished former members of the college and I gave the reading standing just beneath the statue of Newton, and gazing across at the great statue of Tennyson. George Herbert needed no statue, for, as you will hear, his spiritual presence was everywhere.

I read a selection from Sounding the Seasons but I also read a number of poems to be included in my forthcoming volume the Singing Bowl, both published by Canterbury Press so I hope this post will also serve as an introduction and appetiser for that book. A click on ‘The Reading’ will take you to the podomatic page where you can listen to, or download the reading. The painting in the poetry folio is by Faye Hall, drawing on a photograph by Lancia Smith.

nightmuseguite poster

poetry folio

The Reading

Tennyson's statue in Trinity -the respectable view!

Tennyson’s statue in Trinity -the respectable view!

the bowl of my pipe by the bowl of his!
the bowl of my pipe by the bowl of his!

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A Sonnet for George Herbert

George_HerbertOn February 27th the Church of England keeps the feast and celebrates the memory of George Herbert, the gentle poet priest whose book the Temple, published postunously in 1633 by his friend Nicholas Ferrar has done so much to help and inspire Christians ever since. In an earlier blog post I gave a talk on George Herbert and the Insights of Prayer, today I offer this sonnet, part of a new series I am working on called ‘The Household of Faith” which will be a celebration of the saints, intended to complement my sequence Sounding the Seasons. As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

George Herbert

Gentle exemplar, help us in our trials,

With all that passed between you and your Lord,

That intimate exchange of frowns and smiles

Which chronicled your love-match with the Word.

Your manuscript, entrusted to a friend,

Has been entrusted now to every soul,

We make a new beginning in your end

And find your broken heart has made us whole.

 

Time has transplanted you, and you take root,

Past changing in the paradise of Love,

Help me to trace your temple, tune your lute,

And listen for an echo from above,

Open the window, let me hear you sing,

And see the Word with you in everything.

3 Comments

Filed under christianity, politics

Ringing in The Year

bellsOn New Years Eve a group of us will gather in the mediaeval Bell Tower of St. Edward’s church in Cambridge to pray, and reflect, and to ring in the new year. We will be participating in a long tradition. George Herbert imagined Prayer itself as ‘Church Bells beyond the stars heard’ and the great turning point in In Memoriam, Tennyson’s great exploration of time and eternity, mortality and resurrection, doubt and faith, comes with the ringing of bells for the new year and his famous and beautiful lines beginning ‘Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,’ and concluding:

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be. (For more of this passage and my talks on Tennyson click Here)

I love to hear our bells, the oldest of which has chimed in our tower since the fifteenth century, and so I have made my own small contribution to the poetry and meaning of bell ringing in the following sonnet, which is taken from my collection ‘Sounding the Seasons’

As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the title or pressing the ‘play’ button.

New Year’s Day: Church Bells

 Not the bleak speak of mobile messages,

The soft chime of synthesised reminders,

Not texts, not pagers, data packages,

Not satnav or locators ever find us

As surely, soundly, deeply as these bells

That sound and find and call us all at once

‘Ears of my ears’ can hear, my body feels

This call to prayer that is itself a dance.

So ring  them out in joy and jubilation,

Sound them in sorrow tolling for the lost,

O let them wake the church and rouse the nation,.

A sleeping lion stirred to life at last

Begin again they sing, again begin,

A ring and rhythm answered from within.

The Bell Tower at St. Edward King and Martyr Cambridge

The Bell Tower at St. Edward King and Martyr Cambridge

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Lancelot Andrewes on Christmas: a sermon lives again

Lancelot Andrewes 1555-1626

Lancelot Andrewes 1555-1626

At the request of various members of St. Edward’s Church I recently preached one of Lancelot Andrewes‘ great Christmas sermons. In this one he reflects on what it means to say ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory… full of grace and truth’

Here is a soundcloud link to a recording of the sermon, preceded by my brief introduction and kindly recorded and posted by Honor Clare White. This is the full Seventeenth Century Monty, so if you want to hear it all. you’ll need about an hour! There’s also quite lot of Latin and some Greek, but almost always Andrewes translates as he goes along, so you dont need Latin to get this, though you’ll enjoy the sound and the word plays I hope. as an encouragement I should mention that in my view this sermon is the source of some other great poetry and writing. I believe it contains the essence of what became, George Herbert’s poem Come my Way my Truth my Life, it is the starting point for TS Eliot’s lines about ‘The word without a word’ in Gerontion and Ash Wednesday, and I think it may also be the original locus for the children’ first glimpse of Aslan emerging from his Pavilion in the midst of the encamped Narnians. (It is also the source for two lines in my song ‘Angels Unawares'; ‘Its right here in the dirt, where we’ve all been loved and hurt, tat Love Himself has come to pitch his tent’. If you have a chance sometime over Christmas I hope you enjoy it.

You can find the full text of the sermon here:

Andrewes Christmas Sermon 1611

I preached the sermon from Latimer’s pulpit, which was made in 1510 and may well have been seen in St. Edwards by Andrewes who was Master of Pembroke, just round the corner. The famous pulpit was already over a hundred years old when Andrewes preached this sermon in 1611, the year in which the great Authorised Version of the Bible, which he had done so much work on, was finally published

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