Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet

Tending the tree of Life by Hildegard of Bingen

Tending the tree of Life by Hildegard of Bingen

The 17th of September is the feast day of Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, a remarkable and prophetic woman, who described herself as ‘a feather on the breath of God’, and whose many works in theology, music, visual art, poetry and drama are still inspiring people today. Indeed she is coming more and more into her own, as one of her key ideas ‘Viriditas’, or the greening and life-renewing work of the Holy Spirit, seems especially apposite for our time. See this page on her by a contemporary Benedictine.

The photo below is by Margot Krebs Neale

I wrote this sonnet at Launde Abbey in Leicestershire. It is published in my second volume of poetry The Singing Bowl, Canterbury Press,  available on Amazon in both the US and the UK

As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the play button or the title.

Hildegard of Bingen

A feather on the breath of God at play,

You saw the play of God in all creation.

You drew eternal light into each day,

And every living breath was inspiration.

You made a play with every virtue playing,

Made music for each sister-soul to sing,

Listened for what each herb and stone was saying,

And heard the Word of God in everything.


Mother from mother earth and Magistra, 

Your song revealed God’s hidden gift to us;

The verdant fire, his holy harbinger

The greening glory of viriditas.

‘Cherish this earth that keeps us all alive’

Either we hear you, or we don’t survive.


Photo by Margot Krebs Neale

Photo by Margot Krebs Neale

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Filed under imagination

8 responses to “Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet

  1. lynndmorrissey

    And as a matter of fact, I’m re-reading The Singing Bowl right now–my coveted treasure find from the book shop on Iona!

  2. That last couplet is devastating in its directness, as it needs to be.

  3. There’s a joyous, airy light – ness throughout this sonnet. My favourite line is: ‘listened to what each stone and herb was saying’; it conveys to me her awareness of all small detail; it also makes me see a smooth oval grey stone ( small) contrasting with the crinkly, convoluted leaves of parsley!
    You convey the central simplicity of the woman as opposed to the complex and cluttered view we often have of her.

  4. Susan Hiscox

    Simple truth that calls to us across the span of time. Let us listen.

  5. Brigid Smithers

    Hallo Malcolm I enjoyed your poem on Hildegard of Bingen as always. I have your book, The Singing Bowl, but I didn’t buy it on Amazon as I will go to a lot of trouble to avoid using them. I wonder why you advertise Amazon on all your posts when there are many more ethical, and Christian, on line booksellers. They seem to get their name at the top of every online list, and I would rather not give them even more publicity. Just a thought! Keep up the good work.♥️

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