Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner’s towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.
Malcolm Guite reads today’s poem
Our pilgrimage on earth is a companioned journey. We are not alone. Beyond the fellowship of fellow believers, scripture says we are cheered on by saints who have gone before us. Most importantly, because of Christ we have access to our Father who welcomes the prayers of His children.
George Herbert’s poem today is a magnificent celebration of that glad fact. As Malcom Guite points out in The Word in the Wilderness, “Its richly laden 14 lines contain no fewer than 27 images or reflections of what prayer might be for us.” Here we see poetry at its finest. As Malcolm wrote:
Our first impression is of the sheer wealth, almost over-abundance, of beautiful images contained in striking and memorable phrases we are being offered. This is not the honing and concentration on the single vision, but a kind of rainbow refraction of many insights, a scattering of broadcast seeds. For each of these images is in its own way a little poem, or the seed of a poem, ready to grow and unfold in the reader’s mind.
Do you have a testimony of the power of prayer?
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Dig Deeper: Literature & Liturgy
George Herbert by Malcolm Guite
On February 27th the Church of England keeps the feast and celebrates the memory of George Herbert, the gentle poet priest whose book the Temple, published posthumously in 1633 by his friend Nicholas Ferrar has done so much to help and inspire Christians ever since. In an earlier blog post I gave a talk on George Herbert and the Insights of Prayer. I offer this sonnet, part of a sequence called ‘Clouds of Witness” in my most recent poetry book The Singing Bowl. The sequence is a celebration of the saints, intended to complement my sequence Sounding the Seasons.
You can get this book in the UK by ordering it from your local bookshop, or via Amazon, and I am vey happy to say that both books are now available in North America from Steve Bell who has a good supply in stock. His page for my books is HERE
Read and hear Malcolm Guite’s A Sonnet for George Herbert HERE
Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.
Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith
For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.