Tag Archives: seasons

John Keble and The Christian Year

Portrait_of_John_Keble_(cropped)On the 14th of July the Church of England remembers with thanksgiving the life and work of the priest-poet John Keble. Keble who was part of the Oxford Movement, a  revival of depth and sanctity in the church’s ritual life, was ordained in 1815 and in 1827 published, anonymously, a little volume of poetry which gave a poem for every Sunday of the Church Year, called’ The Christian Year. It was quite simply the most popular book of verse in the nineteenth century and went through 95 editions in Keble’s life time! Some of its poems, for example ‘New Every morning is the love’ have become well known hymns. Whilst I haven’t written an individual sonnet for Keble, my entire volume ‘Sounding the Seasons; seventy sonnets for the Christian Year’, was, as the title suggests, partly inspired by Keble’s example. So here, on his day, is the opening poem of that book which  meditates on what we hope to achieve by keeping the seasons, keeping holy and memorial days. Of course the truths on which we meditate over the course of the liturgical year, from the mystery of Christmas to the all-transforming drama of Good Friday and Easter, are true all the time! But we do not remember or think of them all the time, for time itself, ‘the subtle thief’, can so easily take even the memory of truth from us. So it was a deep wisdom that led the early church to turn ‘Time the thief’ into ‘Time the messenger’, to make the very medium that might have taken the truth away from us become the medium that restores it, as Time brings round and renews each Holy Day.

 

 

Sounding The Seasons

Tramelled in time, we live with hints and guesses
Turning the wheel of each returning year,
But in between our failures and successes
We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear,
Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons
And breathes a Sanctus as we tell our story,
Tracing the tracks of grace, sounding the seasons
That lead at last through time to timeless glory.

From the first yearnings for a Saviours birth
To the full joy of knowing sins forgiven
We gather as His church on Gods’s good earth
To share an echo of the choirs of heaven
I share these hints, returning what was lent,
Turning to praise each ‘moment’s monument’.

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John Keble and The Christian Year

Portrait_of_John_Keble_(cropped)On the 14th of July the Church of England remembers with thanksgiving the life and work of the priest-poet John Keble. Keble who was part of the Oxford Movement, a  revival of depth and sanctity in the church’s ritual life, was ordained in 1815 and in 1827 published, anonymously, a little volume of poetry which gave a poem for every Sunday of the Church Year, called’ The Christian Year. It was quite simply the most popular book of verse in the nineteenth century and went through 95 editions in Keble’s life time! Some of its poems, for example ‘New Every morning is the love’ have become well known hymns. Whilst I haven’t written an individual sonnet for Keble, my entire volume ‘Sounding the Seasons; seventy sonnets for the Christian Year’, was, as the title suggests, partly inspired by Keble’s example. So here, on his day, is the opening poem of that book which  meditates on what we hope to achieve by keeping the seasons, keeping holy and memorial days. Of course the truths on which we meditate over the course of the liturgical year, from the mystery of Christmas to the all-transforming drama of Good Friday and Easter, are true all the time! But we do not remember or think of them all the time, for time itself, ‘the subtle thief’, can so easily take even the memory of truth from us. So it was a deep wisdom that led the early church to turn ‘Time the thief’ into ‘Time the messenger’, to make the very medium that might have taken the truth away from us become the medium that restores it, as Time brings round and renews each Holy Day.

 

 

Sounding The Seasons

Tramelled in time, we live with hints and guesses
Turning the wheel of each returning year,
But in between our failures and successes
We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear,
Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons
And breathes a Sanctus as we tell our story,
Tracing the tracks of grace, sounding the seasons
That lead at last through time to timeless glory.

From the first yearnings for a Saviours birth
To the full joy of knowing sins forgiven
We gather as His church on Gods’s good earth
To share an echo of the choirs of heaven
I share these hints, returning what was lent,
Turning to praise each ‘moment’s monument’.

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Sounding the Seasons

tramelled in time...sounding the seasons

In my last post I set out the overall plan for my sonnet sequence Sounding The Seasons. Now here, as promised, is the sonnet which will open the whole sequence, a sonnet which meditates on what we hope to achieve by keeping the seasons, keeping holy and memorial days. Of course the truths on which we meditate over the course of the liturgical year, from the mystery of Christmas to the all-transforming drama of Good Friday and Easter, are true all the time! But we do not remember or think of them all the time, for time itself, ‘the subtle thief’, can so easily take even the memory of truth from us. So it was a deep wisdom that led the early church to turn ‘Time the thief’ into ‘Time the messenger’, to make the very medium that might have taken the truth away from us become the medium that restores it, as Time brings round and renews each Holy Day.

Anyway here is my poetic reflection on these things. As always you can hear the poems by clicking on the ‘play’ buton or the title, and as always I m grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the images which accompany and reflect on aspects of the poem. Margot has kindly sent me the following comments on the two images she has chosen for this poem; the bell which you see above, and the shaft of light you will see at the end of the sonnet:

Margot writes: “In a comment on his blog Malcolm mentioned the title to a series of “sonnets for the whole ‘churchyear” “Sounding the seasons” the first image I saw in my head, was the bells calling, bells and seasons, bells and time. I was talking about it and then I thought “sounding” is also “sounding the depth” and I could see the lead weight. English is not my mother-tongue and words are not “mine” they are very much themselves.

So I looked for the most impressive set of bells I have seen, in Rostov, Russia. I so wanted to go and take a beautiful powerful picture. Then I remembered that I had been given 3 Russian bells, small but beautiful when I left Russia. They have accompanied every Easter and Christmas in my house.  And I set this picture modestly in my kitchen, sounding the New Year in.

Malcolm sent me the sonnet and I then wanted to illustrate sentences which were not visual, those who touched me: “Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons”. I also loved “We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear,” and Malcolm suggested  it as something visual, “glimpse”. OK, but we needed to see love and fear…

I browsed through month and month of my pictures without a clear purpose. Then this picture, which was a failed attempt or so I thought. I had kept it because that light, I wanted to remember how I had tried many small holes, the smaller the hole the brighter the light was, camera obscura effect. Still my camera was struggling with the contrast too much light and too much dark. Many attempts, many failures. I liked that sense of a passage, I tried readjusting the light and it brought back the “path” on the foreground and the sense of a cross in the webs. We had the fear and the light.”

Sounding The Seasons

Tramelled in time, we live with hints and guesses
Turning the wheel of each returning year,
But in between our failures and successes
We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear,
Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons
And breathes a Sanctus as we tell our story,
Tracing the tracks of grace, sounding the seasons
That lead at last through time to timeless glory.

From the first yearnings for a Saviours birth
To the full joy of knowing sins forgiven
We gather as His church on Gods’s good earth
To share an echo of the choirs of heaven
I share these hints, returning what was lent,
Turning to praise each ‘moment’s monument’.

We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear

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A Thank-you, and a Plan!

'The Temple of Peace' where I do most of my writing.

'The Temple of Peace' where I do most of my writing.

Well, we have come to the end of quite a long intense sequence of ‘High days and Holy days’ stretching from the beginning of Advent through to Candlemas, during which I have been posting my ‘seasonal’ sonnets almost every week! We have a bit of a ‘breather’ in the Church Calendar now until things start again in earnest with Ash Wednesday and Lent. I thought I’d take advantage of this ‘space between the seasons’ to fill you in a little more on the whole ‘sacred sonnets project’ and how the sonnets you’ve been reading fit in to my larger plan for a new book, to be called “Sounding the Seasons.”

But first, a big thank you to everyone who has subscribed, and follows this blog, its very encouraging to know that readers around the world are finding the poems and reflections here sufficiently helpful to choose to ‘follow’ the blog.  I am currently sending a proposal out to publishers to turn the poems on these pages into a little book and the more subscribers I have to the blog the more I can show publishers that there is a market and a potential readership for something as unusual as a 21st Century Sonnet-Sequence!

Secondly, I have only recently discovered that WordPress have been placing advertisements, (for I know not what goods and services!) on my blog! They don’t appear in my browser so I didnt know they were there. I have been using WP as a free service but I have found out that by paying a subscription I can remove all ads, so from today I will be doing that.The only thing ‘on sale’ on these pages therefore will be my own modest little poetry books and cds, and if anyone who doesnt have them feels like buying them to help me defray the small expense of running the blog, that would be great. The links for poetry are here, and for the cds here. You can also get the music on itunes.

Now let me tell you about the Plan for all these sonnets!  My plan is to complete a sequence of seventy-five sonnets to be called ‘Sounding the Seasons’,  which could be read for pleasure or devotion by individuals, but which would also provide a liturgical and worship resource for churches and church groups, in which individual sonnets would reflect not only the theme of festivals and saints’ days, but also pick up and develop themes and language from the lectionary readings. The idea is that the sequence would not only take you on a journey through the Church Year but also through the life of Christ, the mysteries of the faith, and a journey, in Christian life, from the font to the altar, from the cradle to the grave which has become for us, the gate of heaven. So the overall cycle, Sounding the Seasons, will be divided into three sections as follows:

I The Year’s Journey:

A sequence of sonnets that takes the reader on a journey through the Church Year from the longings of Advent, through the Incarnation, Presentation, Baptism, Temptation, Transfiguration, Death and Resurrection of Christ, on to the Ascension, Trinity Sunday, and Pentecost, finishing at last with the feast of Christ the King.

II The Company of the Saints:

This section of the cycle would celebrate the saints, as the great cloud of witness who accompany and encourage us on the journey, starting with Mary and each of the Four Evangelists, including Mary Magdalene, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and going on to some well-known extra-biblical saints such as Saint Francis, and ending with a ‘gathering poem’ for the feast of All Saints itself.

III The Household of Faith:

The third and final sequence within the whole cycle is focused on the life the Church lives now, and comprises another kind of journey, from the Font at the West door towards the Altar, which is also the journey of the individual Christian through life. These sonnets aim to reveal the inward and spiritual through the outward and visible, so there are sonnets about the Font, the Lectern and the Communion Table, but also sonnets on Marriage and Renewal of Vows, on receiving Communion, and the sequence ends with a sonnet on the glimpse of Heaven revealed in listening to the Sanctus at a Requiem.

So that is he plan, and the whole sequence is now nearly complete. In my next post I will share with you a sonnet called ‘Sounding the Seasons’ which I have written to open the whole sequence and set out the heart of what its all about. Let me know what you think and thanks again for following me thus far!

Malcolm

I pause for a pipe in the temple of peace, for a little mid-sonnet inspiration Thanks for the photo Lancia Smith:

kindling a little inspiration in the Temple of Peace!

kindling a little inspiration! (Photo by Lancia Smith)

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