As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am working on a new sonnet sequence responding to each I turn of the twenty-seven images in George Herbert’s glorious sonnet ‘Prayer’, and today I have come as far as ‘The Milky Way’, the twenty-second image. I have thought a little of what made the Milky Way an emblem of prayer for Herbert, but I have also availed myself of images he could never have seen, but would have loved: the glorious pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. So here, in a dark time of year, but as part of the glory of the twelve days of Christmas is something that might offer us all a little burst of light and colour. I hope you enjoy it. As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking the title or the ‘play’ button.
It’s always there, but when our lights are low,
Or altogether out, we see it shine;
Only when things are darkest here below
Do we discern its soft pearlescent sheen,
Gracefully traced across the midnight sky,
In whose light Herbert saw the path of prayer.
Though pale and milky to the naked eye,
The view from Hubble, far above the air,
Shows us a star-field rich with many colours
‘Patines of bright gold’ and blue and red,
Abundance of a hundred billion stars
Whose centre lies in Sagittarius,
Darting their glory, like the myriad
Of saints and angels who all pray for us.