Tag Archives: nature

Hymn Before Sunrise by ST Coleridge

For January 4th in my  Anthology from Canterbury PressWaiting on the Word, I have chosen to read a passage from A Hymn before Sunrise in the vale of Chamouni by ST Coleridge.

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above was created by Lancia Smith, and carries a quotation from the poem. You can see this and more on her  excellent Website Cultivating the True the Good and the Beautiful.. You can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

from The Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni   Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Ye Ice-falls! ye that from the mountain’s brow

Adown enormous ravines slope amain—

Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice,

And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge!

Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!

Who made you glorious as the gates of Heaven

Beneath the keen full moon? Who bade the sun

Clothe you with rainbows? Who, with living flowers

Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your feet?—

God! let the torrents, like a shout of nations,

Answer! and let the ice-plains echo, God!

God! sing ye meadow-streams with gladsome voice!

Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds!

And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow,

And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God!

Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost!

Ye wild goats sporting round the eagle’s nest!

Ye eagles, play-mates of the mountain-storm!

Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds!

Ye signs and wonders of the element!

Utter forth God, and fill the hills with praise!

Thou too, hoar Mount! with thy sky-pointing peaks,

Oft from whose feet the avalanche, unheard,

Shoots downward, glittering through the pure serene

Into the depth of clouds, that veil thy breast—

Thou too again, stupendous Mountain! thou

That as I raise my head, awhile bowed low

In adoration, upward from thy base

Slow travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears,

Solemnly seemest, like a vapoury cloud,

To rise before me—Rise, O ever rise,

Rise like a cloud of incense from the Earth!

Thou kingly Spirit throned among the hills,

Thou dread ambassador from Earth to Heaven,

Great Hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,

Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.

2 Comments

Filed under christianity, literature, Poems

A poem for St. George’s Day, and a Grantchester Gig!

St. George’s Day and my thoughts turn again to Hatley St. George. If St. George, as our patron saint inspires English patriotism, then I’d say my own patriotism is about loving the little particularites of my native land. Not the big political rhetoric or the aggrandising imperial history, but the patchwork of little parishes and quiet shires. That’s one of the reasons why I love little mediaeval church dedicated to St. George in the village of Hatley St. George, not far from here.

Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I originally wrote this poem, which I also posted last year, both to celebrate the church and to help the cause. Do visit it if you can and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and each summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete. This poem is in my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.

May I also add that this year on St. George’s day I will be hosting an evening of song and general merriment at The Blue Ball in Grantchester from 9pm onwards, which will include a new setting I have written for GK Chesterton’s wonderful poem about St. George. It’s all free do come and join us if you can!

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

3 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, Poems, politics

A Lament For Lost Words

words omitted from the Oxford Junior Dictionary

words omitted from the Oxford Junior Dictionary

I was very distressed to read that The Oxford Junior Dictionary had been ‘culling’ words concerning nature’, words like catkin, acorn, cowslip, otter meadow, in order to make room for words like broadband, chatroom, and celebrity. Reading the list of deletions in alphabetical order, as they are presented in the image above, which I first saw taken from Simon Kings wildlife page, I felt there was a poem waiting to be uttered just in the sheer listing, and lost sounds, in these lovely names, so I set them, as they were, and in their order, in this lament.

I have since discovered the source of the list in the image above in an excellent article by Robert McFarlane, who is doing so much to restore the richness and texture of our language and to celebrate our wild places.

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

To graceful names and lovely woods farewell
To acorn, adder, ash, to beech and bluebell,
Farewell old friends I name you in my sonnet
Buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet
Farewell, your fields are brick, our books are barren
No dandelion or fern, hazel or heron
We’ll go no more alone, no more together
The mountain thyme is gone and gone the heather
The clinging ivy‘s gone and soon to go
The kingfisher‘s blue bolt, the mistletoe
Nectar, newt, and otter, pasture, willow
To their last rites my muse comes footing slow
We’ll hear no more the heaven-scaling lark
We’ll all go down together in the dark.

31 Comments

Filed under Current affairs, imagination, Poems

Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

St. George’s Day and my thoughts turn again to Hatley St. George. If St. George, as our patron saint inspires English patriotism, then I’d say my own patriotism is about loving the little particularites of my native land. Not the big political rhetoric or the aggrandising imperial history, but the patchwork of little parishes and quiet shires. That’s one of the reasons why I love little mediaeval church dedicated to St. George in the village of Hatley St. George, not far from here.

Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I originally wrote this poem, which I also posted last year, both to celebrate the church and to help the cause. Do visit it if you can and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and each summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete. This poem is in my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

10 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

St. George’s Day and my thoughts turn again to Hatley St. George. If St. George, as our patron saint inspires English patriotism, then I’d say my own patriotism is about loving the little particularites of my native land. Not the big political rhetoric or the aggrandising imperial history, but the patchwork of little parishes and quiet shires. That’s one of the reasons why I love little mediaeval church dedicated to St. George in the village of Hatley St. George, not far from here.

Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I originally wrote this poem, which I also posted last year, both to celebrate the church and to help the cause. Do visit it if you can and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and each summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete. This poem will be collected in my new volume of poems with Canterbury Press, The Singing Bowl, which will be launched in November and I shall do a special reading at Hatley around that time, so watch this space!

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

10 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems

A Spring in my step? looking forward!

I fell and broke my leg at the end of January and for the last two months I have been wearing a cast, either flat on my back with the leg up, or latterly, using crutches and a wheel chair. And the one thing I have missed more than anything else is walking! I used to walk every day with my dog, in the mornings by the ‘paradise’ woodlands, and in the afternoon by the river along the famous and beautiful Granchester meadows. It was always on walks that thoughts and poems and insights would come, and I would glimpse the patches of God-light on my path. Well today I finally got rid of my cast and began, slowly and painfully to flex my foot, and gingerly to trust it with a little weight. It’ll be a while yet before I can lose the crutches and really walk, but that day is in sight. So to keep me going and cheer my spirits I thought I’d post again this poem about a spring walk I took in this very season last year. It’s about walking on a wild wet windy early spring day, but as you will see, it’s also about the four elements within and around us and also, perhaps a little meditation on those hints in Paul that in Christ’s redemption and renewal of humanity will also be the redmption, in and through us, of all nature, that the creation waits with eager longing for glory, hidden in us, in us to be revealed. Anyway I hope you enjoy it.

Once again I am indebted to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful images which accompany these poems. As usual you can hear it by clicking on the title or on the ‘play’ sign

Out in the Elements

I crunch the gravel on my ravelled walks
And clabber with my boots in the wet clay
For I myself am clay that breathes and talks
Articulated earth, I move and pray
Alive at once to walk and be the way.
The root beneath, the branch above the tree
These hedges bright with blossom, white with May,
Everything concentrates, awaits in me
the coming of the One who sets creation free

Earth opens now to sudden drumming rains,
The raised and falling waters of the sea
Whose tidal pull and play is in my veins
Spilling and spreading, filling, flowing free
Whose ebb and flow is still at work in me
And in the wombing pulse of play and work
When heart beats pushed in waves of empathy
Till waters broke and bore me from the dark
And found this foundered shore and took me from the ark

As rain recedes I pause to fill my pipe
And kindle fire that flickers into light
And lights the leaf all curled and cured and ripe
Within a burr-starred bowl. How fierce and bright
It glows against the cold. And I delight
In taste and fragrance, watching whisps of grey
And graceful smoke in their brief flight,
As sun breaks from the clouds and lights my way
I feel the fire that makes the light that makes the day

Now air is all astir in breaks and blasts,
The last grey rags of cloud are blown aside
The hedgerows hush and rustle in the gusts
As clean winds whistle round me. Far and wide
Bent grasses and frail flowers lean aside
I breathe the world in with this brimming breeze
That tugs at me and eddies at my side
Quickens and flickers through the tangled trees
And breathes me back to life and brings me to my knees

Akin to every creature I will learn
From each and all the meaning of my birth
I love the dust to which I will return
The subtle substance of my mother earth,
From water born by fire fathered forth,
An index and epitome of nature,
I sum and summon all the world is worth,
And breathing now His elemental air
I find the One within, without, and everywhere.

I find the One within, without, and everywhere

9 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems

Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

For St. George’s Day I thought I would re-post this poem about  Hatley St. George, a little mediaeval church in the village of the same name, not far from here.  Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I wrote this poem both to celebrate the church and to help the cause. Do visit it if you can and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and every summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete.

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

9 Comments

Filed under imagination

A Spring Interlude; ‘Out In The Elements’

In the little space between Mothering Sunday, which was also of course Refreshment Sunday!! (what a relief!) and Passion Sunday, I thought we might have some refreshment and change here as well before resuming the sonnets, so I am posting a new poem which is an experiment in using Spenserian Stanzas. It’s about a walk on a wild wet windy early spring day but as you will see its also about the four elements within and around us and also, perhaps a little meditation on those hints in Paul that in Christ’s redemption and renewal of humanity will also be the redmption, in and through us, of all nature, that ‘the creation waits with eager longing of a hidden glory in us to be revealed’. Anyway I hope you enjoy it.

Once again I am indebted to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful images which accompany these poems. As usual you can hear it by clicking on the title or on the ‘play’ sign

Out in the Elements

I crunch the gravel on my ravelled walks
And clabber with my boots in the wet clay
For I myself am clay that breathes and talks
Articulated earth, I move and pray
Alive at once to walk and be the way.
The root beneath, the branch above the tree
These hedges bright with blossom, white with May,
Everything concentrates, awaits in me
the coming of the One who sets creation free

Earth opens now to sudden drumming rains,
The raised and falling waters of the sea
Whose tidal pull and play is in my veins
Spilling and spreading, filling, flowing free
Whose ebb and flow is still at work in me
And in the wombing pulse of play and work
When heart beats pushed in waves of empathy
Till waters broke and bore me from the dark
And found this foundered shore and took me from the ark

As rain recedes I pause to fill my pipe
And kindle fire that flickers into light
And lights the leaf all curled and cured and ripe
Within a burr-starred bowl. How fierce and bright
It glows against the cold. And I delight
In taste and fragrance, watching  whisps of grey
And graceful smoke in their brief flight,
As sun breaks from the clouds and lights my way
I feel the fire  that makes the light that makes the day

Now air is all astir in breaks and blasts,
The last grey rags of cloud are blown aside
The hedgerows hush and rustle in the gusts
As clean winds whistle round me. Far and wide
Bent grasses and frail flowers lean aside
I breathe the world in with this brimming breeze
That tugs at me and eddies at my side
Quickens and flickers through the tangled trees
And breathes me back to life and brings me to my knees

Akin to every creature I  will learn
From each and all the meaning of my birth
I love the dust to which I will return
The subtle substance of my mother earth,
From water born by fire fathered forth,
An index and epitome of nature,
I sum and summon all the world is  worth,
And breathing now His elemental air
I find the One  within, without, and everywhere.

I find the One within, without, and everywhere

8 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems