Michaelmas; a sonnet for St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael at Mont St. Michell -photo by Margot Krebs Neale

The end of September brings us to the feast of St. Michael and All Angels which is known as Michaelmas in England, and this first autumn term in many schools and universities is still called the Michaelmas term. The Archangel Michael is traditionally thought of as the Captain of the Heavenly Host, and, following an image from the book of Revelation, is often shown standing on a dragon, an image of Satan subdued and bound by the strength of Heaven. He is also shown with a drawn sword, or a spear and a pair of scales or balances, for he represents, truth, discernment, the light and energy of intellect, to cut through tangles and confusion, to set us free to discern and choose. He is celebrated and revered in all three Monotheistic religions. There is a good, full account of him here. And here is a bright and playful image of him by the Cambridge Artist Rebecca Merry, who has done a number of icons and other images of the Archangels. You can see more of her art here, and also in the Byard Art Gallery.

And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright

And here is a response to the poem from photographer Margot Krebs Neale, weaving the words at the heart of the poem into the heart-shaped image. More of Margot’s work can be seen here.

This poem comes from my sequence from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press, As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or the title.


Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,

And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.

He strips dead leaves; and leaves the living clear

To flourish in the touch and reach of light.

Archangel bring your balance, help me turn

Upon this turning world with you and dance

In the Great Dance. Draw near, help me discern,

And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.

Angel of fire, Love’s fierce radiance,

Drive through the deep until the steep waves part,

Undo the dragon’s sinuous influence

And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.

Unchain the child you find there, break the spell

And overthrow the tyrannies of Hell.


Filed under imagination

12 responses to “Michaelmas; a sonnet for St. Michael the Archangel

  1. revcharmaine

    Michaelmas my favourite feast since a child and this sonnet resonates on so many levels ‘pierce the clotted darkness…’ etc.

  2. Mary Lysecki

    Is St. Michael leading the climate strikers? Undoing the dragon’s sinuous influence? Breaking the spell?

  3. lynndmorrissey

    Powerful, Mr. Guite! This line: “And trace the hidden grace in change . . . ” I greatly appreciate the reminder that grace is enfolded into every transition, sometimes readily noticeable, but often hidden. I don’t generally like change, so it’s helpful to be reminded that it can contain blessing, which is often only detectable through discernment (which we receive from God). I’m seldom able to have discernment without the Spirit’s enabling. What would we do without the Lord?


    This sonnet is one of my favorite of yours. And I love so many of them. It is the reference to light and dark instead of the Biblical image of good and bad or obedience and disobedience, rebellion or submission that I so appreciate. Thank you for your contributions to so many of our spiritual journeys.

  5. Evangeline M. (Ruth) DeMaster

    YES! “And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.”
    and “And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.”

    Thank You!

  6. Reblogged this on Pastor Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    And a blessed Michaelmas ❤️❤️

  7. Mike Koncsics

    Is the “Great Dance” an allusion to the dancing figures in Williams’ The Greater Trumps (or the Greater Dance that Williams himself was pointing to)? Printed the poem and am keeping it in my wallet for Autumn.

    • malcolmguite

      Primarily it’s an allusion to the dance of the heavenly spheres, and the cosmos more widely as set out in John Davies poem Orchestra and alluded to in various CS Lewis books. But I do know the Charles Williams novel well so it may have been an influence too

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