The Christian Plummet

A Stone Cold Jonah
Image by Alma Sheppard-Matsuo taken from the Tablet


In my last post I mentioned a new sequence of poems written in response to George Herbert’s beautiful poem Prayer. , saying ‘I have long felt that each of the twenty-seven images and metaphor for prayer in that exquisite sonnet could itself be the seed and beginning of a new poem and so I have decided to make my own twenty-seven sonnet response to his masterpiece’. Prompted by the fact that it is World Mental Health Day I thought I would post another these sonnets. This time responding to Herbert’s line ‘The Christian Plummet, sounding heaven and earth’. Herbert is referring to the plummet or sounding line used on ships to measure the depth below the keel, lowered into the waves on a marked line and then hauled up so that the linesman could tell the helmsman what depth he had below his keel. In my own poem thought I delft moved to imagine things from the point of view of the plummet and to see my own and other people’s experience of what it is suddenly to plummet down in the light of prayer. I especially responded to seeing the words ‘Christian’ and ‘plummet’ together. Some Christians can give you the impression that unless your constantly cheerful you’re not a true believer or haven’t ‘heard the gospel’, as though Jesus had never endured the agony in the garden. But it’s my conviction that a person is just as much a Christian when they are plummeting down and sounding depths others may not know than when they are cheerful.I hope this poem may help those who have had similar experiences of plummeting. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’button.

The Christian Plummet


Down into the icy depths you plunge,

The cold dark undertow of your depression,

Even your memories of light made strange,

As you fall further from all comprehension.

You feel as though they’ve thrown you overboard,

Your fellow Christians on the sunlit deck,

A stone cold Jonah on whom scorn is poured,

A sacrifice to save them from the wreck.


But someone has their hands on your long line,

You sound for them the depths they sail above,

One who takes Jonah as his only sign

Sinks lower still to hold you in his love,

And though you cannot see, or speak, or breathe,

The everlasting arms are underneath.


Filed under imagination

30 responses to “The Christian Plummet

  1. Plummet from lead/Plumb/plummer, the nastiest heaviest metal. I love what Julian does with the sign of Jonah, where she is on the deep sea bed, translating directly from the Hebrew and using the same psalm he sings.

  2. Tamara Newell

    You are brilliant. I so appreciate you and your genius. Thank you.

  3. New follower of the Guite blog here, but I must say it’s been an absolute joy and a meaningful addition to my daily life & routine. Huzzah!
    On a separate note, I do believe I see Arthur Ransome’s Winter Holiday there at the edge of your banner picture. Huge fan of Ransome and the fact he’s in your bookshelf (I presume it is yours) gives you even more props. Be well!

  4. Judith King

    This is very, very beautiful Malcolm. I thank Alana Levandoski for alerting me to it. Thank you for the poem and also being able to stay with the ‘plummet experience’ openly enough to create this.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Judith I’m glad you found it helpful and also beautiful. Beauty is probably the single thing I aim for most in a poem

  5. Dolores Wiens

    I love this. I find it profoundingly meaningful. Thank you for posting it.

  6. Dolores Wiens

    Where can I find the rest of these sonnets?

    • malcolmguite

      They’re still in progress. This is just a ‘sneak preview’ they will come out in a book probably 2019 or early 2020 they will be a sequence of about 30 sonnets plus an introduction and commentary in Herbert’s poem

  7. bgulland72

    Have shared on the Christians in Media UK Facebook page, in response to someone’s post yesterday expressing just this kind of experience. Thank you

  8. A new favorite and one to return to when the plummet is threatening. Thank you, Dr. Guite. To see a spiritual connection between depression and Christ’s own agonizing plummet into chaos is a wonderful reminder that something even as seemingly meaningless as depression can find a place in the world meaning through the Gospel. Thank you!

  9. What immense comfort in the everlasting arms. But the awfulness of a depression is among the most testing things for a believer on the Lord Jesus.

  10. The Plummet of a Christian is a very real thing. I really enjoyed the poem

  11. This is a beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing it!

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  13. Rowena Harrison

    Dear Malcolm
    I read this beautiful poem two days ago when I was feeling really low (I have your book, After Prayer, on my kindle) and I wept. It was just what I needed to hear; the imagery is stumming. Thank you and thank you Jesus. Oh and I was inspired to write my own, not very good, poetry too.

  14. Rowena Harrison

    Dear Malcolm
    I read this beautiful poem two days ago when I was feeling really low (I have your book, After Prayer, on my kindle) and I wept. It was just what I needed to hear; the imagery is stumming. Thank you and thank you Jesus. Oh and I was inspired to write my own, not very good, poetry too.

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  18. Mary Herbert

    Heard your interview with Christianity Today and so appreciated this poem. Thank you for your words.

  19. Brandon Dickson

    Hello Malcolm, a friend just shared this sonnet with me, my first exposure to your poetry. Thank you for writing this beautiful sonnet. I’ve been meaning to get into poetry for some time now but I wasn’t sure where to start. This has jumpstarted that interest and I’m excited to read more. I’m just beginning to delve into your other works but I appreciate how you sincerely share your experience and express empathy, rather than simply offering platitudes. I’ve experienced depression for about a decade now and reading others’ experiences of it has helped me to better understand my own experience and encouraged me not to give up.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks for this Brandon, I’m so glad this poem has been helpful and particularly that it has opened up the wider field of poetry itself for you

  20. Sarah

    I’ve admired and loved your work for years. While listening to your recent podcast interview with Russell Moore on a walk in my neighborhood, I had to stop and rewind and close my eyes to listen to you read this poem. It was deeply impactful and comforting to me. Thank you for sharing your words and your voice.

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