Smoke Rings From My Pipe

A free man blowing smoke rings from his pipe (Photo Lancia Smith)

A free man blowing smoke rings from his pipe (Photo Lancia Smith)

I have been reading a collection of Ballades by GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and their friends and it prompted this more playful piece of light verse about the pleasures of smoking my pipe and composing verse in the ‘Temple of Peace’, my trysting place with the muse. I have slightly tweaked the Ballade form by playing variations on the repeating line rather than simply repeating it verbatim. You can hear the poem, as usual, by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. The atmospheric photo is by the wonderful photographer Lancia Smith. I hope you all enjoy this, it goes out particularly to my generous friend Jerry Root who gave me one of the most beautiful pipes I possess.

Smoke Rings From My Pipe

All the long day’s weariness is done

I’m free at last to do just as I will

Take out my pipe, admire the setting sun

Practice the art of simply sitting still

Thank God I have this briar bowl to fill,

I leave the world with all its hopeless hype,

Its pressures, and its ever-ringing till,

And let it go in smoke rings from my pipe


The hustle and the bustle, these I shun

The tasks that trouble and the cares that kill,

The false idea that there’s a race to run,

The pushing of that weary stone uphill,

The wretched i-phone’s all-insistent trill,

Whingers and whiners, each with their own gripe,

I pack them in tobacco leaves until

They’re blown away in smoke rings from my pipe


And then at last my real work is begun,

My chance to chant, to exercise the skill

Of summoning the muses, one by one,

To meet me in their temple, touch my quill

( I have a pen but quills are better still)

And when the soul is full, the time is ripe

Kindle the fire of poetry that will

Breathe and expand like smoke-rings from my pipe


Prince I have done with grinding at the mill,

These petty-pelting tyrants aren’t my type,

So lift me up and set me on a hill,

A free man blowing smoke rings from his pipe.



Filed under imagination

22 responses to “Smoke Rings From My Pipe

  1. Alice

    (I’m assuming this will get moderated – no need to publish it). You have several instances of “it’s” where it should be “its”. (p.s. I do like the poem, btw!)

    • malcolmguite

      Ah. Post in haste repent at leisure – orthography never my strong point!

    • Doug Daley

      Thanks Malcolm for brightening my day. We have two things in common: 1, I too enjoy the solace of “smoke rings from my pipe”. 2. Jerry Root, my friend and mentor gave me my favorite pipe a couple years back. Blessings to you brother.

  2. Roy Salmond


    Call when you get back from your holiday and we’ll plan singing, speaking, playing and smoking! I’ll save some scotch for you as well!

  3. I love it! The only thing I miss about smoking (cigarettes and the odd cheroot ~) is musing on those rising whisps and rings — they’re in my imagination, still; but not harming my lungs. Phenomenal photograph, Lancia!

  4. love the word-visual of packing the whiners in the tobacco leaves, lighting them, and blowing them away in smoke rings… Makes me smile to think of it and wish I could take up pipe smoking…

  5. I just finished reading this to Robert and we both smiled, took a deep breath, and admired your encouragement… We may have a cigar with a wee dram of Scotch in honor of your lovely Ballade – Blessings!

  6. John Gilmore

    Really enjoyed this, Malcolm! Have you come across a Latin ode by John Philips (the author of Cyder) addressed to Henry St John, which sings the praises of drink and tobacco, as well as of the patron who has provided them? Best wishes, John.

  7. John Porter-Acee

    I’m not real sure who this goes to or whether it will end up posted as a comment on your web page so this is both a thank you and a test email. Thank you for your wisdom, your insight and your passion. Thank you for the time you have spent honing your ability to name what it is you feel and then draw a picture with words that is so compelling that it helps other people to begin to get in touch with their own feelings as well. Thank you for helping me to furnish my mind with something that feels handmade instead of mass produced and bought online. Thank you most of all for The Third Fall which does so much more than remind you that you are not alone. It also let’s you know that others have been there before you, and have somehow gotten out of the hole and found a way to breath again. When all of the strings are cut, knowing that a current living mortal, and not only the one time mortal Christ, has survived; that just might be the first hope that someone could understand and connect with you again.

    Would love to email again,

    Your fellow flailing clergyman,


    Sent from my iPhone

    • malcolmguite

      Dear John
      Many thanks for this. I’m very glad my poetry is making those connections and meeting those needs. As you see this doesn’t come to me as an email but appears as a comment vi hope you’re ok with it being here if not I can remove it. ‘All the strings are cut is a very telling phrase – I know what that’s like – but it’s not permanent thank God. Thanks again for your response M

  8. Kate Townsend

    Love it, Love it, love it. Funny and soothing and uplifting. Thank you so much.

  9. Pingback: SMOKE RINGS FROM MY PIPE | Godschool's Blog

  10. freespirit

    I love this poem.

  11. Pingback: A Ballade in Praise of Tea | All Nine

  12. Michael Anthony

    Has there ever been a more generous friend than Jerry Root? I think not. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Pingback: Malcolm Guite on Parable and Paradox

  14. Everett

    Wonderful poem! I love how setting fire to the cares of the day in the pipe draws on that sacrificial imagery of the altar and fire. After the allusion to Sisyphus in the second stanza, I can’t help but think of a biblical strong man Samson in the final two stanzas–one who had done some grinding at the mill (stanza 4, line 1), and who was brought into a temple (stanza 3, line 4). The petty-pelting tyrants in that temple weren’t his type either–his type was Christ. Both were lifted up… and though Samson didn’t have a pipe, he certainly had a fire kindled in him there.

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.