A Sonnet for the feast of the Visitation

The feast of the Visitation celebrates the lovely moment in Luke’s Gospel (1:41-56) when Mary goes to visit he cousin Elizabeth, who was also against all expectations bearing a child, the child who would be John the Baptist. Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon them, that the babe in Elizabeth’s womb ‘leaped for joy’ when he heard Mary’s voice, and it is even as the older woman blesses the younger, that Mary gives voice to the Magnificat, the most beautiful and revolutionary hymn in the world. There is much for the modern world to ponder in this tale of God’s blessing and prophecy on and from the margins, and i have tried to tease a little of it out in this sonnet. I am grateful again to Margot Krebs Neale for her inspiring image, and , as always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title.

The Visitation

Here is a meeting made of hidden joys

Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place

From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise

And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.

Two women on the very edge of things

Unnoticed and unknown to men of power

But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings

And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.

And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young’,

Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’

They sing today for all the great unsung

Women who turned eternity to time

Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth

Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.


Filed under christianity, Poems

23 responses to “A Sonnet for the feast of the Visitation

  1. This one moved me to tears. Thank you.

  2. janis bonner

    “kick of grace”, turned eternity to time” wonderful, wonderful wonderful…
    Blessed are you, Malcolm Guite, “for flesh and blood did not reveal…”

  3. Jean Mattson

    A very lovely beginning to my day! Thanks, Malcolm!

  4. Elizabeth

    ‘unsung’. I see them often if I travel on the bus here in Seattle. In these times of social turbulence around the meaning and purpose of women’s lives, this sonnet is particularly moving. Thank you Malcolm.

  5. Ed

    Again, beautiful. Thank you.

  6. I chanced upon your recent book in Exeter uni library. Excellent. So I googled you… Fantastic! Rock, God, poetry and academia – superb combination. And terrific sonnets. Thank you. Richard

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Richard Glad you liked the book, and the poem. These sonnets are all going to be published as a single volume by canterbury Press in December. Thanks for the encouraging comment.

  7. Malcolm, you are soaring xx

  8. I have just found this poem..so gentle. I am writing about some windows we have installed in our Church in Willington in which I played a small part. One such is the’ Visitation’.I wrote some of my reflection on this event and found that our thoughts and prayers were so similar it is of itself a gift. I love the poem ..may I use it duly acknowledged? With prayer and blessing, Halina Holman

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Halina I’m glad to know we are thinking the same way yes by all means use the poem

      • Dear Malcolm,
        The book,’Looking through the Glass’ for which you kindly gave permission for me to use your poem on the Visitation is finally ‘out’ I would love to send you a copy.Where do I send it to?
        Halina Holman.

      • malcolmguite

        Thanks. I’d be glad to see it. Send it to me c /o Girton College Cambridge CB3 0JG

  9. Carole Lewis

    I have only just met you this advent, Malcom, in your poem a day but I am preaching on the visitation on Sunday so googled for poems on the off chance…to my joy your sonnet appeared and you reading it too. I should love to print it out for my little elderly congregation of mainly women. Would that be permissible? I love the visitation. Babes do respond in the womb….I was singing in the Verdi Requiem when about six month pregnant with my daughter in 1968 and at the beginning of the Dies Irae she leapt up and nearly hit me under the chin! A very vivid memory which I will share as part of the sermon.

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Carole thank you for this yes by all means use ‘the Visitstion’ and print it in the service sheet, just put ‘from Sounding the Seasons’ by Malcolm Guite. Yours malcolm

  10. Marsha Garrison

    Today is International Women’s Day. I was reminded of, and went back to listen to your sonnet The Visitation, several lines of which I had unknowingly committed to memory. I shared the link to this page with my friends today, in honor of “all the great unsung women.” Somehow, in my mind, I made a connection to the Lenten journey.

  11. Pingback: Unnoticed and Unknown to Men of Power – thoughts, prayers & songs:

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