Silence; a Sonnet for Remembrance Day

As we approach Remembrance Day I am reposting the sonnet about Remembrance Day silence, which I posted last year and which is now published in my book Sounding the Seasons. As you will see from the little introduction below, I wrote it in response to the silence on Radio 4, so it seems appropriate that this year it will be featured on Radio 4’s Remembrance Sunday Worship. the programme is broadcast at 8:10 on the 10th of November and will be live from Girton College Chapel. So here is the preface from last year’s post and the poem itself:

Last year on Remembrance Day I was at home listening to the radio when the time came for the Two Minutes Silence. suddenly the radio itself went quiet. I had not moved to turn the dial or adjust the volume. There was something extraordinarily powerful about that deep silence from a ‘live’ radio, a sense that, alone in my kitchen, I was sharing the silence with millions. I stood for the two minutes, and then, suddenly, swiftly, almost involuntarily wrote this sonnet. Since I posted it last year, here, and on audioboo, it has become the single most viewed and heard, of all my posts, and strangely, looking at the ‘stats I have found that almost half of my total ‘views’ have been from Germany, something that I find strangely moving. You can hear the sonnet, as I recorded it on November 11th last year, minutes after having composed it, by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears or clicking on the title.

The striking image above is ‘Poppy Day’ by Daliscar and the one below is ‘Silent Cross’ by Margot Krebs Neale


November pierces with its bleak remembrance
Of all the bitterness and waste of war.
Our silence tries but fails to make a semblance
Of that lost peace they thought worth fighting for.
Our silence seeths instead with wraiths and whispers,
And all the restless rumour of new wars,
The shells are singing as we sing our vespers,
No moment is unscarred, there is no pause,
In every instant bloodied innocence
Falls to the weary earth ,and whilst we stand
Quiescence ends again in acquiescence,
And Abel’s blood still cries in every land
One silence only might redeem that blood
Only the silence of a dying God.

Silent Cross by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under literature

12 responses to “Silence; a Sonnet for Remembrance Day

  1. lanciaesmith

    It makes me cry every time I read it. “The weary earth.” I ache along with the creation that groans for the return of the King and the Day He will wipe away every tear and death and sorrow will be no more. Blessings always to you, friend. May God speak His tenderness and love to every heart to every reader that visits this poem. May they find a moment of peace and a place of recognition here.

  2. Randy Groover

    Beautiful sonnet.
    Is Remembrance Day a day to remember the British soldiers and sailors who died in World War 1?

    • malcolmguite

      Yes. And all the wars since then!

      • Randy Groover

        Most people regard World War 1 as having resolved nothing (which was why World War 2 was fought). I have seen your YouTube discussions about Barfield and Lewis where you describe them as ‘angry young men’ returning from the Western Front. Do you think that in 1919 these men were angry simply because of their personal experiences in the war or do you think they were disillusioned because they understood the geo-political futility of what they had just been through and were prophets enough to understand that another war would be necessary to finally resolve the issues that World War 1 did not resolve? The point of my question is to try to understand how politically astute The Inklings were.

    • not only British! The lines of representatives by the Cenotaph in London, shows the number of nations who sent their men to fight alongside the British soldiers. It includes many African countries, Australia and the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Malaysia, and on and on [40+] together with USA and Russia – both Allies in WW2

      • That was intended for your earlier question, obviously!
        Surely the bitterness felt by the young men who DID return from WW1 was not only that the world did not change, but that they came home to no work, and feeling almost outcasts instead of heroes.

  3. Philippa Pearson

    Hi John,

    Thank you so much for braving the rain and coming up for a chat today. Much appreciated and I think we have something potentially looking good on the horizon for Hatley church!

    Below is information about Malcolm’s Remembrance poem and I thought you would enjoy the background to the writing.

    All best, and speak soon, Philippa

  4. Anthea Power

    This beautiful poem reached me via a friend and monk from Ampleforth Abbey. It has a long reach. I particularly appreciate the lack of jingoism and the acknowledgement of all the perennial slaughters, known and unknown which implicate us all. What an achievement. And my thanks.

  5. Pingback: Silence and Violence | pro Rege et Regno

  6. Pingback: Silence; a Sonnet for Remembrance Day | MBello's Blog

  7. Pingback: Silence and Violence | joshuapsteele

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.