St. Patrick: A Sonnet

PilgrimYear_SaintPatrickMemeI have written a  sonnet for Saint Patrick’s day! It is in my anthology Word in the Wilderness and will also be collected in Parable and Paradox but here it is for the day itself. This particular poem was prompted by my good friend Steve Bell who was writing a fascinating multi-media ebook called the Pilgrim Year and who wanted me to write something for St. Patrick’s day. I can strongly commend Steve’s ebook!

While Patrick is of course primarily associated with Ireland where he flourished as a missionary in the second half of the fifth century, he was not Irish to begin with. He seems to have been a shepherd on the mainland of Great Britain and was in fact captured there, at the age of sixteen, by raiding pirates and taken across the sea to Ireland where he was sold as a slave. He was six years in captivity before he finally made his escape and returned to Britain. And this is where the story takes a truly extraordinary turn. While he was enslaved in Ireland, working as a shepherd for his masters, Patrick became a Christian and when, having made good his escape, he returned home he had a vision in which a man gave him a letter headed ‘The Voice of Ireland’, a letter urging him to go back to the very place from which he had escaped and bring the Gospel to his former captors! That Patrick obeyed such a vision seems to me a greater miracle than any of the others subsequently attributed to him, and it is on this return that my sonnet turns. That capacity to return, face and forgive former oppressors or enemies seems a particularly vital gift for Ireland’s patron to bestow. As well as alluding briefly to ‘St. Patrick’s Breastplate’, my sonnet also touches on the story that wherever Patrick planted his staff to pray, it blossomed.

As always you can hear the sonnets by clicking o the title or the play button

Patrick

Six years a slave, and then you slipped the yoke,

Till Christ recalled you, through your captors cries!

Patrick, you had the courage to turn back,

With open love to your old enemies,

Serving them now in Christ, not in their chains,

Bringing the freedom He gave you to share.

You heard the voice of Ireland, in your veins

Her passion and compassion burned like fire.

 

Now you rejoice amidst the three-in-one,

Refreshed in love and blessing all you knew,

Look back on us and bless us, Ireland’s son,

And plant the staff of prayer in all we do:

A gospel seed that flowers in belief,

A greening glory, coming into leaf.

7 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

7 responses to “St. Patrick: A Sonnet

  1. Carole Lewis

    I didn’t know much about Patrick. Thought you might find this as fascinating as I Did. Xxxxxx

  2. Tony Morris

    ‘A greening glory coming into leaf’ – superb!! 🍀 ______________

    Tony Morris 07985 935320 ______________

  3. Such poetry…such a prayer.

  4. Patricia Conneen

    Dear Malcolm,

    I love this sonnet so much. St. Patrick’s Day has always held significance for me. Today would have been my Father’s 100th birthday. He was named Leo Patrick and I was named Patricia Lee after him.

    The miracle of turning back to face one’s captors is, for sure, the greatest of all. Turning inward to face my own captors has been no less than miraculous. What a grace to be companioned on that journey.

    Blessings to you, Pat

    p.s. Denny and I have been reading W.I.t.W. throughout Lent. A devotional that we look forward to every morning. (Imagine that!) Ahhh…when duty becomes love!

    >

  5. Reblogged this on Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    Beautiful, Malcolm Guite!

  6. Debbie Carruthers

    A sonnet to one of my favorite saints, Patrick! Thank you. And you are right, his humility and sincere obedience to the call of Christ on his life is the greatest miracle of all.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s