Descent: A Poem and Song for Christmas Day

mangerMerry Christmas!

Milton wrote an Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, which no one can hope to emulate,and which I have also posted in a blog post this morning with a beautiful illustration by Linda Richardson, however I thought I would also offer you something of my own. In this poem I have followed Milton’s lead in drawing a contrast between the various gods of the Classical world and the full and astonishing revelation of God’s love in the manger at Bethlehem. This was originally a short three verse poem, but at the behest of Steve Bell I have re-written it so that it is now also a song, with a tune of his composing on his award-winning Album Keening for the Dawn. I have written about our collaboration here.

The poem is published in my book The Singing Bowl. I have also recorded the song myself, on Steve Bell’s amazing new retrospective four cd set ‘Pilgrimage’ As always you can hear me reading of this poem which you can hear by clicking on the ‘play’ button below or the title


They sought to soar into the skies

Those classic gods of high renown

For lofty pride aspires to rise

But you came down.

You dropped down from the mountains sheer

Forsook the eagle for the dove

The other Gods demanded fear

But you gave love

Where chiselled marble seemed to freeze

Their abstract and perfected form

Compassion brought you to your knees

Your blood was warm

They called for blood in sacrifice

Their victims on an altar bled

When no one else could pay the price

You died instead

They towered above our mortal plain,

Dismissed this restless flesh with scorn,

Aloof from birth and death and pain,

But you were born.

Born to these burdens, borne by all

Born with us all ‘astride the grave’

Weak, to be with us when we fall,

And strong to save.

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Filed under christianity

6 responses to “Descent: A Poem and Song for Christmas Day

  1. Jeanette Meadway

    I love this poem..

    I appreciate all your poems, but cannot usually use them in the church where I am vicar because 80 to 90% of our fellowship have English as a second or third or sometimes fourth language, and quite simple English language is lost on them.
    But “Descent” with its fourth lines so simple and clear, I would like read and put up the words on a screen,
    1) to our church Whatsapp group
    2) In our Epiphany Sunday morning service, which is live-streamed and available afterwards on our You-Tube channel.

    Please inform me what form acknowledgements should be, and whether any fee is payable or I just contribute to the coffee fund. We will happily include a link in our acknowledgement, but would want to have the link you would prefer us to use.

    Bless you for all your poems, but especially this one!

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Jeanette please feel free to share the poem with your church through your services and What’s App. Just say ‘from The Singing Bowl’ by Malcom Guite and if you’d like to include a link, just link to this post. There is no fee

  2. Such an interesting meter. One that focuses on the Christ child, the Savior. The contrasts are so clear, Jesus so unique. Thank you for sharing this Malcolm. I hear Him speak.
    ~ Linda Trott Dickman

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks. Yes that’s thought that shorter final line in each stanza would best express the compression of the incarnation

  3. David C Brown

    Thankful for the One who came down!
    I like the rhythm.

  4. Robert Dipert

    Love the poem. Plan on using it in our Advent services.

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