We continue our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer. If you want a feel for the book itself and for what moved me to write it there is a full interview Here, conducted by Lancia Smith for her excellent ‘Cultivating’ website. Today we come to Herbert’s 22nd image of prayer which is The Milky Way. I have used this sonnet to explore 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. Herbert could see Heaven in Ordinary but he could also lift his eyes above the horizon and see how the heavens themselves declared the glory of the lord. In these dark times we need sometime to lift our eyes, and I hope this poem and these images might offer us all a little burst of light and colour. I hope you enjoy it.
By the way, if you enjoy Herbert you might like to know Ive started a little Youtube Chanel the latest episode features a reading from George MacDonald about Herbert.
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.