All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation

The dark is bright with quiet lives and steady lights undimmed

Even here in England, where the tradition is less strong, Hallowe’en seems to be creeping up on Christmas in the crass comercialism stakes! Halloween itself simply means the eve of all Hallows, and All Hallows is the Christian feast of All Saints, or All Saints Day’ a day when we think particularly of those souls in bliss who, even in this life, kindled a light for us, or to speak more exactly, reflected for us and to us, the already-kindled light of Christ!,  It is followed immediately on November 2nd by All Souls Day. the day we remember all the souls who have gone before us into the light of Heaven.  It is good that we should have a season of the year for remembrance and a time when we feel that the veil between time and eternity is thin and we can sense that greater and wider communion of saints to which we belong. It is also good and right that the Church settled this feast on a time in the turning of the year when the pre-Christian Celtic religions were accustomed to think of and make offerings for the dead. But it was right that, though they kept the day, they changed the custom. The greatest and only offering, to redeem both the living and the dead, has been made by Christ and if we want to celebrate our loving connections we need only now make gifts to the living, as we do in offering sweets to the ‘trick or treaters’ in this season, and far more profoundly in exchanging gifts at Christmas.

Anyway given that both these seasons of hospitality and exchange have been so wrenched from their first purpose in order to sell tinsel and sweeties, I thought I might redress the balance a little and reclaim this season with a sonnet for All Souls/All Saints that remembers the light that shines in darkness, who first kindled it, and how we can all reflect it.

If your church is marking all saints or all souls day do feel free to print the words or use the recording. I will be reading this sonnet as part of an All souls Day service on Sunday 2nd November at Saint Oswald’s Church in Durham at 6pm. All Welcome.

The image which follows this poem, and takes up one of its key lines, is by Margot Krebs Neale. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title.

This sonnet are  from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press,

All Saints

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards

Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,

It glances from the eyes, kindles the words

Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright

With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,

The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.

Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing

He weaves them with us in the web of being

They stand beside us even as we grieve,

The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,

Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above

The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,

To triumph where all saints are known and named;

The gathered glories of His wounded love.

‘Each shard still shines’ image by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

16 responses to “All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation

  1. A beautiful sonnet Malcolm!

  2. Thanks for both the post and the sonnet.

  3. Charles Twombly

    This is beyond good. Love every line. (I myself have the ambition to write a rhyme about “All Hallow’s Eve” but can’t get beyond a first line that won’t go away. It’s “All Hallows Eve–ah, bitter chill it was!” Wonder where I got that idea!)

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Charles we cant get away from JK! Maybe it should start
      “All Hallows Eve” – Charles Williams book it was-
      For all it left the cruel reviewers cold
      Even the trembiling inklings let it pass
      We read it now and know it is pure gold
      The strangest tale that death has ever told…

      • Charles Twombly

        Haha! You have me nearly rolling, something someone of my age might find dangerous! Still cringe at some of CW’s dialogue in AHE, but there are a dozen scenes that have all the “chill” that JK could hope for–right? (Still laughing.)

      • malcolmguite

        Absolutely -chill is the right word

  4. Pingback: Mellowed Hatred and a Celebration | For a Land I Will Show You

  5. This is beautiful..and I will be using it in the Sunday service..thanks kindly. I work in mosaics, so it has particular significance! Those shards that shine so brightly frequently bring a little blood to the piece as well!

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Doiglas. Thats a very perceptive comment about blood and shards. The making of Mosaics is itself an act richly emblematic of providence grace and redemption

  6. Joe Abbey-Colborne

    I’d like to read this tonight and credit you properly, but I’m not sure how to pronounce your last name. Rhymes with…?

    • malcolmguite

      Thymes with Kite! 🙂

      • Charles Twombly



        Always bright
        Never trite
        Purposely heavy
        Brilliantly light

        Sprite wight
        Startling light

        Good night

        (Recovering Rhymomaniac)

      • malcolmguite

        Ah another sufferer from rhymomania! Ive been staying off the villanelles for a while but ive still got a pretty heavy sonnet habit. You always think ‘this will be the last’ and just 14 lines later you find yourself doing another one…

      • Charles Twombly

        Your handling of the “disease” leaves my efforts in the dust!

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