A Pentecost Sonnet

A Pentecost Banner at St. Michael 's Bartley Green

Continuing in my cycle of sonnets for the Church Year this is a sonnet reflecting on and celebrating the themes and readings of Pentecost. Throughout the cycle, and more widely I have been reflecting on the traditional ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire, considering how each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as though the four elements were, in their own way, another four evangelists. In that context I was very struck by the way Scripture expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit through the three most dynamic of the four elements, the air, ( a mighty rushing wind, but also the breath of the spirit) water, (the waters of baptism, the river of life, the fountain springing up to eternal life promised by Jesus) and of course fire, the tongues of flame at Pentecost. Three out of four ain’t bad, but I was wondering, where is the fourth? Where is earth? And then I realised that we ourselves are earth, the ‘Adam’ made of the red clay, and we become living beings, fully alive, when the Holy Spirit, clothed in the three other elements comes upon us and becomes a part of who we are. So something of that reflection is embodied in the sonnet.

As usual you can hear me reading the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears in your browser or by clicking on the title of the poem itself

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today  the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in  every nation.


Filed under christianity, Poems

14 responses to “A Pentecost Sonnet

  1. Delurking to say how very, very much I enjoy your poetry. This is beautiful – thank you for sharing it. Also – that button in your sidebar is by far the best take I’ve seen yet on the Keep Calm poster!

  2. Oggi sentiamo il vento sotto nostri ali,
    Oggi la fontana nascosta zampilla e gioca,
    Oggi la Chiesa finalmente spira e canta,
    Quando ognun fiamma divenga una lingua di lode
    Questa è la festa del fuoco, dell’aria, dell’acqua
    Che nafta, spira e accesa la terra.
    La terra se stessa si alza al suo Creatore,
    Tradotta dalla morte, ed è nata.
    Le parole giuste sono giustizia, libertà.
    Oggi il Vangelo traversa ognun frontiera,
    Ogni lingue sono sciolte dal Principe della Pace.
    Oggi in ogni nazione i perduti sono trovati
    nella Sua traduzione, da Lui a chi
    la lingua materna è Amore.

    • malcolmguite

      Julia this is wonderful, and you did it so quickly, I am honoured to have my sonnet sounding a new music in una altra lingua di lode!

  3. Ed

    As usual I love it, and especially liked the play on the phrase “lost in translation” in the second-last line.

    Your preface reminds me of a Jewish discipline where so many different paths have to be navigated, but the arithmetic is wrong, and doesn’t add up until you realise you’re already on path number one – earth.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks, glad you liked the play on ‘lost in translation’ its an interesting comment on my predace, are you thinking of the paths between the Sephiroth in Kaballah?

  4. Pingback: Pentecost | St Mary's News blog

  5. Empy Schneider

    This is lovely. I especially enjoyed hearing you read it. I was thinking that it might be nice to share it on Sunday morning as part of the sermon, of course giving due credit to the author. Might I have your permission to share?


    Hi Malcom
    Love the Pentecost Sonnet! Have you strictly conformed to 10 syllable lines? Just wondering about the lines ending in ORDER and BORDER

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Frank but English Metre works by counting stresses not syllables so these feminine rhyme endings still keep the strict 5 stress pentameter as in countless examples from Chaucer to Byron

  7. Alan Elson

    Thank you for your wondrous words. I have loved listening and reading alongside you. What we’ll woven words to give fresh insights to the seasons. Bless you Malcolm, I will be turning back to these poems over days ahead.

  8. Pingback: Pentecost |

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