A Hymn of Heavenly Love Edmund Spenser

An hymns of heavenly love image by Linda Richardson

An hymns of heavenly love image by Linda Richardson

Here is the next in my series of posts for Advent,  in which I read each day’s poem to accompany my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, alongside a series of reflective images kindly provided by Linda Richardson

Today’s poem is taken from Edmund Spenser’s Hymn of Heavenly Love. You can click on the title or the ‘play’ button to hear me read it and you can find my short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle.

Linda Writes about her image:

The theme of God’s love and action through Jesus is so unfathomable, so vast, neither words nor imagery are sufficient to grasp it and yet we continue to try. Words only refer to other words, images to created things. It is only through experience that we truly come close to the love that brings us peace, and even then only as a movement of heart and soul within us. Silence has so much to teach us about God, so the image I made reflects this silence. We call it faith because our experience is more often one of knowing about God in our heads, but actually experiencing that heart bursting glance of love is a rare occurrence.

In the painting, I imagine our fall into darkness, ‘enrooted in fleshly slyme’ in the dark paint at the bottom of the pages. Above that is the blue emptiness of the cosmos, but in one vertical line of yellow ochre, I imagine the act of the ‘eternal King of Glorie’, piercing the darkness of our consciousness, down descending into our heart and deepest being.

From An Hymn of Heavenly Love

Out of the bosome of eternall blisse,


In which He reigned with His glorious Syre,

He downe descended, like a most demisse

And abiect thrall, in fleshes fraile attyre,  
That He for him might pay sinne’s deadly hyre,  
And him restore unto that happie state  
In which he stood before his haplesse fate.  
In flesh at first the guilt committed was,  
Therefore in flesh it must be satisfyde;  
Nor spirit, nor angel, though they man surpas,  
Could make amends to God for man’s misguyde,  
But onely man himselfe, who selfe did slyde:  
So, taking flesh of sacred virgin’s wombe,  
For man’s deare sake He did a man become.  
And that most blessed bodie, which was borne  
Without all blemish or reprochfull blame,  
He freely gave to be both rent and torne  
Of cruell hands, who with despightfull shame  
Revyling Him, that them most vile became,  
At length Him nayled on a gallow-tree,  
And slew the lust by most uniust decree.  
O huge and most unspeakeable impression  
Of Love’s deep wound, that pierst the piteous hart  
Of that deare Lord with so entyre affection,  
And, sharply launcing every inner part,  
Dolours of death into His soule did dart,  
Doing him die that never it deserved,  
To free His foes, that from His heast had swerved!  
What hart can feel least touch of so sore launch,  
Or thought can think the depth of so deare wound?  
Whose bleeding sourse their streames yet never staunch,  
But stil do flow, and freshly still redownd,  
To heale the sores of sinfull soules unsound,  
And clense the guilt of that infected cryme  
Which was enrooted in all fleshly slyme.  
O blessed Well of Love! O Floure of Grace!  
O glorious Morning-Starre! O Lampe of Light!  
Most lively image of thy Father’s face,  
Eternal King of Glorie, Lord of Might,  
Meeke Lambe of God, before all worlds behight,  
How can we Thee requite for all this good?  
Or what can prize that Thy most precious blood?  
Yet nought Thou ask’st in lieu of all this love,  
But love of us, for guerdon of thy paine:  
Ay me! what can us lesse than that behove?  
Had He required life for us againe,  
Had it beene wrong to ask His owne with gaine?  
He gave us life, He it restored lost;  
Then life were least, that us so little cost.  


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Filed under christianity, imagination

4 responses to “A Hymn of Heavenly Love Edmund Spenser

  1. Jane richards

    Have read these for 2 years now and have been so ‘met’ by God’s living Word and a fresh sense of the meaning of Advent. Thank-you so much!

  2. Heidi Petersen

    Hello Malcolm, I’m wondering if you got a letter from my friend Dr. Nahanni Freeman about her poems about her grandfather during the war in the Pacific? She was really influenced by his love of Coleridge so I encouraged her to write to you and SHE DID! You would have received a letter by post about a year ago or more.

    Dr.Nahanni and I both attended the Glen in Santa Fe and I took your class in 2019 or was it 2018? I’m honestly not sure if it was 2018 or 2019 at this point. It was at St John’s college in affiliation with the The Glen Workshop. Dr Nahanni Freeman went with me to the workshop but she took a different workshop then yours. I encouraged her to send you her poems because of your admiration of Coleridge; her style is similar. Did you get her handwritten letter from Colorado? It would be so nice if you could respond in some way.

    Many thanks for all your creative work and encouragement for fellow artists.


    Heidi Petersen 503-804-6642 (Sent from my iPhone


    • malcolmguite

      I’m sorry I don’t think I got this, but I sometimes lose track of the many letters I’ve sent and we’ve just moved house
      PS this has appeared as a public comment not a private email. Best to email me separately

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