Author Archives: malcolmguite

About malcolmguite

Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge. He is a priest, chaplain, teacher and author of various essays and articles and a book about contemporary Christianity. He also plays in Cambridge rock band Mystery Train, and lectures widely in England and USA on poetry and theology.

I Will Remember: A Response To Psalm 77

Psalm 77 is supremely a psalm of memory: the psalmist in their present distress remembers the great deeds of God in the past as well as their own times of personal deliverance and is able to take comfort and hope for the future. I find verses 5 and 6 especially moving:

I have considered the days of old: and the years that are past.

I call to remembrance my song: and in the night I commune with mine own heart, and search out my spirits.

So, as you will see in my response, this psalm has been a prompt to me to look back on my life and trace the way God has held me through dark times and never let me go.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown.  There is already an Amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title.

LXVII Voce mea ad Dominum

As heaven’s mercy falls like gentle rain.

I lift my face and let it wash me clean.

In all my times of trouble, darkness, pain,

 

I cry to him. I come to him and lean

Again into the comfort of his grace

And I remember all that he has been

 

To me in all my years of life. I trace

Once more the story of his love:

He sought me even when I turned my face

 

Away from him, descended from above

And found me in my hiding place. His might

Broke up my clouds of darkness, and he strove

 

Against the waves of chaos, in the night

Of my affliction, when he recued me

And led me out of darkness into light.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

5 Comments

Filed under imagination

Weapons Fail: A Response To Psalm 76

Psalm 76 from the Parma Psalter

Psalm 76 is a psalm of hope for the peace makers, for it says that the coming of the Lord will bring an end to human violence and reduce our weapons to nothing: There brake he the arrows of the bow: the shield, the sword, and the battle. and again: The fierceness of man shall turn to thy praise: and the fierceness of them shalt thou refrain. As you will see these are themes I have also drawn out in my poetic response to this psalm.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown.  There is already an Amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title.

LXXVI Notus in Judaea

We lift the cup of blessing, life and hope

To one whose name has leapt from Israel

To circle all the world, who opens up

 

His heart to every nation.  Weapons fail;

The sword and shield will rust; the tank and gun

Must come to nothing. Every dark betrayal

 

Of peace will come to judgment. For the one

Upon the throne will vindicate the meek

And turn our fierceness into praise: The Son

 

Of God, become the Son of Man. The weak

Will find their strength in him. He will restrain

The men of violence, but all who seek

 

Their peace in him will find it. And the stain

Of our blood-guiltiness will wash away

As heaven’s mercy falls like gentle rain.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under imagination

The Song Of Heaven: A Response to Psalm 75

We come now to Psalm 75, a milestone in our journey through the Psalter for now we are exactly half way through! Before I write about this psalm and give you my poem in response, I’d like to take occasion to celebrate the fact that David’s Crown, the book in which all these poems are collected will be published at the end of this month, and also to invite you to a special celebration and launch event! On February 11th at 7pm Canterbury Press, my publisher will be hosting a webinar in which I will be joined by Christine Smith, my editor, and three distinguished guests, to discus the book, and the more generally the role of the psalms in our contemporary life, and to choose, read, and comment on a selection of the poems. My guests are Paula Gooder, the distinguished Bible Scholar and Canon theologian at St. Paul’s Cathedral, who wrote the introduction to the book, David Taylor, the professor of Theology at fuller, who wrote ‘Open and Unafraid’, a superb book on reading the psalms in a contemporary setting, and Roger Wagner, the artist and poet who has just published The Book of Praises: Translations from the Psalms. It should be a wonderful evening, it will be completely free and you can register for it Here. 

David’s Crown will also be available to order at a discount that evening for those who register for the webinar.

Now, turning to psalm 75, I feel we reach an upland of clarity and confidence after the dark material with which some of the other psalms have been dealing, particularly the lamentation and protest of psalm 74. In psalm 75 the psalmist is assured that in the end, ‘God is the Judge’, that he alone ‘bears up the pillars of the world, and that in the end he will renew the earth and set all wrongs to right. As in so much of the Old Testament, there is still of course a strong element of fear, fear of judgement and fear of wrath, and the image of that in this psalm is of a cup full of blood red wine which the earth will drink to the dregs:

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red: it is full mixed, and he poureth out of the same.

As for the dregs thereof: all the ungodly of the earth shall drink them, and suck them out.

But of course for the Christian this image is completely transfigured by the sacrifice of Christ and the gift of holy communion. as I say in my poem:

we lift our heads and gaze 

At you in wonder, for we see the cup

The psalmist feared, so full of blood red wine,

Is now a cup of blessing, life and hope.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title.

LXXV Confitebimur tibi

When darkness fled before your holy Word

You brought a world of beauty into being.

The sons of morning sang, creation heard

 

The song of heaven, and its echoes fleeing

Still stir a kind of music in our hearts,

As traces of that light transform our seeing.

 

And when we hear those echoes, heaven starts

A song in us that lifts us into praise.

You show us how the wickedness that hurts,

 

The sin that harms creation, the dark maze

Of our confusions, will be broken up

And cast aside. We lift our heads and gaze 

 

At you in wonder, for we see the cup

The psalmist feared, so full of blood red wine,

Is now a cup of blessing, life and hope.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

10 Comments

Filed under imagination

The Random Vandals: A response to psalm 74

 

Psalm 74 is, amongst other things a lament and outcry against wanton vandalism, the spirit of mere mindless destruction:

Thine adversaries roar in the midst of thy congregations: and set up their banners for tokens.

He that hewed timber afore out of the thick trees: was known to bring it to an excellent work.

But now they break down all the carved work thereof: with axes and hammers.

They have set fire upon thy holy places: and have defiled the dwelling-place of thy Name, even unto the ground.

Yea, they said in their hearts, Let us make havock of them altogether: thus have they burnt up all the houses of God in the land.

The occasion of the psalm is the desecration of holy places in Israel, but we have all seen episodes in history and in our own time of similar outbreaks. (I should say that I wrote this months before the terrible events of January 6th in Washington, but since then it has, perhaps, taken on an extra layer of meaning)

The original psalm though, also points beyond the symptoms to the cause:

We see not our tokens, there is not one prophet more: no, not one is there among us, that understandeth any more.

In my response to this psalm I turned my attention more to the intellectual and cultural vandalism that arises out of the poisonous combination of arrogance and ignorance, out of a failure of vision, rather than to the physical vandalism that takes a hatchet to the carved work in choir and sanctuary, though sometimes these things are not unrelated

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown.  There is already an Amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title.

LXXIV Ut quid, Deus?

When we awake in you all will be well,

But now we feel your absence and we cry

‘How long will the destroyers work their will?

 

The random vandals who don’t even try

To understand the good things they deface.

They trash the past, and cast a jaundiced eye

 

On all the works of beauty, art and grace

That once made up our culture. In their pride

They ruin things that no-one can replace

 

As, making havoc of their lives, they slide

Back into chaos. Rouse us up O lord

Who rode upon the seraphim. Divide

 

Once more the waters, draw the flaming sword,

Bring order out of chaos, as you did

When darkness fled before your holy Word.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

 

6 Comments

Filed under imagination

Truth Beyond The Daily Veil: a Response To Psalm 73

In psalm 73 the psalmist expresses a sense of frustration with the way things are going in this world which I think we can all share. Especially his frustration at the seeming injustice whereby wicked people who exploit their fellow human beings and indeed the world itself, seem to prosper and get away with it:

They come in no misfortune like other folk: neither are they plagued like other men.

And this is the cause that they are so holden with pride: and overwhelmed with cruelty.

Their eyes swell with fatness: and they do even what they lust.

But as the psalm proceeds the psalmist in his perplexity goes into the sanctuary of God and has a vision, an insight in which he sees that we are all in God’s hands and that his Justice, as well as his truth and mercy will ultimately prevail: Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh: so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city.

So in my poetic response I also seek to live in that ‘truth behind the daily veil’. I also take occasion by this psalm to honour and give thanks for the truth and beauty to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown.  There is already an Amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

LXXIII Quam bonus Israel!

Though one day the whole world will live in him

The story of his saving love began

In Israel and still we honour them,

 

The prophets of the coming Son of Man

Whose poetry and scriptures form our mind,

As with this psalmist, sharing all his pain,

 

His doubts and his frustrations. For we find

That all his old misgivings are our own.

So in this psalm he rails against the blind

 

Injustice, as it seemed to him, when men

Who lived by exploitation did so well

At the expense of those they cheat. But then

 

You showed him truth beyond the daily veil

How wickedness will vanish like a dream

And when we wake in you all will be well.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

5 Comments

Filed under imagination

The First Sunday of Epiphany -Jesus’ Baptism

The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings

The season of Epiphany is an invitation to reflect on the many little ‘epiphanies’, glimpses of how things really are, which are vouchsafed us in the Gospel. This coming Sunday, the first Sunday of Epiphany is a time to reflect on the moment when ‘the heavens opened’ at Jesus’ Baptism and we were given a glimpse of Father Son and Holy Spirit at the heart of all things. This sonnet, which I am posting a little early in case people might want to use it on Sunday, is a reflection on that mystery. As always you can hear it by clicking on the ‘play’ sign or on the title of the poem. I am grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful photograph, taken at the river Jordan which says as much as, if not more than the poem. The poem itself is from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press and available on Amazon or from your local bookshop.  After the text of the poem I have included links to the wonderful song Steve Bell wrote from it.

Epiphany on the Jordan


Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Sprit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’

In that quick light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river
To die and rise and live and love forever.

Also check out Steve Bell’s amazing album Keening for the Dawn in which he reworks this sonnet into a beautiful song
Keening for the Dawn
You can hear the song itself on sound loud here:

Epiphany on the Jordan

If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish.
Buy Me A Coffeesteve-album

1 Comment

Filed under christianity

Behind Each Number, One Belovèd Face

Listening, to the radio I was  horrified to hear that the daily death toll from Corona was once more exceeding a thousand. It was a strange and terrible deja vu of listening to the radio last Spring, an experience which prompted this poem and this post, indeed this prayer. I am reposting it today in case anyone might find comfort in these words, or a voice for their own prayers:

‘ These are mind numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knew and loved and died for the people behind those numbers.

All this found its way into the concluding section of my Quarantine Quatrains which I am posting here as a poem on its own’

VII

35

At close of day I hear the gentle rain

Whilst experts on the radio explain

Mind-numbing numbers, rising by the day,

Cyphers of unimaginable pain

36

Each evening they announce the deadly toll

And patient voices calmly call the roll

I hear the numbers, cannot know the names

Behind each number, mind and heart and soul

37

Behind each number one belovèd face

A light in life whom no-one can replace,

Leaves on this world a signature, a trace,

A gleaning and a memory of grace

38

All loved and loving, carried to the grave

The ones whom every effort could not save

Amongst them all those carers whose strong love

Bought life for others with the lives they gave.

39

The sun sets and I find myself in prayer

Lifting aloft the sorrow that we share

Feeling for words of hope amidst despair

I voice my vespers through the quiet air:

40

O Christ who suffers with us, hold us close,

Deep in the secret garden of the rose,

Raise over us the banner of your love

And raise us up beyond our last repose.

If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish.
Buy Me A Coffee

5 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems

Like Dew Upon The Grass: A Response To Psalm 72

Psalm 72 is one of the great prophetic psalms about the coming of the Messiah as a king who will bring justice and peace. A Prophecy whose fulfilment begins at Christmas but which will only be fulfilled completely on the last day. The lovely verse about his gentle coming in the nativity: ‘He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool: even as the drops that water the earth,’ found its way into the beautiful mediaeval carol ‘I Sing Of A Maiden:

He came all so still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falleth on the grass.

My poetic response to the psalm echoes the carol but also picks up on the great Hope for the coming of Christ’s peaceable kingdom which runs through the whole psalm.

As always you can hear me read the psalm by clicking on the play button or the title.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown.  There is already an Amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

LXXII Deus, judicium

 


Another psalm to praise your light and life

Another song of longing for the King

Who is to come, whose coming ends all strife,

 


Who will defend the poor, descend and bring

With him the saints in glory and a new

Heaven and Earth.  And then those saints will sing

 


Their triumph song, and all that’s tried and true

Will live again beyond the reach of death.

Yet he has come already, like the dew

 


Upon the grass, borne on the quiet breath

Of God’s own Spirit, Christ the saviour came

To Bethlehem, like rain on the good earth

 


And those who met his love and learned his name

Became like him and kept this hope alive

That one day the whole world would live in him.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

 

5 Comments

Filed under imagination

He That Took Me Out Of My Mother’s Womb: A Response To Psalm 71

Psalm 71 is another of the great psalms of praise and thanksgiving, and in making my response I was especially struck by verse 5:

Through thee have I been holden up ever since I was born: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s womb; my praise shall be always of thee.

I love this idea that we have each been drawn into life by God himself and that he was with us, loving and supporting us, believing in us long before we were old or wise enough to believe in him. So in my response to this psalm I looked back through all the long years of my life, back to the beginning when I was born in Nigeria 63 years ago. It was touch and go, and it was a Yoruba nurse who saw my mother’s distress and ran to fetch the doctor, who was just leaving the compound of the university hospital, and brought him back to make the intervention that saved my mother’s life and mine, and continued to nurse us both until we were safe. My mother was so grateful that she asked the nurse to name me, and I was called Ayodeji – which means Joy -Again! Since coming back to England I have used my middle name- Malcolm – but as a child in Africa I was always called Ayo.

My poem is about recovery and renewal as well as first beginnings and I allude gently to George Herbert’s lovely line in the Flower: ‘And now in age I bud again’.

As always you can hear me read the psalm by clicking on the play button or the title.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown. I am just working on the proofs now and there is already an Amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

LXXI In te, Domine, speravi

LXXI In te, Domine, speravi

You raise us with you in your resurrection

If we will only let you, so Lord come

Deliver me, and raise me from dejection

 

Then lift me to your stronghold. Let your name

Be my delight and my protection. Call

Me once again, and kindle love to flame.

 

For you have been my only hope in all

My days of life. You are the one who

Drew me from my mother’s womb, when all

 

Around me gave me up for dead. But you

Inspired the nurse who nursed me back to life,

Back in Ibadan all those years ago.

 

And now in age I open a new leaf

In my life’s manuscript and write for you

Another psalm to praise your light and life.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

8 Comments

Filed under imagination

Make Haste to Helps Me: A Response to Psalm 70

Psalm 70 is a short simple cry for help!

  1. HASTE thee, O God, to deliver me: make haste to help me, O Lord.

Sometimes its just a phrase or an image in a psalm that triggers my poem in response, and in this case it was just the phrase ‘seek after my soul’ in the first half of the second verse: ‘Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul’. It seems to me that we, in the developed west live in a culture that ministers every comfort to the body but persistently and insidiously seeks to mock, belittle and choke off the life of the soul, and so my poem addresses that issue and asks God for help in defending that imperilled spiritual life.

As I am posting this in the Christmas season I was delighted to find that the Mainz illuminated psalter had illustrated this psalm with the Christmas angels telling the shepherds that God had indeed come down to answer their prayers

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown. I am just working on the proofs now and there is already an amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

LXX Deus, in adjutorium
 
Pour out for me the life-blood of your heart
For my own life is ebbing to a close.
Make haste to help me, come and heal my hurt,
 
Come down O lord and rescue me from those
Who seek to sow confusion in my soul,
From those who patronise the faithful, those
 
Who humour our religion, but whose whole
Approach to life dismisses faith and prayer.
Yet you continue holy. You will heal
 
The deep wounds in our culture: its despair,
Its idols and addictions, its rejection
Of your gospel. In your mercy spare
 
This weary world, descending to dejection,
And come as our redeemer, quickly come
And raise us with you in your resurrection.

 

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

 

12 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems