A Very Indocile Equestrian

LETTER TO GEORGE COLERIDGE Samuel Taylor Coleridge 23 February 1794 Sweet in the sight of God and celestial Spirits are the tears of Penitence—the pearls of heaven—the Wine of Angels! Such has been the language of Divines— but Divines have exaggerated.—Repentance may bestow that tranquillity, which will enable man to pursue a course of undeviating […]

The Ode on the Slave Trade

THE ODE Samuel Taylor Coleridge From the translation by J.C.C. May in Poetical Works O ye who revel in the ills of Slavery, O feeders on the groans of the wretched, insolent sons of Excess, shedders of own brothers’ blood, does not the inescapable Eye see these things? Does not Nemesis threaten fire-breathing reprisal? Do […]

Jesus and the Dragoons

THE GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 1834 Charles Valentine Le Grice Of Christ’s Hospital and Trinity College, Cambridge What evenings I have spent in those rooms! . . . when Aeschylus, and Plato, and Thucydides were pushed aside, with a pile of lexicons etc, to discuss the pamphlets of the day. Ever and anon, a pamphlet issued […]

The Lighthouse Top

CHRIST’S HOSPITAL FIVE-AND-THIRTY YEARS AGO Charles Lamb Come back into memory, like as thou wert in the dayspring of thy fancies, with hope like a fiery column before thee—the dark pillar not yet turned—Samuel Taylor Coleridge—Logician, Metaphysician, Bard—How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still, intranced with admiration (while he the […]

The Growth of a Poet’s Mind

THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER Samuel Taylor Coleridge The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, Merrily did we drop Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top. Lines 21–24 Today we begin the first of two parts into which Malcolm Guite’s book Mariner is divided.  The Prelude examines the foreground of  Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s  life which […]

Spiritual Navigation

ARCAEOLOGIAE PHILOSOPHICAE Epigraph I readily believe that there are more invisible beings in the universe than visible. But who will declare to us the nature of all these, the rank, relationships, distinguishing characteristics and qualities of each? What is it they do? Where is it they dwell? Always the human intellect circles around the knowledge of […]

An Astonishingly Prescient Poem

BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA Samuel Taylor Coleridge They and only they can acquire the philosophic imagination, the sacred power of self-intuition, who within themselves can interpret and understand the symbol, that the wings of the air-sylph are forming within the skin of the caterpillar; those only, who feel in their own spirits the same instinct, which impels […]

Isaac Newton: Enlightenment (1642–1727)

MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY The Principa Author’s Preface Since the ancients (as we are told by Pappus), made great account of the science of mechanics in the investigation of natural things; and the moderns, laying aside substantial forms and occult qualities, have endeavoured to subject the phænomena of nature to the laws of mathematics, […]

Holy Saturday

JESUS’ BODY IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS Malcolm Guite His spirit and his life he breathes in all, Now on this cross his body breathes no more. Here at the centre everything is still, Spent, and emptied, opened to the core. A quiet taking down, a prising loose, A cross-beam lowered like a weighing […]

Good Friday

JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS Malcolm Guite The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black We watch him as he labours to draw breath. He takes our breath away to give it back, Return it to its birth through his slow death. We hear him struggle, breathing through the pain, Who once breathed […]

Maundy Thursday by Malcolm Guite

Here is the source of every sacrament, The all-transforming presence of the Lord, Replenishing our every element, Remaking us in his creative Word. For here the earth herself gives bread and wine, The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech, The fire dances where the candles shine, The waters cleanse us with his gentle touch. […]

Jesus Weeps by Malcolm Guite

Jesus comes near and he beholds the city And looks on us with tears in his eyes, And wells of mercy, streams of love and pity Flow from the fountain whence all things arise. He loved us into life and longs to gather And meet with his beloved face to face. How often has he […]

Palm Sunday by Malcolm Guite

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem, The seething holy city of my heart, The Saviour comes. But will I welcome him? Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start; They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing, And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find The challenge, the reversal he is […]

Love’s As Warm As Tears by C.S. Lewis

Love’s as warm as tears, Love is tears: Pressure within the brain, Tension at the throat, Deluge, weeks of rain, Haystacks afloat, Featureless seas between Hedges, where once was green. Love’s as fierce as fire, Love is fire: All sorts ‒ Infernal heat  
 Clinkered with greed and pride,  
 Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,  
 Laughing, […]

Gethsemane by Rowan Williams

Who said that trees grow easily compared with us? What if the bright bare load that pushes down on them insisted that they spread and bowed and pleated back on themselves and cracked and hunched? Light dropping like a palm levelling the ground, backwards and forwards? Across the valley are the other witnesses of two […]

The Agony by George Herbert

  Philosophers have measur’d mountains, Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states and kings; Walk’d with a staff to heav’n and traced fountains: But there are two vast, spacious thins, The which to measure it doth more behove; Yet few there are that sound them, ‒ Sin and Love. Who would know Sin, let him […]

Prayer/Walk by Malcolm Guite

A hidden path that starts at a dead end, Old ways, renewed by walking with a friend, And crossing places taken hand in hand, The passages where nothing need be said, With bruised and scented sweetness underfoot And unexpected birdsong overhead, The sleeping life beneath a dark-mouthed burrow, The rooted secrets rustling in a hedgerow, […]