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. Reblogged this on Life Matters and commented:
    Hope you enjoy this sonneteer as much as I do. Thank you, Malcolm Guite!

  2. Rebecca Gates

    Sadly this link came up “not found”. 😢

    See this page http://benedictinewomen.org/2012/honoring-hildegard-of-bingen/ on her by a contemporary Benedictine.

    Your sonnet intrigues and instructs me…

  3. Pingback: Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet – Malcolm Guite | Pastor Michael Moore's Blog

  4. Rick Karcich

    do you ever wonder how the Abbess might have prayed if like us she was aware of the existential threat of climate change?

  5. malcolmguite

    Thanks Lauren. I think this came out as a comment on the blog rather than an email to me but that’s ok that way more people can see the link

  6. So nice. I wore my hazelnut necklace yesterday. 🙂

  7. Buffy Turner

    Aghghghhhh the synchronicities continue!!! So. much. play.(!!) in this poem!!! And even just that word viriditas set off so much in me as I was going off to class—thank you!!! (And one of my dreams last night was specifically about the color green, especially against or with white. It was literally a whole dream about how much I die over those colors together!) Sending love and gusts of gratitude!

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