Ode to St. Cecilia

cecilia-4The 22nd of November is the feast day of St. Cecilia, Christian Martyr and Patron Saint of music. A few years ago I was commissioned by JAC Redford the LA-based composer and orchestrater, to write an Ode to St. Cecilia for a new piece of music he has in turn been commissioned to write, which had its premiere in LA in 2013.

I published the Ode myself this year in my new collection Parable and Paradox and here, for this year’s St. Cecilia’s day is the text of my ode and a recording of my reading of it. In the recording I also talk a little about the inspiration and how it came to be written. I hope you enjoy it. Margot Krebs Neale has contributed the beautiful image which follows the poem As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

Ode to St. Cecilia

You rested briefly here Cecilia

In this good ground, the Roman catacomb:

Its rounded vaults are rich with sudden sound

As pilgrims hymn you through the darkened air.

For you made music in your martyrdom,

Transposed the passion of your wedding night

To angel-given garlands, wreathed in light.

In all your three days dying you made room

For beautiful abundance, gifts and giving,

Your death was blessing and your passing praise,

As you gave way to grace,

Like music that still lives within its dying

And gives in giving place.


Cecilia, give way to grace again,

Transmute it into music for us all:

Music to stir and call the sleeping soul,

And set a counterpoint to all our pain,

To bless our senses in their very essence

And undergird our sorrow in good ground.

Music to summon undeserved abundance,

Unlooked for overbrimming, rich and strong,

The unexpected plenitude of sound

Becoming song.

Image by Margot Krebs Neale

Image by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under imagination, literature, Music, Songs

10 responses to “Ode to St. Cecilia

  1. Bruce Bridgewood

    This is beautiful. Thank you..

  2. Marcia Whitney-Schenck

    I so enjoy your images and sounds. I’ve been working on a series of watercolor depictions of the Communion of Saints. May I share four images with you? (St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Paul, and Joan of Arc.) If interested, perhaps you could tell me how to attach the images? Thank you for sharing your gifts. Marcia Whitney-Schenck, Chicago, IL.

  3. A worthy addition to the literature a surprise in excelsis

  4. Wow! This was awesome! Thank you so much, Malcolm!

  5. Cecilia Donegan

    Thanks with all my heart for sending this …

    Started the day today including it with prayer.

    Lovely … Always SO proud to be named CECILIA because my Grandmother Cecelia Clare Beck Donegan was who I was named after … Later in life I learned my Mother had Cecilia for her confirmation name as did my Grandmother Isabelle Margaret Morris Purrman(n) (“N” dropped as they arrived into the US).

    I wish I had her musical talents … however, lack of holding a tune doesn’t hold me back from singing … My Father always told me as a young girl that I could always go to church with him as I like to sing!



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