A sonnet for the Venerable Bede

bedeThe 25th of May is the day the Church remembers and celebrates the Venerable Bede, who died on that day in 735.  Bede was a Saint and Scholar, whose wonderful Ecclesiastical History of the English People, is still the major source for early English History, as well as being, in itself a deeply inspiring book. He is buried in Durham cathedral and set above his tomb, in beautiful shimmering letters, is the text of one of the prayers he wrote. My sonnet in celebration of Bede draws on this prayer so I give its text here in both Latin and English and have posted a photograph of it below the poem.

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. This poem is from my collection of verse ‘The Singing Bowl’, published by  Canterbury Press

Bede’s Prayer:

Christus est stella matutina, Alleluia

Qui nocte saeculi transacta, Alleluia

Lucem vitae sanctis promittit, Alleluia;

Et pandit aeternam, Alleluia

(Christ is the morning star who when the night of this world is past brings to his saints the promise of the light of life & opens everlasting day.)


I kneel above your bones and read your words.

Church-Latin letters, shimmering in gold,

A kingdom-glimmer through the dark and cold,

A revelation gleaming on the shards

Of all our broken lives and promises.

Christus est stella matutina

Qui nocte saeculi transacta

Christ is the morning star. He promises

The light of life when this dark night is past…

Lucem vitae sanctis promittit

You speak for all his Wounded witnesses,

The morning star will shine on us at last.

Scholar and saint, illuminate the way

That opens into everlasting day.

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Bede's Prayer

Bede’s Prayer


Filed under christianity, literature, Poems

10 responses to “A sonnet for the Venerable Bede

  1. Revd Charlie Kosla

    Thank you Malcolm for your sonnet for the Ven Bede, and well done with the Latin! – God bless.

  2. When we visited friends in Newcastle upon Tyne years ago during my first assignment in England, we visited the Cathedral. It was such a moving experience to be at the graves of Bede and Cuthbert… in the mid ‘90s I was only just beginning to explore Celtic Christianity.

  3. Joe Christopher

    Interesting in the struggles over the “rhymes”. Of course the first stanza–ABBA–is fine, and the final couplet is, also–GG. The C “rhymes” are a repetition. The D rhymes has somewhat of an echo in tina and sancta. The E rhymes are fine: past and last. The F I suppose hangs on an it: promittit and witnesses. Not completely successful but an interesting struggle over all, I’d say.

    • malcolmguite

      I’m glad you have paid attention to the rhyme scheme but I think you have misunderstood what I am trying to achieve. If I want to write to a classic rhyme scheme with every rhyme fully chiming and slotting neatly into place I am perfectly capable of doing that as many of my sonnets demonstrate. But here the fracture of rhyme scheme – the use of slant rhyme -the presence of an orphan line, are all deliberate because the theme of the poem is precisely shards, fragments, a pre-dawn glimmer not yet fully realised.
      There is no point in introducing a technical discussion of prosody, especially one so condescending in tone, unless you are going to relate it to the meaning of the poem!

  4. Joe Christopher

    Sorry, you’re right that that I sound more negative than I should. I didn’t think of it as a deliberate shard. I stand corrected.

  5. Karen Pidcock

    Your honouring of Bede, recalls my beloved husband, deceased now 7 years, and priest, whom I accompanied for his final sabbatical to Durham – in 2002 – for a month of study and exploration of Celtic Christian roots on Holy Island, Northumberland, and at the Durham Cathedral…in the presence of Bede and Cuthbert (Dirk’s favourite saint, after Francis of Assisi!). I thank you.

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