A Trio of Sonnets for Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ), which falls this year on the 26th of May, is really a celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion. In mediaeval times there used to be wonderful processions in which the consecrated elements were taken out of the church on this day and processed on the streets, showing that the Word made flesh was not just in a box labelled ‘church’ but in our midst, just as He was on the streets of Nazareth and Jerusalem. Rebecca Merry‘s lovely art work ( above) has the feel of those mediaeval ‘showings’ on Corpus Christi.

For my contribution to Corpus Christi I am offering here a trio of sonnets about the experience of receiving Holy Communion, each from a slightly different angle. The first two sonnets were published in Sounding the Seasons, my cycle of seventy sonnets for the Church Year.The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies are shortly to be available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other 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. The third sonnet, which is about the 16th Century Oak communion Table in my church St. Edward King and Martyr, is from my book The Singing Bowl also published by Canterbury Press

Margot Krebs Neale has reflected on my phrases ‘He does not come in unimagined light ‘ and ‘to dye himself into experience’ with an image not simply of a stained glass window but of that dyed and refracted light itself reflected in water. I am grateful both to Rebecca and Margot for the way their work reflects on and develops mine. As always you can hear me read the poetry by clicking on the play button above each sonnet, if it appears, or on the title of the poem itself.


1 Love’s Choice

This bread is light, dissolving, almost air,

A little visitation on my tongue,

A wafer-thin sensation, hardly there.

This taste of wine is brief in flavour, flung

A moment to the palate’s roof and fled,

Even its aftertaste a memory.

Yet this is how He comes. Through wine and bread

Love chooses to be emptied into me.

He does not come in unimagined light

Too bright to be denied, too absolute

For consciousness, too strong for sight,

Leaving the seer blind, the poet mute;

Chooses instead to seep into each sense,

To dye himself into experience.

He does not come in unimagined light…


2 Hide and Seek

Ready or not, you tell me, here I come!

And so I know I’m hiding, and I know

My hiding-place is useless. You will come

And find me. You are searching high and low.

Today I’m hiding low, down here, below,

Below the sunlit surface others see.

Oh find me quickly, quickly come to me.

And here you come and here I come to you.

I come to you because you come to me.

You know my hiding places. I know you,

I reach you through your hiding-places too;

Touching the slender thread, but now I see –

Even in darkness I can see you shine,

Risen in bread, and revelling in wine.

3 This Table

The centuries have settled on this table
Deepened the grain beneath a clean white cloth
Which bears afresh our changing elements.
Year after year of prayer, in hope and trouble,
Were poured out here and blessed and broken, both
In aching absence and in absent presence.

This table too the earth herself has given
And human hands have made. Where candle-flame
At corners burns and turns the air to light
The oak once held its branches up to heaven,
Blessing the elements which it became,
Rooting the dew and rain, branching the light.

Because another tree can bear, unbearable,
For us, the weight of Love, so can this table

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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 buries 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.)



Bede

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.

Bede's Prayer

Bede’s Prayer

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Songs and Sonnets: A New Venture!

Recording at Whitewater Studio

Recording at Whitewater Studio

In the midst of the stream of poetry that usually fills these posts I thought I’d pause to tell you all about a new venture in which I’m involved. My good Friends Steve Bell, Roy Salmond, and David Jennings have cooked up a plan for me to record an album combining my songs and poetry together in a single new work. the record will be called Songs and Sonnets. It will contain a new suite of songs together with new recordings of some favourites like The Green Man and Angels Unawares, but these will be interleaved with professional quality recordings of me reading a number of my poems, including many from my forthcoming book Parable and Paradox.

Uniquely these recordings will also include some versions of the poems with musical accompaniment and also with instrumentals by Steve Bell linking together some of the poetry sequences. I have already done my part of the recording in a series of wonderful sessions at Roy Salmond’s Whitewater Studio in British Columbia. Now Roy and Steve are bringing together a great group of professional musicians, design artists, and others to produce the final album and master it in the studio. In order to do this they need to raise some funds so that the musicians and others get properly paid and the whole record is produced to the highest possible standard. They have set up a crowdfunding Page here, and we have put together an entertaining video on that page to explain the whole project.

I am very honoured and moved that they have wanted to do this and taken the risks involved. In all the years I’ve run this blog I have always wanted everything on it to be free and will continue to keep everything here free, so I have never appealed for funds myself. But if you have enjoy these pages and make use of the poetry here, perhaps you could click the link and take a look at Steve And Roy’s Gofundme page and perhaps watch the video, If you feel able to share the link, or better still support the project in anyway I would be very grateful and so would they.

Songs and Sonnets as we hope it will eventually appear!

Songs and Sonnets as we hope it will eventually appear!

As a little sample of what’s to come, here are the lyrics of one of the new songs ‘Eyrie’ and a recording of an early ‘rough cut’ of the song to give you a glimpse of a little of what it might sound like on the finished record. I wrote this song in Durham North Carolina when I was artist in residence at duke University. I was staying high up in a little ‘eyrie’ in the attic of an old house and I composed the song very late one night on a guitar borrowed from a friend whilst I watched  a patch of moonlight, which poured in from the skylight above, making its way in bright reflections across the floor. I hope you enjoy it.

Malcolm

Eyrie

 

I

High in my eyrie in North Carolina

I take up your tender guitar

I’m thinking of home and all that I’ve left there

And maybe I’ve travelled too far

 

The skylight is open, the moonlight is brimming

And waltzing its way cross the floor

My body is aching and wants to be sleeping 

but my spirit is asking for more

 

High in my eyrie in North Carolina

I’m singing a song to the moon

And maybe it’s too late to learn from her waning

Or maybe it’s really too soon

 

II

I’ve travelled the low road and watched it unravel

I’m giving the high road a try

I’ll follow that highway and see where it leads me

And keep the bright moon in my eye

 

The heart is wide open, the true life is brimming

And yearning to come flowing through 

I lay down my burden and walk to the well head

And drink and then bring some to you

 

I traveled the low road and watched it unravel

But now on the high road  I roam

The long road, the straight road the old road the true road

The road that’ll lead me back home

 

III

I’m high in my eyrie in North Carolina

And soon I’ll return your guitar

It gave me this song and it brought me your blessing

I’ll hear it one day from afar

 

The skylight is open, the skyway is waiting

It’s time for this man to take flight

When you touch your guitar and it sings through your fingers

Give thanks for a song in the night

 

I’m down from my eyrie in North Carolina

And out through the ways of the world

And I’m leaving my love with the moon at the window

Hung high in the night like a pearl.

With Roy Salmond at the mixing desk

With Roy Salmond at the mixing desk

 

 

 

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A Sonnet for Trinity Sunday

20110619-000808.jpg

Continuing my cycle of sonnets for the Church year. Here is one for Trinity Sunday which I am posting a few days before, in case people would like to make use of it tomorrow.

By coming to us as the Son, revealing to us the Father, and sending to us the Spirit, Jesus revealed the deepest mystery; that God is not distant and alone, but is three in one, a communion of love who comes to make His home with us.

The Rublev Icon, above, shows the Three in One inviting us to share in that communion. If, as I believe, we are made in the image of God, as beings in communion with one another in the name of that Holy and Undivided Trnity whose being is communion, then we will find reflections and traces of the Trinitarian mystery in all our loving and making. I have tried to suggest this throughout the poem and especially in the phrase ‘makes us each the other’s inspiration’ and Margot Krebs Neale has taken this idea of mutual and coinherent inspiration and remaking in the remarkable image she has made in response to this sonnet which follows the poem, an image which involves the mutually -inspired work of three artists and is one picture woven of three images. She writes to me about this image:

“The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,

And makes us each the other’s inspiration.”

sent me in this direction…


The picture of you is by Lancia Smith

the picture of me is by Peter Nixon

the picture of the infinite is by an artist i don’t know

the composition is by me

As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears or on the title of the poem.

Readers who are interested in my use of the word ‘coinherent’ will find out more by watching the video of my talk about the British theologian Charles Williams, a friend and fellow inkling of CS Lewis which can be found here.

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 and physical copies are now available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other 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..

Trinity Sunday

In the Beginning, not in time or space,

But in the quick before both space and time,

In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,

In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,

In music, in the whole creation story,

In His own image, His imagination,

The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,

And makes us each the other’s inspiration.

He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,

To improvise a music of our own,

To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,

Three notes resounding from a single tone,

To sing the End in whom we all begin;

Our God beyond, beside us and within.

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Our Mother-tongue Is Love; A Sonnet for Pentecost

A Pentecost Banner at St. Michael ‘s Bartley Green

Continuing in ‘Sounding the Seasons’, my cycle of sonnets for the Church Year this is a sonnet reflecting on and celebrating the themes and readings of Pentecost. Throughout the cycle, and more widely, I have been reflecting on the traditional ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire. I have been considering how each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as though the four elements were, in their own way, another four evangelists. In that context I was very struck by the way Scripture expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit through the three most dynamic of the four elements, the air, ( a mighty rushing wind, but also the breath of the spirit) water, (the waters of baptism, the river of life, the fountain springing up to eternal life promised by Jesus) and of course fire, the tongues of flame at Pentecost. Three out of four ain’t bad, but I was wondering, where is the fourth? Where is earth? And then I realised that we ourselves are earth, the ‘Adam’ made of the red clay, and we become living beings, fully alive, when the Holy Spirit, clothed in the three other elements comes upon us and becomes a part of who we are. So something of that reflection is embodied in the sonnet.

 

As usual you can hear me reading the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears in your browser or by clicking on the title of the poem itself. Thanks to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful image which follows the poem.

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 and physical copies are shortly to be available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other 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..


Pentecost

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today  the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in  every nation.

Whose Mother-tongue is Love in every nation

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7 sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer: 7 Thine is the Kingdom

given glories and a hidden Kingdom

given glories and a hidden Kingdom

This is the  last in the sequence of seven sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer which I am posting this week as part of the Church Of England’s Thy Kingdom Come week of prayer leading up to Pentecost. The Sonnets will be published together in my new book Parable and Paradox at the end of this month.

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

I am grateful to Philippa Pearson for choosing the images that accompany this series.

 

Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory

 

The kingdom and the power and the glory,

The very things we all want for ourselves!

We want to be the hero of the story

And leave the others on their dusty shelves.

How subtly we seek to keep the kingdom,

How brutally we hold on to the power,

Our glory always means another’s thralldom,

But still we strut and fret our little hour.

 

What might it mean to let it go forever,

To die to all that desperate desire,

To give the glory wholly to another,

Throw all we hold into that holy fire?

A wrenching loss and then a sudden freedom

In given glories and a hidden kingdom.

 

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7 sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer: 6 The Time of Trial

As Evil slams its hammer

As evil slams its hammer

This is the sixth in the sequence of seven sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer which I am posting this week as part of the Church Of England’s Thy Kingdom Come week of prayer leading up to Pentecost. The Sonnets will be published together in my new book Parable and Paradox at the end of this month.

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

I am grateful to Philippa Pearson for choosing the images that accompany this series.

Lead Us Not into Temptation, But Deliver Us from Evil

 

Oh do not bring us to the time of trial,

Deliver us, deliver us from evil.

How is it that your own petitions fail

As evil slams its hammer to the anvil?

For you were brought to trial and not delivered

You let the prince of darkness do his worst

The sun shrank from that sight, the whole world shivered,

The fount of blessing let himself be cursed.

 

How is it? Is it that your dereliction

Makes possible the answer to my prayer?

Am I delivered by your bitter passion,

As you face every evil for me there?

Unanswered answerer, forsaken friend,

Bring me to my beginning through your end.

 

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