A sonnet for the Venerable Bede

bedeThe 26th of May is the day the Church remembers and celebrates the Venerable Bede, who died on that day in 735 (This year we celebrate him on the 25th, as the 26th is Trinity Sunday!) Bede was a Saint and Scholar, whose wonderful Ecclesiastical History of the English People, is still the major source for early English History, as well as being, in itself a deeply inspiring book. He is buries in Durham cathedral and set above his tomb, in beautiful shimmering letters is the text of one of the prayers he wrote. My sonnet in celebration of Bede draws on this prayer so I give its text here in both Latin and English and have posted a photograph of it below the poem.

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. This poem will be published in my next collection of verse ‘The Singing Bowl’, due out in November with the Canterbury Press

Bede’s Prayer:

Christus est stella matutina, Alleluia

Qui nocte saeculi transacta, Alleluia

Lucem vitae sanctis promittit, Alleluia;

Et pandit aeternam, Alleluia

(Christ is the morning star who when the night of this world is past brings to his saints the promise of the light of life & opens everlasting day.)


I kneel above your bones and read your words.

Church-Latin letters, shimmering in gold,

A kingdom-glimmer through the dark and cold,

A revelation gleaming on the shards

Of all our broken lives and promises.

Christus est stella matutina

Qui nocte saeculi transacta

Christ is the morning star. He promises

The light of life when this dark night is past…

Lucem vitae sanctis promittit

You speak for all his Wounded witnesses,

The morning star will shine on us at last.

Scholar and saint, illuminate the way

That opens into everlasting day.

Bede's Prayer

Bede’s Prayer


Filed under christianity, literature, Poems

9 responses to “A sonnet for the Venerable Bede

  1. Beautiful Malcolm. Here in the wild and, it’s said, unchurched Northwest, it’s good to be reminded of our history. Elizabeth ewnimages@gmail.com

  2. Glorious! Thank you, Malcolm.

  3. …”a revelation gleaming on the shards of all of our broken lives and promises…” Amen ! Thank you, Malcolm, for your exquisite, faith-affirming poem. And what great thanks we owe to The Venerable Bede for his lines that across the many gloomy centuries reflect the promises of Our Savior into this modern, semi-godless world. I have visited Durham Cathedral once before, and I plan to do so again, before I depart this earthly life. And when I find myself there, kneeling at Bede’s grave, I shall place two little flowers: one from me and the other from you.
    Arkansas, USA

  4. coby

    Thanks You! Long time ago my oldest daughter sent me a postcard, with these words over the grave of Bede. I have framed the postcard and often I read and reread the words.

    Coby, The Netherlands.

  5. Pingback: Christus est stella matutina – Godspelled

  6. I can’t believe this is the first time I came across this. I wrote my MA thesis on Bede. Love your work–so clear and full of resonance and elegance. God bless you.

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