This year I am leading the Annual Pilgrimage to Little Gidding. It takes place this Saturday, starting at 10:30 at George Herbert’s church at Leighton Bromswold and continuing by easy stages to Little Gidding where we will celebrate Evensong and then have tea in Ferrar House. I have written a new sonnet ‘For Nicholas Ferrar‘ especially for the occasion which we will read at Nicholas’s tomb just outside the chapel. Nicholas died the day after Advent Sunday at 1 am the hour he had always risen for prayers, and my sonnet touches on that. Certainly the place in which he and his community kept prayer going at all times, recited the psalms, and lived out their gospel harmony, is still soaked in prayer, still, a place through which the eternal light shimmers into time, still, as the inscription on the chapel says, ‘The very gate of Heaven’.
I would like to dedicate this sonnet to the memory of Susan Gray, who died this April, a friend and parishioner who loved Little Gidding, both the place and the poem. When I took her last communion to her in the Hospice, she spoke the line from Little Gidding ‘In my end is my beginning’.
As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.
For Nicholas Ferrar
You died the hour you used to rise for prayer.
In that rich hush beneath all other sounds,
You rose at one and took the midnight air
Rising and falling on the wings and rounds
Of psalms and silence. The December stars
Shine clear above the Giddings, promised light
For those who dwell in darkness. Morning stirs
The household. From the folds of sleep, the late
Risers wake to find you gone, and pray
Through pain and grief to bless your journey home;
Those last glad steps in the right good old way
Up to the door where Love will bid you welcome.
Love draws us too, towards your grave and haven
We greet you at the very gate of Heaven.