Tag Archives: symbols

A Sonnet for St. Luke

St. Luke accompanied by his 'creature' the winged ox

Continuing my series of sonnets for the church year, here is a sonnet for St. Luke. When the series is published as a book I intend to gather the four evangelists from their respective days and bring their four sonnets together as a sequence. This sequence will be bound together by the image of the four living creatures round the throne of God and the tradition that each of these creatures represents both an aspect of Christ and one of the Four Evangelists. For a good account of this tradition click here. I am drawing my inspiration both from the opening page image of each Gospel in the Lindesfarne Gospels and also from the beautiful account of the four living creatures given by St. Ireneus, part of which I quote below. For the purpose of my ‘live bloggng’  of the festivals, in the course of this year, here is St. Luke, restored to the chronological sequence. As always you can hear the poem by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears or clicking on the title of the poem.

‘...since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. ‘  St. Irenaeus of Lyons  (ca. 120-202 AD)  –  Adversus Haereses 3.11.8


His gospel is itself a living creature

A ground and glory round the throne of God,

Where earth and heaven breathe through human nature

And One upon the throne sees it is good.

Luke is the living pillar of our healing,

A lowly ox, the servant of the four,

We turn his page to find his face revealing

The wonder, and the welcome of the poor.

He breathes good news to all who bear a burden

Good news to all who turn and try again,

The meek rejoice and prodigals find pardon,

A lost thief reaches paradise through pain,

The voiceless find their voice in every word

And, with Our Lady, magnify Our Lord.


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature

Four Voices, a song for the Elements

i know its not a salamander but use your imagination!

I whisper just behind you

Our ever-entertaining Girton Poetry Group has set the theme this week of the elements, and the form of the sonnet. Here is a little jeu d’esprit I wrote for the group playing with the idea that each of the four elements has its own proper elemental creatures. I have added some favourite old Arthur Rackham Illustrations to suggest the elementals.

listen for my weeping

I am also playing in this poem with the idea that there is something within each of us correspondant to the life and liveliness of each element, something that we should treat with honour and respect in our selves and in one another, just as we should honour the mystery of the elements themselves in the world as God’s handiwork and our fellow-creation.

give me fire, air and rain

Anyway here it is for what its worth, though I have a feeeling it may work better as a song than a sonnet. now, wheres that guitar….

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

Four Voices

I am the salamander and I shimmer in the fire
I thrive within a living flame, desiring to desire,
I burn away the dross in you, and teach you to aspire
I am your salamander if you’ll kindle me a fire.

I am the sylph who loved you once, a creature of the air
I whisper just behind you but you never find me there
I am the one you stifle when you give in to despair
But I could breathe you back to life if you would give me air

I am the dying naiad in your long neglected well
I sing the very springs of love whose flow you fear and quell
The sacred river rises here, if you will say the spell,
And listen for my weeping as it echoes from your well.

I am the sleeping Adam whom you buried in the earth
But give me fire, air and rain, and I will give you birth.


Filed under imagination, Poems

The Magic Apple Tree

Someday make a journey through the rain

Through sodden streets in darkening December

A journey to the magic apple tree.

And journey also, darkling, through your past

Journey through your seed time and your summer

And through the fall of every fruiting time.

Journey through the pictures packed like loam,

The rooting places of your growing soul,

The subsoil of your oldest memory.

Walk through the outer darkness of the world

Towards a buried memory of light

Whose faded trace no photograph records.

You glimpsed it once within the garden wall,

The image of an ancient apple tree,

The fall of light through branches and the fling

And curve of colour on the golden fruit…

All buried in the rubble of your fall.

Walk through the present darkness till you come

To the stone steps, the lions, the façade,

The white Museum with its plate-glass doors.

Through these you pass and up a flight of stairs,

To find the case and lift the dull brown cover

To see, at first, your image in the glass.

You see yourself, and through yourself the tree,

And through the tree at last, the buried light.

Boughs form an arch, the painting draws you in

Under its framing fringe of rich green leaves,

Beyond the music of the shepherdess,

Down through the dark towards the grey church spire

In to its heart : the arching apple boughs…

The sky is dark, intense, a stormy grey,

But just beneath the darkness all is gold:

The slope of hills, the fields of barleycorn.

The loaded branches of the apple tree,

Glow red and ripe and gold and bow themselves

To bless the fruitful earth from whence they spring.

These colours seem to fall from Eden’s light,

The air they shine through breathes a change in them,

Breaking their sheen into a certain shade

Particular and unrepeatable.

Some golden essence seems to concentrate

From light to air, from pigment into paint

In increments of incarnation down

to burn within these apples and this bough,

Which here and now at last, you recognise.

This is your own, your ancient apple tree

And here the light you buried for so long

Leaps up in you to life and resurrection.


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, Poems