Tag Archives: Politics

A sonnet for the feast of Christ the King

Here is a sonnet written in response to the gospel reading for the feast of Christ the King you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or by clicking on the title.

Christ The King

Mathew 25: 31-46

Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made,
We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.
And if he should fall sick then we take care
That he does not infect our private health,
We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
The praises of our hidden Lord and King.


Filed under christianity

The Old Revolution

Three days of peace and music

In my last post I was reflecting a little on Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. continuing in that vein I thought I’d post a little reflection in Ottava Rima about what went wrong with those dreams, prompted partly by a sense of hope and ferment in the air again. I think the real problem was that consciousness-changing insight somehow crumbled into consumerism. People felt that they could deal in and purchase bliss and joy, chemically manufactured, rather than letting it flower and fruit from deeply planted spiritual roots, but maybe next time it will be different. Anyway what follows is a kind of  ‘confession’ for a generation (not enirely and privately my own confession you understand, I was a little too young at the time for some of that stuff) but a confession of failure which can, I believe, be put right and begun again, but this time with prayer and meditation rather than easier and more delusory substances. Here it is ‘for what it’s worth’ (As Stephen stills would say)

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


I fought in the old revolution” Leonard Cohen

When I turned teen in nineteen-sixty-nine
I heard of revolution in the air,
Or on the air, in fact on ‘Caroline’.
Lennon and Lenin had so much to share
A change would come and change would be benign,
A fairer world, and all the world a fair.
‘Here comes the sun’ we sang to blissed-out skies
And thought the bomber jets were butterflies.

We conjured faeries out of every flower
But something wicked slipped out with the weed
Stoned circles never yet spoke truth to power
And groovers were grasped soon enough by greed.
For, after Altamonte, our world turned sour
And self-consuming souls turned onto speed.
The times were out of joint,oh cursed spite!
We thought that one more joint would set them right!

Now revolution’s once more in the air
Will we repeat mistakes we made back then?
We took a lot of everything but care
And we were just consumers in the end.
My counsel is no counsel of despair
It may not be too late to try again!
Our trips could never switch an institution
But just one crank can start a revolution.

someone started this

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Filed under Current affairs, ecology, economy, imagination, Poems, politics, Songs

The Words for ‘What If…’

Since I mentioned my poem ‘What If’ in the previous post and linked to my audioboo reading of it, various people have asked me for a copy of the words, so here they are, including the quotation from Mathew’s Gospel which is the poem’s point of departure. when I first posted this poem on facebook I prefaced it with this remark:

For different reasons we have all on both sides of the Atlantic, been reflecting on the way our words can travel and unravel beyond us, on the need to care for the tenor of what we say, here’s a poem reflecting further on that:

What If…

But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Mathew 12:36-37

What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?

What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?

What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?

What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering peruasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?

Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.


Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems, politics

A Wound in the Waters of the Gulf

“Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.”

So Milton describes the moment of the fall in Paradise Lost, the moment a single human action breaks and wounds both the relation between humanity and God, and the relation between ourselves and our world. Milton sees the deep link between our spiritual state and the state we keep and leave the world in. But these harrowing lines might well describe the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil welling up uncontrollably through a hole that we have made and cannot cap is a sign, to many o us, of our wounded planet, a sign of the damage we have done and are doing, and of our seeming inability to put it right. And it’s no good blaming BP. They are deep-water drilling to meet our demands, and the real cause of this tragedy is our collective addiction to oil itself. We have a lifestyle, an economy, even an agriculture, entirely based on burning oil; a way of life that is not only unsustainable but invisibly toxic. But this wound in the earth’s surface, this oil welling up through the waters, has also brought the toxins of our whole way of life to the surface and made them visible. For those recovering from addiction it has sometimes taken a crisis to make a change, it has needed a break-down for a break-through, and it maybe that this crisis in the gulf, an environmental disaster on an unparalleled scale, is th world’s wake-up call, our Kairos moment. If we can face it at its worst we can also have hope. Though Milton wrote ‘all was lost’, his poem is alive with the promise of ‘one greater man’ who would ‘restore us and regain the blissful seat.’ Christians, who know that the wounds in our world stem from those same wounds in us that Jesus came to heal, have a special calling to speak both judgement and hope into the present crisis. I leave you with the words of another poet, Wendell Berry, from an interview about the oil spill in the gulf, in which he names the values we need to espouse in order to have hope:

‘diversity, versatility, recognition, and acceptance of appropriate limits or getting the scale right, and local adaptation — those ideas, it seems to me, put us in reach of work that we can do. To assume that all experiences like that oil well can only be handled by experts at great expense is a mistake.’

heres a link to that interview


Filed under christianity, Current affairs, ecology, economy, politics

Love in the Red a song for the Prime Ministerial Debate

I won’t be in the audience as Clegg, Brown and Cameron debate the economy, but if  I was, I might warm the audience up with this little song composed the day Woolies closed in Huntingdon. Frankly I think these debates would be transformed if Caroline Lucas, the Leader of The Greens was on them, then we really would be hearing a voice for change. but their day will come. you can hear the song and download it free here (apologies to Steve Earl and GK Chesterton)

The shop fronts are all empty
The house-hold names are gone
They boarded up old Woolworths
And stripped it to the bone
The brand new cars are rusting
in car parks by the sea
And all that we’ve got left is love
At least our love is free

The bankers took our money
For their mansions on the hill
And lent the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still
They taught me not to trust them
It cost me quite a fee
But we’ve still got some love in tryst
At least that love is free

Come over from the window
Come over from the door
Come over to the mattress
I spread our on the floor
The bailiffs, they might take our bed
But the bastards cant take me
And we can make love in the red
Because our love is free

And now they’ve thrown our taxes
Down the city’s silk-line hole
While the bosses throw the workers
To the dogs and on the dole
starlets still throw their parties
For the moguls on TV
But throw me out the lifeline
of a life-time’s love for free

I remember when we started
In the times that went before
We spent our ingenuity
In making love not war
And I was all the world to you
You were all the world to me
So lets make love not war again
And set the new world free

Come over from the window
Come over from the door
Come over to the mattress
I spread our on the floor
The love we made without our bed
Is the best there’s ever been
And once we’ve made love in the red
We’ll go out and vote Green

Now we’ve still got a little room
To play at boy meets girl
While I pick out this little tune
I picked up from Steve Earl
I know its just a cheap guitar
And a borrowed melody
But I can vouch for every word
And all my love is free.


Filed under economy, imagination, politics

The Green Man gigs for the Greens!April 21st Bathhouse Cambridge

Sometimes a song writes itself.  My song the Green Man was like that. It came very swiftly after a walk through Granchester Meadows with a friend, a walk during which we wondered what the Gospels might have been like if Christ had been tramping the edges of English Hedgerows as well as the Judean Wilderness, we also talked about how these very hedgerows and meadows were threatened by developers and pesticides and at the end of the walk I felt that wild foliate face carved in the old cathedral choirs had something to say to me, something to say through me, and I felt some of my Lord’s lost ‘I am ‘ sayings tripping from, my tongue.

Well the Green Man has taken me to some extraordinary places and of late I have felt strongly that if I am going to sing about the Green Man I’d better put some of his principles into action and I have found, on reading their manifesto that the Green Party have good plans to turn the heart of my song into practical action. so this Wednesday, 21st of April I will be playing a benefit gig for the Cambridge Greens in the Bath House in Bennet street and I am delighted that Tony Juniper the Greens excellent candidate for election in the Cambridge constituence will be there to introduce it. I’m also really pleased that so many of my fellow musicians are showing up to share their talent. Mystery Train will be there together with Mojo Triangle, George Breakfast, Lizi foan and Sophie Davies, it should be a wonderful night. You don’t need to be convinced of the ecological cause or even in the least bit political to come along, it’ll be a night of great music, with a chance, for those who want it, to meet and talk to Tony and to find out a little more about The Green Party  and its potential impact on our national life.

You can listen to the Green Man here

As a taster here are the lyrics of The Green Man

The Green Man


My face in the foliage, you’ve seen that face before

It was carved in the Choir by your fathers back in days of yore

I’m the power in the pulse I’m the song underneath the soil

I’m the unseen King of the ditches, ragged and royal

I’m the Green Man, don’t take my name in vain

I’m the Green Man, and its time to break my chain

If you cut me down I’ll spring back green again

I’m the roots on the stock I’m the tender shoots on the vine

I’m the goodness in the bread I’m the wildness in the wine

There’s power in the place where my smallest tendrils are curled

And my softest touch is the strongest thing in the world

I’m the Green Man, don’t take my name in vain

I’m the Green Man, I’m bound to break my chain

If you cut me down I’ll spring back green again

I’m the grass at your feet and the leaves that shade your head

I’ll be your bower of love, I’l be your green grass bed

I’m in the finest flower, I’m the power in the wickedest weed

And I’ll plough your furrow with pleasure and plant my seed

I’m the Green Man, and I make love with the rain

I’m the Green Man, and I feel like breaking my chain

You might think I’m finished but I’ll spring back up again

You can cover me in concrete, staple me down with steel

Spread your houses and your car parks over my fields

But I’ll still be there keeping everything alive

And I’ll spring back green but you might not survive

I’m the Green Man, don’t take my name in vain

I’m the Green Man, Its time to break my chain

You can cut me down but I’ll spring back green again

©Malcolm Guite 2002


Filed under Current affairs, Music, Songs

A villanelle for certain villains

I have something on Dante to post soon, but so much intervenes. Meanwhile, until I can post “Meeting Dante”, and since the great Florentine was not averse to some sharp political poetry himself I’ll post this little piece I wrote as I watched the Chilcot enquiry, but it will stand too for all those politicians who shrug off the ‘collateral damage’ done by their folly

Advice to a politician

Bury the truth and lie down with a lie,
Dismiss the losers with a winning smile,
The dead are dead and cannot testify.

Hire a good brief to help you ‘clarify’
You’ve no regrets; regrets are not your style.
Bury the truth and lie down with a lie.

A few more headline grabs will get you by,
Always appear to go the extra mile,
The dead are dead and cannot testify.

Concede the odd ‘mistake’, contrive a sigh,
But wrap yourself in virtue all the while.
Bury the truth and lie down with a lie.

Most witnesses are dead, some you can buy,
Some can be lost in a ‘deleted file,’
The dead are dead and cannot testify.

The dreams may come, the screams that terrify…
They can be blocked with Prozac for a while.
Bury the truth, and lie down with a lie,
Until the dead arise and testify.


Filed under Current affairs, literature, Poems