Tag Archives: Malcolm Guite

The earth herself awakens.

Anglican priest Fr. Malcolm Guite has written a cycle of sonnets for the church year, several of which I have posted in the past. You can read and listen to this one for Pentecost on his site. I like the theme of the four elements which he weaves into his poem. From the blog:

“Throughout the cycle, and more widely, I have been reflecting on the traditional ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire. I have been considering how each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as though the four elements were, in their own way, another four evangelists.

“In that context I was very struck by the way Scripture expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit through the three most dynamic of the four elements, the air, ( a mighty rushing wind, but also the breath of the spirit) water, (the waters of baptism, the river of life, the fountain springing up to eternal life promised by Jesus) and of course fire, the tongues of flame at Pentecost. Three out of four ain’t bad, but I was wondering, where is the fourth? Where is earth? And then I realised that we ourselves are earth, the ‘Adam’ made of the red clay, and we become living beings, fully alive, when the Holy Spirit, clothed in the three other elements comes upon us and becomes a part of who we are.”

PENTECOST

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today  the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire, air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in  every nation.

-Malcolm Guite

His mirror, sister, Bride.

Malcolm Guite has given us a rich treasury in the poetry anthology he assembled, Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. For each poem he writes what he calls a “reflective essay,” and they are wonderfully enlightening for someone like me whose education in poetry is minimal.

I was browsing the paperback last night just before falling asleep, and when I read this poem by Christina Rossetti I got the idea to post it here on its eponymous day — but I lost that thought all together with consciousness. Guite has put it on his blog on the proper day, where you can hear him read it if you like. But to read his thoughts you’ll have to get the book itself.

For the Orthodox, what we call the Nativity Fast does not begin on a certain day of the week approximately four weeks before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, but always on November 15, making it 40 days long. It’s consistent, but wouldn’t make a tidy title for a poem!

ADVENT SUNDAY

BEHOLD, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up her rich.

It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.

For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His Side.

Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.

Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing,
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.

His Eyes are as a Dove’s, and she’s Dove-eyed;
He knows His lovely mirror, sister, Bride.

He speaks with Dove-voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go we out
With lamps ablaze and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

-Christina Rossetti

Unlatching the last doorway.

Malcolm Guite writes for this day:

In our poetic journey through the sacred seasons of the year we have come to midsummer! The traditional Church festival for this beautiful, long-lit solstice season is the Feast of St. John the Baptist, which falls on June 24th, which was midsummer day in the old Roman Calendar. Luke tells us that John the Baptist was born about 6 months before Jesus, so this feast falls half way through the year, 6 months before Christmas!

The tradition of keeping St. John’s Eve with the lighting of Bonfires and Beacons is very ancient, almost certainly pre-Christian, but in my view it is very fitting that it has become part of a Christian festivity. Christ keeps and fulfills all that was best in the old pagan forshadowings of his coming and this Midsummer festival of light is no exception. John was sent as a witness to the light that was coming into the world, and John wanted to point to that light, not stand in its way, hence his beautiful saying ‘He must increase and I must diminish’, a good watchword for all of those who are, as the prayer book calls us, the ‘ministers and stewards of his mysteries’.

St. John the Baptist: 1 St. John’s Eve

Midsummer night, and bonfires on the hill
Burn for the man who makes way for the Light:
‘He must increase and I diminish still,
Until his sun illuminates my night.’
So John the Baptist pioneers our path,
Unfolds the essence of the life of prayer,
Unlatches the last doorway into faith,
And makes one inner space an everywhere.
Least of the new and greatest of the old,
Orpheus on the threshold with his lyre,
He sets himself aside, and cries “Behold
The One who stands amongst you comes with fire!”
So keep his fires burning through this night,
Beacons and gateways for the child of light.

-Malcolm Guite (Nativity of) St. John the Baptist

Three poets and a desk.

It’s National Poetry Month and now that I take notice, we are nearly at the end of it. That prompts me to finally take this bit out of my files to give you in celebration.

I read a post from Malcolm Guite two years ago in which he tells about his visit to the Emily Dickinson home/museum, and seeing her little desk; his musings provoked me to think, too. He wonders if the physical narrowness of her space somehow helped her to turn “restraint to grace,” in this poem which, as always, you can hear him read if you like: Emily Dickinson’s Desk

That’s two poets to honor this month, and here is a poetry from a third, that may have nothing really to do with Malcolm and Emily — but I think it does. If not in any other way, then because Jane (photo above) is in a “room” with the other poets…. where, I suppose, they are all scratching out, or typing their lines… or only composing mentally and invisibly for the moment…. each wishing she could just be alone in a quiet room with a tiny writing table… I better stop or I’ll have to write a poem about my three poets.

AN HOUR IS NOT A HOUSE

An hour is not a house,
a life is not a house,
you do not go through them as if
they were doors to another.

Yet an hour can have shape and proportion,
four walls, a ceiling.
An hour can be dropped like a glass.

Some want quiet as others want bread.
Some want sleep.

My eyes went
to the window, as a cat or dog left alone does.

-Jane Hirshfield