Category Archives: poetry

His constant star.

The Church of England remembers Lancelot Andrewes today, a good occasion for sharing Malcolm Guite’s love offering of a sonnet: “The Word and the Words.” Father Guite wrote his Doctoral thesis on this man, one of the church’s “greatest preachers and the man whose scholarship and gift for poetic phrasing was so central to the making of the King James Version of the Bible.” On the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Guite gave a talk on Andrewes, which audio file is on his site.

Father Guite mentions how influential Andrewes was in his own life; I am no expert and could not talk for five minutes on the subject, but in a previous era of my life his book of prayers kept me going.

LANCELOT ANDREWES

Your mind is fixed upon the sacred page,
A candle lights your study through the night,
The choicest wit, the scholar of the age,
Seeking the light in which we see the light.
Grace concentrates in you, your hand is firm,
Tracing the line of truth in all its ways,
Through you the great translation finds its form,
‘And still there are not tongues enough to praise.’
Your day began with uttering his name
And when you close your eyes you rest in him,
His constant star still draws you to your home,
Our chosen stella praedicantium.
You set us with the Magi on the Way
And shine in Christ unto the rising day.

On this morning’s wing.

This day being the Church New Year, it seems good to imagine ourselves as pilgrims setting off across an ocean of calendar days stretching away in the distance far out of sight. Each date is a commemoration of people and events that still impart God’s love and providence to us, “whatever storms or floods are threatening.” Each rotation of the sun is a reference point on our life’s journey, and I’m glad for the chance to be in church on this feast of the First One; our parish will be singing the hymn of thanksgiving, “Glory to God for All Things.” 

THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES

He calls us all to step aboard his ship,
Take the adventure on this morning’s wing,
Raise sail with him, launch out into the deep,
Whatever storms or floods are threatening.
If faith gives way to doubt, or love to fear,
Then, as on Galilee, we’ll rouse the Lord,
For he is always with us and will hear
And make our peace with his creative Word,
Who made us, loved us, formed us and has set
All his beloved lovers in an ark;
Borne upwards by his Spirit, we will float
Above the rising waves, the falling dark,
As fellow pilgrims, driven towards that haven,

Where all will be redeemed, fulfilled, forgiven.

-Malcolm Guite

It rests their big eyes.

Cotswold cows by Pippin, 2005

Les Murray wrote a poem with 18 stanzas, but I am sharing only a third of them here. It is a rambling catalogue of summer gardening memories, and after this first portion my mind balks at following his wandering; I want to rest here in the shade, where I can be philosophic and civilized. The thing the poet wants to cultivate under the glaring sun Down Under is not any kind of vegetable or flower, but the shade itself.

I wish I could trade some of my own backyard shade for his extra sunshine, but how do you measure that kind of stuff? What I have to trade might not add up to much in total mass of shade… I’m guessing enough for a couple of rogueing cows.

(From) ROOMS of the SKETCH GARDEN

Women made the gardens, in my world,
cottage style full-sun fanfares
netting-fenced, of tablecloth colours.

Shade is what I first tried to grow
one fence in from jealous pasture,
shade, which cattle rogueing into

or let into, could devour
and not hurt much. Shelter from glare
it rests their big eyes, and rests in them.

A graphite-toned background of air
it features red, focusses yellow.
Blue diffusing through it rings the firebell.

Shade makes colours loom and be thoughtful.
It has the afterlife atmosphere
but also the philosophic stone cool.

It is both day and night civilized,
the colour of reading, the tone
of inside, and of inside the mind.

-Les Murray

 

The 23rd Psalm

THE 23rd PSALM

The God of love my shepherd is,
And he that doth me feed:
While he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently pass:
In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, he doth convert
And bring my mind in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
But for his holy name.

Yea, in death’s shady black abode
Well may I walk, not fear:
For thou art with me; and thy rod
To guide, thy staff to bear.

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine,
Ev’n in my enemies’ sight:
My head with oil, my cup with wine
Runs over day and night.

Surely thy sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my days;
And as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.

–George Herbert