A Quartet for Mary

The Theotokos of vladimirOn September 8th many churches across the world, both Catholic and Anglican, keep the feast of the Blesed Virgin Mary, fulfilling the scripture that says “All generations will call me blessed”, remembering the one who bore our saviour for us, who was full of grace.

It is true that some Christians have disagreed with one another bitterly about her, but equally, in every age and every church she has been, for many Christians, a sign of hope, an example of prayer, devotion and service, and an inspiration.

In a strange way, which I will write about one day, she was a sign of hope to me even before I was a Christian, and it was something numinous and beautiful in the paintings and poetry she has inspired that helped lead me to her Son.

I thought for this feast day, I would offer a quartet of sonnets in her honour, gathering together  the four sonnets about her which are part of my wider collection ‘Sounding the Seasons’. They take us, from the Annunciation and her ‘yes’ to the angel, through the Visitation, with its beautiful magnificat, to the birth of Jesus, and then to her presence with him on the via dolorosa and at the foot of the cross.

As always you can hear the poems by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears, or clicking on the title.


We see so little, stayed on surfaces,

We calculate the outsides of all things,

Preoccupied with our own purposes

We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,

They coruscate around us in their joy

A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,

They guard the good we purpose to destroy,

A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.

But on this day a young girl stopped to see

With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;

The promise of His glory yet to be,

As time stood still for her to make a choice;

Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,

The Word himself was waiting on her word.


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.



You bore for me the One who came to bless

And bear for all and make the broken whole.

You heard His call and in your open ‘yes’

You spoke aloud for every living soul.

Oh gracious Lady, child of your own child,

Whose mother-love still calls the child in me,

Call me again, for I am lost, and  wild

Waves suround me now. On this dark sea

Shine as a star and call me to the shore.

Open the door that all my sins would close

And hold me in your garden. Let me share

The prayer that folds the petals of the Rose.

Enfold me too in Love’s last mystery

And bring me to the One you bore for me.

Jesus meets His Mother

This darker path into the heart of pain
Was also hers whose love enfolded him
In flesh and wove him in her womb. Again
The sword is piercing. She, who cradled him
And gentled and protected her young son
Must stand and watch the cruelty that mars
Her maiden making. Waves of pain that stun
And sicken pass across his face and hers
As their eyes meet. Now she enfolds the world
He loves in prayer; the mothers of the disappeared
Who know her pain, all bodies bowed and curled
In desperation on this road of tears,
All the grief-stricken in their last despair,
Are folded in the mantle of her prayer.


Filed under christianity, Poems

20 responses to “A Quartet for Mary

  1. i read these, recited these, in tears. Thank you. Can you read them at Carrow Abbey? I work for a Calvinist Protestant Swiss church in Florence who forbid the Madonna. I am a Serva di Maria, the Florentine order whose vision is of the Virgin with her enfolding cloak. I, too, have lost my son
    Bless you, Father Malcolm

    • malcolmguite

      Thank you so much for this Julia, prayers and blessings on you as always, and may our lady keep you close.It means a great deal to me to know that you read my poems.

  2. Perpetua

    These are really lovely – thank you for posting them. They made me tear up, too.

    • Perpetua

      ps – if you don’t mind, I’ll post about these poems on my site? I really do think they are marvellous. Please let me know. Thank you

      • malcolmguite

        Dear Perpetua, thank you for your kind comments and by all means post these on your site, I’m glad you found them -malcolm

  3. Sally Bermejo

    These have really touched me, Malcolm, thank you x Sally

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Please take the time to read these beautiful poems. I am so thankful someone directed me to them today.

  5. Just beautiful as ever. Your work is a real help and encouragement to me.

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  7. Very, very beautiful, and moving. Thank you.

  8. Oh my. These are startlingly good. I have been drinking in the words. And thank you for reading them too; it was great to hear them read so well. THANK YOU.

  9. Simply sublime, with Jesus meets his mother taking me somewhere I’d had no intention of going when I started reading, which I suppose was the story of Mary’s life. I loved the reference to Ezekiel’s Living Creatures in The Annunciation.

  10. Dear Malcolm, can you help me with understanding the last part of the Theotokos sonnet,
    I’ve been asked to read it as part of our carol service and am having a little trouble with the last line.
    I gather lines 11 & 12 refer to praying the Rosary. With that in mind I was thinking that ‘love’s last mystery’ referred to the last of the Glorious Mysteries: the Coronation of Mary in Heaven.
    If that is correct, am I right in thinking the last line means I’m praying for Mary’s intercession so that I, too, will receive my crown?

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Marika
      Thanks for this. Yes line 11 alludes to the rosary. I had a larger meaning for l’oves last mystery’ the first and last mystery of love is loves incarnation as Christ which comes of course in ‘blessed is the fruit if thy womb’ but the prayer ends not with Mary but with Christ himself i hope that helps and that the carol service goes well.

  11. Thanks Malcolm. My weakness: trying too hard to make everything fit forensically … 😉

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