Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

St. George’s Day and my thoughts turn again to Hatley St. George. If St. George, as our patron saint inspires English patriotism, then I’d say my own patriotism is about loving the little particularites of my native land. Not the big political rhetoric or the aggrandising imperial history, but the patchwork of little parishes and quiet shires. That’s one of the reasons why I love little mediaeval church dedicated to St. George in the village of Hatley St. George, not far from here.

Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I originally wrote this poem, which I also posted last year, both to celebrate the church and to help the cause. Do visit it if you can and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and each summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete. This poem is in my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

10 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

10 responses to “Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

  1. I really enjoyed this. Love the church and its window. Thank you for the sacred space your poems give us.

  2. alma brayden

    This is a profoundly beautiful poem. Thank you so much, especially for your sonnets during Easter. I have The Singing Bowl and treasure it.
    Alma

  3. Beautiful Malcolm -I recently listened to a Labri lecture regarding space and its theological implications in regards to the temple -this reminds me of it and especially this line ‘Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,’-even the built environment is a gift -thanks 🙂

  4. Thank you for the holy-beauty break.

  5. DOUG HALSTEAD

    Dear Malcolm, my wife and I greatly enjoy your emails and blog but beginning a few emails ago your emails are full of numbers. At least on my iPad. Perhaps you can see that below.
    Hope this can be fixed.
    Blessings,
    Doug

    >

  6. Christian St. George

    Thank you for this. I found it beautiful. I’m discovering my family history, and as I search, I stumble upon many things I never imagined I would (like this poem, website, your voice as you read it). My family is tied to this church.

    I intend to make a pilgrimage to this church as soon as I possibly can (despite my having been born and raised in Canada!).

    So – thank you for this.

    Christian St. George

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