Monthly Archives: July 2021

Mary Magdalene: A Sonnet

noli_me_tangere-fra-angelico1The 22nd of July is Mary Magdalene’s day, and, returning to my sequence of sonnets written in response to the church year, I post this for her. As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on its title or on the ‘play’ button.

This sonnet is drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA . It is also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of these sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great. As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title.


Mary Magdalene

Men called you light so as to load you down,
And burden you with their own weight of sin,
A woman forced to  cover and contain
Those seven devils sent by Everyman.
But one man set you free and took your part
One man knew and loved you to the core
The broken alabaster of your heart
Revealed to Him alone a hidden door,
Into a garden where the fountain sealed,
Could flow at last for him in healing tears,
Till, in another garden, he revealed
The perfect Love that cast out all your fears,
And quickened you  with love’s own sway and swing,
As light and lovely as the news you bring.

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A sonnet for St. Benedict

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On his  feast day I am reposting this sonnet on St. Benedict. My recent experience of diving deep into the Psalter has made me appreciate the Benedictine tradition even more deeply, for of course he made the recitation of the psalms the absolute core of his order’s liturgy and worship.

On July the 11th the Church celebrates the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the gentle founder of the Benedictine order and by extension the father of Monasticism. A moderate and modest man, he would have been astonished to learn that his ‘simple school for prayer’, his ‘modest rule for beginners’ led to the foundation of communities which kept the Christian flame alight through dark times, preserved not only Christian faith, scripture, and culture,but also the best of Classical Pagan learning and culture, fed the poor, transformed societies, promoted learning and scholarship, and today provides solace, grounding, perspective and retreat not only to monks and nuns but to millions of lay people around the world.
Here is my sonnet for Benedict, drawing largely on phrases from the Rule, I dedicate it to the sisters at Turvey Abbey. It appears in my second book with Canterbury Press, The Singing Bowl 

You can also buy the book on amazon Here   But better still why not order it through a local bookshop who pay their taxes and need your support!

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

Benedict

You sought to start a simple school of prayer,
A modest, gentle, moderate attempt,
With nothing made too harsh or hard to bear,
No treating or retreating with contempt,
A little rule, a small obedience
That sets aside, and tills the chosen ground,
Fruitful humility, chosen innocence,
A binding by which freedom might be found

You call us all to live, and see good days,
Centre in Christ and enter in his peace,
To seek his Way amidst our many ways,
Find blessedness in blessing, peace in praise,
To clear and keep for Love a sacred space
That we might be beginners in God’s grace.

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Take Up The Tale!

Glastonbury_Tor-_View_of_an_iconic_landmark_(geograph_5500644)I have at last begun a project, often postponed, to take up the tale of the old Arthurian legends and make my own ballad version of ‘the matter of Britain’ which is what the old poets called the cycle of legends concerning King arthur and the knights of the round table, and supremely, the legend of the holy grail. My poem will be called ‘Merlin’s Isle’ and I have begun ‘ In Medias Res’, in the midst of things with the story of Galahad and the Holy Grail. I have also written a little preface or invocation for the longer poem called ‘Take Up the Tale, and, by way of appetiser, here it is. As always you can hear me read it by clicking on the title or the play button

Take Up The Tale

Take Up The Tale

 


As I walked out one morning

All in the soft fine rain

It seemed as though a silver veil

Was shining over hill and vale

As though some lovely long-lost spell

Had made all new again

 


And through that shimmer in the air

I seemed to hear a sound

As though a distant horn were blown

in some lost land that I had known

That seemed to speak from tree and stone

And echo all around.

 


And with the music came these words:

‘Poet, take up the tale!

Take up the tale this land still keeps

In earth and water magic sleeps

The dryad sighs, the naiad weeps

But you can lift the veil.

 

 

 

From where the waves wash Cornwall’s caves

Out to the white horse vale

The lands still hold the tale of old

Like hidden treasure, buried gold

Once more the story must be told

Poet take up the tale.

 


Tell of the king who will return

Tell of  the holy grail

Tell of old knights and chivalry

Tell of the pristine mystery

Of Merlin’s Isle of gramaryre

Poet take up the tale.

 


Take up the tale of courtesy

Take up the tale of grace

Revive the lands’ long memory

Summon the fair folk, let them be, 

something of faery, wild and free

Still lingers in this place

 

 

 

Lift up your eyes to see the light

On Glastonbury Tor

Then come down from that far green hill

To where the sacred waters spill

And shine within the chalice well

And listen to their lore.

 


Yea, listen well before you start,

Be still ere you begin

See through the surface round about

The noise, the rush, the fear, the doubt

Though Modern Britain lies without

Fair Logres lives within

 


You may yet walk through Merlin’s isle

By oak and ash and thorn

The ancient hills do not forget

And you might wake their wisdom yet

Who knows what wonders might be met

On this midsummer morn.’

 


So I have taken up the tale

To tell it full and free

The tale that makes my heart rejoice

I tell it, for I have no choice

I tell it till another voice

Takes up the tale from me.

 

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