As we approach Remembrance Day, tomorrow, and Remembrance Sunday on the 13th, I am reposting this sonnet about the two minutes silence, which was first published in my book Sounding the Seasons. I’m posting it a day early so that any one who wishes to can use it in services or events either on remembrance Sunday or on Remembrance day itself. As you will see from the little introduction below, I wrote it in response to the silence on Radio 4, and two years ago it was featured on Radio 4’s Remembrance Sunday Worship.
So here is how it came to be written. On Remembrance Day I was at home listening to the radio and when the time came for the Two Minutes Silence. Suddenly the radio itself went quiet. I had not moved to turn the dial or adjust the volume. There was something extraordinarily powerful about that deep silence from a ‘live’ radio, a sense that, alone in my kitchen, I was sharing the silence with millions. I stood for the two minutes, and then, suddenly, swiftly, almost involuntarily, wrote this sonnet. You can hear the sonnet, as I recorded it on November 11th three years ago, minutes after having composed it, by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears or clicking on the title.
The striking image above is ‘Poppy Day’ by Daliscar and the one below is ‘Silent Cross’ by Margot Krebs Neale
November pierces with its bleak remembrance
Of all the bitterness and waste of war.
Our silence tries but fails to make a semblance
Of that lost peace they thought worth fighting for.
Our silence seethes instead with wraiths and whispers,
And all the restless rumour of new wars,
The shells are falling all around our vespers,
No moment is unscarred, there is no pause,
In every instant bloodied innocence
Falls to the weary earth ,and whilst we stand
Quiescence ends again in acquiescence,
And Abel’s blood still cries in every land
One silence only might redeem that blood
Only the silence of a dying God.
8 responses to “Silence: a Sonnet for Remembrance Day”
Reblogged this on Deacon and commented:
Malcolm Guite’s telling sonnet for Remembrance Day on the two-minute silence, posted deliberately early so that we can use it in our services if we wish.
So telling. Shared on Deacon blog. Thank you!
I instantly thought of Is. 61:3
….beauty for ashes and green cedars from red stained earth growing in unseen silence. Thank you for always painting pictures with your words.
Thanks for this beautiful response
Thank you. I think this is exactly what I have been looking for to share in my sermon on Sunday. Nothing has yet made a difference to war, the only thing that ever will is the death of Christ and our response to it.
Thanks Alison I’m glad you’ll be using the poem
Good to focus on the pity of war as well as remember the sacrifices.