A Sonnet for George Herbert, and news of a new book

Gentle exemplar, help us in our trials

On February 27th the Church of England keeps the feast and celebrates the memory of George Herbert, the gentle poet priest whose book the Temple, published posthumously in 1633 by his friend Nicholas Ferrar has done so much to help and inspire Christians ever since. In an earlier blog post I gave a talk on George Herbert and the Insights of Prayer, today, on  his Feast Day, I offer this sonnet, part of a sequence called ‘Clouds of Witness” in my poetry book The Singing Bowl. The sequence is a celebration of the saints, intended to complement my sequence Sounding the Seasons.

You can get this book in the UK by ordering it from your local bookshop, or via Amazon

I will also take this opportunity to announce that earlier this year I signed the contract for my next poetry book with Canterbury Press and it should be out this October. It will be called ‘After Prayer’ and it’s centrepiece will be an entirely new sequence responding to George Herbert’s seminal poem ‘Prayer’. I have taken each of the 27 images in that poem as the seed or starting point for a new poem and written a sequence of 27 sonnets. In the next few weeks I shall be posting one or two of them on this blog as ‘tasters’ of the forthcoming book. Meanwhile here is the sonnet I wrote in appreciation of Herbert himself:

As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

George Herbert

Gentle exemplar, help us in our trials,

With all that passed between you and your Lord,

That intimate exchange of frowns and smiles

Which chronicled your love-match with the Word.

Your manuscript, entrusted to a friend,

Has been entrusted now to every soul,

We make a new beginning in your end

And find your broken heart has made us whole.

Time has transplanted you, and you take root,

Past changing in the paradise of Love,

Help me to trace your temple, tune your lute,

And listen for an echo from above,

Open the window, let me hear you sing,

And see the Word with you in everything.


Filed under literature, Poems

17 responses to “A Sonnet for George Herbert, and news of a new book

  1. Very Interesting history about this poet, a very good sonnet you wrote and very nice hearing it read.

  2. Ronni Lamont

    Thanks Malcolm
    I just love George Herbert…

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Joy

    Malcolm I find your poems beautiful, mind-stretching and take me to places and ideas that I know nothing about. I have spent the last hour reading around Nicholas Ferrar from the George Herbert post. I knew nothing of Ferrar and his community!
    Then I found Marty O’Donnell and the Music of the Spheres !
    I appreciate the posts so much. Thank you

  4. Thank you, Malcolm for this poem honouring my ‘birthday’ saint.

  5. Henry and Christina Arakaki

    Hello, Mr. Guite,

    Is it possible for a meager American to purchase this book? Amazon would not even sell me the Kindle version. I do have British descent/family names of Sherwood and Foster, however, in the end I suppose it’s true, our family line ultimately defected from its homeland.

    Many thanks and may God bless you, Christina Arakaki

    PS. I discovered you through Sally Clarkson.


  6. Malcolm I’m so glad that we can look forward to your book on Herbert’s Prayer poem….the selections you shared this summer were powerful.

  7. David C Brown

    There’s no one like George! And “Prayer” is fascinating

  8. I just re-read George Herbert’s prayer earlier this week in Word in the Wilderness. I have a long way to go in appreciating its images but am in no rush. I am very much looking forward to reading After Prayer this October, having just finished Sounding the Seasons and Parable and Paradox, and currently waiting for The Singing Bowl to make its way here to me in Bangkok.

  9. Pingback: Interview with Malcolm Guite - After Prayer | The Cultivating Project

  10. Pingback: After Prayer is published tomorrow! | Malcolm Guite

  11. Lovely weaving together of Herbert phrases and images.

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