Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet

Tending the tree of Life by Hildegard of Bingen

Tending the tree of Life by Hildegard of Bingen

The 17th of September is the feast day of Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, a remarkable and prophetic woman, who described herself as ‘a feather on the breath of God’, and whose many works in theology, music, visual art, poetry and drama are still inspiring people today. Indeed she is coming more and more into her own, as one of her key ideas ‘Viriditas’, or the greening and life-renewing work of the Holy Spirit, seems especially apposite for our time. See this page on her by a contemporary Benedictine.

The photo below is by Margot Krebs Neale

I wrote this sonnet at Launde Abbey in Leicestershire where I shall be giving an Advent retreat next year. It will be published in my next volume of poetry The Singing Bowl, Canterbury Press, which will be launched at St. Edward’s Church Cambridge at 7:30pm on November 6th

As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the play button or the title.

Hildegard of Bingen

A feather on the breath of God at play,

You saw the play of God in all creation.

You drew eternal light into each day,

And every living breath was inspiration.

You made a play with every virtue playing,

Made music for each sister-soul to sing,

Listened for what each herb and stone was saying,

And heard the Word of God in everything.


Mother from mother earth and Magistra, 

Your song revealed God’s hidden gift to us;

The verdant fire, his holy harbinger

The greening glory of viriditas.

‘Cherish this earth that keeps us all alive’

Either we hear you, or we don’t survive.


Photo by Margot Krebs Neale

Photo by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under christianity, Poems

11 responses to “Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet

  1. Thanks again for this beautiful poem, Malcolm. The copy you sent me on my ordination is up in pride of place in my study. I will repost this on my blog, as discussed, on the 17th.

  2. Love hildegard of bingen, probably the only woman to make the Assemblies of God church history syllabus and Classic FM’s top 50 list of the most important composers of all time

  3. A favourite of your sonnets. Hildegard, a woman for our time. Thank you. Elizabeth ewnimages@gmail.com

  4. Pingback: Two New Words and a Renewed Friendship | Bonniebeldanthomson's Blog

  5. Bethany

    My daughter and I just listened to this together. Thank you for sharing your lovely poem with the world.

  6. Pingback: Hildegarde of Bingen ‘A feather on the breath of God’ | afeatheronthebreathofgod

  7. moiradeslandes

    this sonnet is beautiful thank you for sharing; you might be interested in my weekly blog Letters to Hildegard moiradeslandes.com

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