Tag Archives: friendship


The land's long memory in ridge and furrow

The land’s long memory in ridge and furrow

Here is today’s poem and commentary from my Lent Book The Word in the Wilderness

Prayer/Walk   Malcolm Guite


A hidden path that starts at a dead end,

Old ways, renewed by walking with a friend,

And crossing places taken hand in hand,


The passages where nothing need be said,

With bruised and scented sweetness underfoot

And unexpected birdsong overhead,


The sleeping life beneath a dark-mouthed burrow,

The rooted secrets rustling in a hedgerow,

The land’s long memory in ridge and furrow,


A track once beaten and now overgrown

With complex textures, every kind of green,

Land- and cloud-scape melting into one,


The rich meandering of streams at play,

A setting out to find oneself astray,

And coming home at dusk a different way.


Continuing these reflections on the nature of prayer itself, I offer another of my own poems, which, like Gwyneth Lewis’s ‘Homecoming’, is written in direct homage to Herbert’s poem ‘Prayer’. I had come to notice that on retreats it was not always in the ‘offices’ in chapel, but also on walks and rambles in and around retreat house grounds that I found the deepest spiritual renewal and the best prayer. So I decided to write a poem that would be at once a celebration of walking in the countryside and of prayer itself. Every phrase in this poem is, I hope, both an account of what walking is like and an emblem of what prayer is like. As I have done with the previous two poems I will just lift out and open one or two phrases and encourage my readers to do likewise with the rest.


A hidden path that starts at a dead end,


I have noticed how often interesting footpaths and bridleways start just beyond the brambles at the end of tarmacked roads marked ‘dead end’. And it seemed, for me at least, that is very often where prayer starts too. I am sure that prayer should be a first resort, but for me it is sometimes the last resort when I’ve tried everything else! I’ve also noticed that the places in life where I get stuck and come up as it were against a ‘dead end’ sign, are inevitably the important places, the places where there is real stuff to deal with and that is precisely why I get stuck or find it difficult to move forward. Too often one simply shies away from these personal dead-ends and goes for the first diversion (usually Facebook!) to try something easier. But when I’m walking, the opposite is true. It gives me pleasure to walk down the apparent dead-end and find the hidden path where the cars can’t go, strike out across the fields and leave the traffic behind, so I have tried to apply this to my prayer life. To begin the prayer at one of my personal dead-ends and ask God to open up the path. That technique has had some surprising and beautiful results!


The sleeping life beneath a dark-mouthed burrow,

The rooted secrets rustling in a hedgerow,

The land’s long memory in ridge and furrow,


You sense, on a good country walk, the hidden richness and depth of everything that is going on around you. You know that what you actually see; the close up path ahead of you, the distant panorama, the occasional sweeping view of wider fields, are only a trace, a hint of what’s really there. Sometimes you suddenly hear the hedgerow rustle or see the tracks of badgers or deer and you realize that you are walking past a whole web of life and exchange of which you are only partly aware. Again, features in the landscape itself suddenly speak of a long history and almost take you there. The ridges and ripples in a field you cross that are remnants of the mediaeval ‘ridge and furrow’ agriculture, where your ancestors toiled on their separate ‘strips’ of soil, divided between the children of a large family. Again it seemed to me that this experience is very true of our prayer life. When we begin to pray we have to start where we are, usually just on the surface of our lives, but there is always so much else going on. We all have a familiar surface to our lives but are there not also, deeper in our psyche, the burrows and dens, where the shyer and more furtive elements of our inner life are rooted and nestling. Might these, half-acknowledged parts of ourselves also be brought to God for blessing, noticed a little and offered to him? Have we not also those longer and deeper memories, perhaps going right back into our family histories, which have, as it were shaped the landscape of who we are? Perhaps prayer, and particularly prayer in Lent might be a time to bring them for blessing and healing to God, for whom all times are present, in whom is the fullness of time.

Perhaps these last two poems, both responding to Herbert’s prayer, might encourage you to make a ‘listing’ poem of your own, filled with the images that have become, or could become, living emblems of your prayer life.


If English readers would like to buy my books from a proper bookshop Sarum College Bookshop here in the UK always have it in stock.

I am happy to announce to North American readers that Copies of The Word in the Wilderness are readily available from Steve Bell Here

Here also is a beautiful journal and illustration responding to today’s prayer from Tracey Wiffen whose blog you can find Here

Tracey Wiffen's journal

Tracey Wiffen’s journal


Filed under literature, Meditation, Theology and Arts

The Singing Bowl: Glances

Grantchester Meadows

Grantchester Meadows

Here is another poem from The Singing Bowl, in advance of its publication in October. I mentioned in my last post that The Singing Bowl begins with a section called Local Habitations, celebrating epiphanies in particular places. This is followed by a section called ‘The Four Loves’ which is a set of poems exploring and evoking love and friendship. This poem, Glances, which opens that second section, is in some ways a bridge between the two. It is a celebration of love and friendship, but like the poems in the first section, it is also about an epiphany in a particular place. ‘The Green Man’ in this poem is a pub in Grantchester, and the meadow, is of course Grantchester meadows, already so celebrated in song and poetry. The epiphany was a sudden awareness of everything as gift and especially of receiving a familiar landscape as a new and unfamiliar gift because you see it through someone else’s eyes.

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


For Maggie and Cathy

Down from the Green Man, where the meadow starts,

And through the meadow to the running stream

We saunter into summer side by side,

The three of us, and watch as three swans glide

Like some heraldic emblem in a dream

That only opens up to open hearts.

Walking between you everything I see

Is doubled and redoubled through your eyes

And through the words and silences we share,

And everything is gift! I stop and stare.

Everything dances, everything! Surprise

Glances between you both, glances to me,

And glances from the child in me who stands

Unseen between us almost holding hands.

like some heraldic emblem in a dream

like some heraldic emblem in a dream


Filed under Poems

A Weaving Song

weaving on the loom

Here’s a little song I wrote a while back and recorded with a friend, a fine violinist, out in the fens. Its a fairly lo-fi recording I made myself, which I’ve only just discovered I still have,Its a song about the connections and textures of love and friendship. Its on soundcloud so I’ll post their player and then put the words below. If no player appears then just click on the song title.

silken patternings

A Weaving Song

The shawl you wear is soft and warm

and, cast about your shoulder,

it wraps around your beauty

as the autumn nights grow colder.

What cloth have we to clothe our souls

against a dark world’s weather?

O take these tangled threads with me,

we’ll weave that cloth together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

What threads have we between us love

to offer for the weaving?

Some bright with joy, some silver-grey

and some are dark with grieving,

some green and blue as earth and sea,

some soft as cloud and feather,

but side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave them all together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together


we bring each other single threads

in joy or sorrow spun

and with a word, a glance,a touch,

our weaving has begun

was ever there a softer bond

or such a treasured tether

as is the one you weave with me

that binds us both together?

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

Whatever colours fleck your thread

the same are seen in mine

but friendship interweaves them both

into a new design;

a common cloth that wraps us round

against the dark world’s weather,

as side by side, by warp and weft

we weave that cloth together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

The checkered cloth of nights and days

Is threaded through with gold,

it shines within the steadfast gaze

of love that can’t be told

The clothes you wear are soft as silk

and mine are tattered leather

but still our souls are clothed as one

in cloth we weave together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

single threads in joy or sorrow spun


Filed under imagination, Music, Songs

Poetry Aloud (and a little Mozart!)

As you know I have been posting occasional poems on this blog for a while and various friends have asked to hear me read them. In particular they would like to hear the Advent Sonnets read aloud. I intend to record those in the next day or two and I hope, with the help of one of our choristers, to let you hear the antiphons themselves sung in plain chant, so watch this space.

I am using an excellent service called Audioboo. Which I hope you can play from this page So to try things out, here is a poem of mine about listening to music called Mozart at Greenbelt, you should be able to play it by clicking on the play symbol below.I have also printed out the text of the poem. If the play button doesnt appear then click on the title of the poem:

Mozart at Greenbelt

We lie upon the grass on God’s good earth
and listen to the Requiem’s intense,
long, love-laden keening, calling forth
echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
with brimming blisses, every death with birth,
until all passion passes into praise.

I bless the winding paths that brought us here,
I bless this day, distinct amidst our days,
I bless the light, the music-laden air,
I bless the interweaving of our ways,
the lifting of the burdens that we bear,
I bless the broken body that we share

Sanctus the heart, Sanctus the spirit cries,
Sanctus the flesh in every touch replies


Filed under imagination, literature, Music, Poems

Lente, Lente, take it slow and gently

I’m choosing songs for an acoustic night at The Blue Ball in Granchester this Sunday, its a a free gig starting about 9pm and all are welcome! Anyway, as a follow on from my Brief Meditation On Time, I thought I’d post the lyrics of my  song Lente Lente here together with a little note of its genesis.
I had read and begun to absorb Carl Honore’s excellent book, In Praise of Slow, when Karen Wells, who designs beautiful websites as well as making lovely felted things with her friend Rebecca sent me a link to her site which is called Lente. Carl’s book describes how all over the world people are rediscovering the goodness and benefit of savouring time and life, finding the Tempo Giusto for each thing, and Karen and Becca’s work seemed to embody that whole philosophy. I felt that Karen had lent me the lovely word Lente, meaning, slowly, deliberately, with care, and the rest of the song just flowed from there. Here are the Lyrics:

Lente, Lente

I’ve been running from the past
I’ve been living way too fast
But I’m coming home at last
She says slow down, take it gently
lente lente lente lente
slow down petal take it gently
We have world and time a plenty
slow down flower, lente lente

don’t do so much on the run
stop awhile and have some fun
heres a friendship just begun
we’ll take it slow and gently
lente lente lente lente
close your eyes and count to twenty
lente lente lente lente lente

lets take time to gather wool
gently tease and softly pull
when the harvest moon is full
and the felts are forming gently
make it lente, lente lente lente

see the green things how they grow
teach you all you need to know
first and last say take it slow
take it slow and gently
lente lente lente lente lente
slow down petal take it gently
lente lente lente petal lente

my ears are ringing like empty shells
my heart’s an open like the book of kells
I’ll draw sweet water from deep wells
draw it slow and gently
lente lente lente lente
lente lente lente lente
we have world and time a plenty
lente lente lente lente

here’s a rich collaboration
Careful slow deliberation
Lovely long elaboration
There’s no hurry, take it gently
lente lente lente lente
there’s no worry take it gently
lente lente lente lente

all those guys who set the pace
disappear without a trace
taste a different kind of grace
when you take it slow and gently lente lente lente lente
when you take it slow and gently lente lente lente lente


Filed under imagination, Music, Songs