In my last post I set out the overall plan for my sonnet sequence Sounding The Seasons. Now here, as promised, is the sonnet which will open the whole sequence, a sonnet which meditates on what we hope to achieve by keeping the seasons, keeping holy and memorial days. Of course the truths on which we meditate over the course of the liturgical year, from the mystery of Christmas to the all-transforming drama of Good Friday and Easter, are true all the time! But we do not remember or think of them all the time, for time itself, ‘the subtle thief’, can so easily take even the memory of truth from us. So it was a deep wisdom that led the early church to turn ‘Time the thief’ into ‘Time the messenger’, to make the very medium that might have taken the truth away from us become the medium that restores it, as Time brings round and renews each Holy Day.
Anyway here is my poetic reflection on these things. As always you can hear the poems by clicking on the ‘play’ buton or the title, and as always I m grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the images which accompany and reflect on aspects of the poem. Margot has kindly sent me the following comments on the two images she has chosen for this poem; the bell which you see above, and the shaft of light you will see at the end of the sonnet:
Margot writes: “In a comment on his blog Malcolm mentioned the title to a series of “sonnets for the whole ‘churchyear” “Sounding the seasons” the first image I saw in my head, was the bells calling, bells and seasons, bells and time. I was talking about it and then I thought “sounding” is also “sounding the depth” and I could see the lead weight. English is not my mother-tongue and words are not “mine” they are very much themselves.
So I looked for the most impressive set of bells I have seen, in Rostov, Russia. I so wanted to go and take a beautiful powerful picture. Then I remembered that I had been given 3 Russian bells, small but beautiful when I left Russia. They have accompanied every Easter and Christmas in my house. And I set this picture modestly in my kitchen, sounding the New Year in.
Malcolm sent me the sonnet and I then wanted to illustrate sentences which were not visual, those who touched me: “Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons”. I also loved “We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear,” and Malcolm suggested it as something visual, “glimpse”. OK, but we needed to see love and fear…
I browsed through month and month of my pictures without a clear purpose. Then this picture, which was a failed attempt or so I thought. I had kept it because that light, I wanted to remember how I had tried many small holes, the smaller the hole the brighter the light was, camera obscura effect. Still my camera was struggling with the contrast too much light and too much dark. Many attempts, many failures. I liked that sense of a passage, I tried readjusting the light and it brought back the “path” on the foreground and the sense of a cross in the webs. We had the fear and the light.”
Tramelled in time, we live with hints and guesses
Turning the wheel of each returning year,
But in between our failures and successes
We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear,
Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons
And breathes a Sanctus as we tell our story,
Tracing the tracks of grace, sounding the seasons
That lead at last through time to timeless glory.
From the first yearnings for a Saviours birth
To the full joy of knowing sins forgiven
We gather as His church on Gods’s good earth
To share an echo of the choirs of heaven
I share these hints, returning what was lent,
Turning to praise each ‘moment’s monument’.
20 responses to “Sounding the Seasons”
I look forward to reading the whole cycle.
Funnily enough, the use of festivals throughout the year as reminders of sacred truths and values is mentioned as a useful feature of religious life by Alain de Botton in Religion for Atheists.
I also read somewhere that the festivals on the wheel of the year are like spokes connecting us back to the centre of the wheel, which is eternity and stillness.
Malcolm, as always your words touch off many thoughts that I need time to absorb and reflect on before I try to talk about them. But what strikes me so immediately here is the cross in the beam of light. And I so appreciate Margot’s sharing the story of the picture. It brings to my mind Kathleen Norris’s ideas about reclaiming whatever is still viable from our past, however painful it may be; nothing wasted, nothing lost.
Thanks Becca, yes Margot’s images are very powerful, a kind of second poem in themselves, and its very good to have her comments!
Yes, yes, Malcolm!
Margot’s photos aren’t only poems; seeing these today, just now, I thought, “the photos are also prophesy.”
“we live with hints and guesses.” “Moment’s monument.” Lovely, so lovely.
Yes I think you’re right about Margot’s photos! By the way, both the phraes youve singled out are also gentle allusions to other poems. In the Four Quartets Eliot says ‘these are only hints followed by guesses’ and Dante Babriel rosetti begins his sonnet on the sonnet with the line ‘A sonnet is a moment’s monument’! I love that line so I thought I’d end my sonnet with a tip of the hat in his direction, hence the little ‘quote marks’
I always feel excited when I see a new sonnet from you in my reader. Today I am taking with me the idea of ‘tracing the tracks of grace’. I’ve been learning that they are always there, but oftentimes we need to search for them.
Joanna’s comment made me think of how in the practice of Lectio Divina, one reads the whole text and then focuses on a word or phrase that shines out.
These poems would make an excellent basis for the practice of Lectio Divina.
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Dear Malcolm, would you give us permission to post a few of your sonnets on the wall of our prayer corner at church during Lent?
Dear Jim yes of course that’s fine!