Sunday 21 April 2024


(Micah 7: 7)

Amid this world of trouble I will wait for

The God of my salvation; He will hear me

Although the turbulence may not abate for

A moment in His goodness He will cheer me.

I rest upon His promise and His favour

Since He has told me that He will be near me:

He is my Rock, although I flinch and waver.

More near Dover: that's us!

Wednesday 17 April 2024


Tottering forth she would have found

New lands to conquer every day;

And reaping in her fields of play

Have set her feet on firmer ground.

She would have brought her faculties

Within her ego's vassalage;

Like tropes deployed upon a page

She would have been her personal traits.

But, like us, going her own way

She would have trudged the wilderness

Till met by One intent to bless

Who bent her heart and knees to pray.

And as a shepherdess her skill

Might have secured her little fold:

Her fable was more briefly told,

Since this desire was not God's will.

See for the rest of this.

On a walk from Dover

Sunday 14 April 2024

From "To Gislebertus"

Did I ever go over with you my notion

Of the ideal village, such as will inhabit

The world to come?  These are the archetypes

Which would dwell there: firstly, the priest,

For I understand that priests on earth

Will officiate again.  Then the head man,

To a Scot, the Laird.  Under the shepherding

Of these two will be the ploughman or peasant,

Garnering abundance; the shepherd or fisher,

Folding abundance; and the soldier or sailor,

Wars now over, pensioner of the abundance.

There will be the pilgrim, the village’s journeyer

To Jerusalem – for the nations will flow to it.

Finally the poet, or psalmist, or bard.  

From this developed the custom of testing

Persons against the archetypes.  King David

Or King Charles, James Graham

Or Jacob – Rosalie, and Marina and me:

We have all been measured against this standard.   

And since perfection in manhood is Christ

These have been measured rather against

Him. If He is priest we have to expand the title

To Great Priest, for the quality of His priestliness,

To High Priest, for the dignity of His priesthood,

And for the scope of His service – Minister

Of the holy places.  To whom else could belong

The title, Prince of the princes of the Levites!   

And He is Lord of all; certainly because

Of who His is in those other dimensions

He is at home in, but because, too,

Of His worth, of His walk and of

His achievements.   He has displayed Himself as Sower – but all

Of the landsman’s crafts have correspondence

In the Lord’s activities; but He has exceeded

By graciously broadcasting seed irrespective

Of the quality of the ground.                                

As shepherd The Good Shepherd has expended His vigour

For us, and deliberately offered Himself;

As the Great Shepherd has forged through death

A path for us; and as Chief Shepherd engaged

Shepherds for our good.                          

                                    But who is conqueror

Like Christ?  That constrictor death, and that

Venomous serpent Satan both dungen:

Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro!   

Someone questioned my referring to Christ

As a pilgrim.  To me a pilgrim is a person

With an objective – and who fulfils the description

As fully as Christ?  For He came from the heart

Of God to the cross and pioneered for us the path

From the cross to the heart of God. 

                                                    But what

Of psalmist?  Each production of the range

Of poet and hymn-writer from Pentecost -

And the ancient psalmists and prophets – were makars

At the hand of the great Maker.

"To Gislebertus" was a bit of a blog before blogs had begun.  Not all of the snippets from it are so positive!

Friday 5 April 2024


 Around the Museum of the Home, London


Homelessness: Adam's condition,
Ousted from Eden, He took part in
From His moment of birth. A beast has its earth;
A bird its nest; even the sun its tent;
He had nowhere to lay His head.
He must pass by foot the land's length,
Becoming wearied, requesting refreshment,
His feet roughed by shards of stone.
Though always purposefully advancing to that ultimate  
Homelessness; friendlessness  
That through anguish for men He should secure
Never to be lacked, God's concept of home.


Selflessness: always the sheep,
All wanderers and all in need,
Brambled, fallen, or sickening,
Occupied His days. Touching,
Searching and healing He cared for them;
Whatever the distance, the hour, the depths,
Like the urgent benighted fisher
He was on call and on duty. Tenderly
He bore the lambs; patiently
Led the sheep; constantly was door
To their fold: both in metaphor and fact
He laid down His life for the sheep.


Tirelessness   season after season:
Ploughing the clogging soil (smelling
Freshness of clods); sowing good seed
Broadcast, tending, daily
Enduring that day's work, sustained
By the joy lying before, the vision
Of gold grain rippling in the breeze,
Foresight of the glory of the harvest.


Blamelessness   what these hands
(Blessing, healing, suffering) did,
What the pure heart felt, what
The descendent mind thought, perfected
For priesthood, ascent to the mount of God,
A stance in His holy place. Hands
Filled, consecrated, from God to men,
To God from men He served   to what
Extent? By the eternal Spirit He,
Spotless, offered Himself to God.


Fearlessness   our Hero went
The downward track, face set
Steadfastly; unencumbered by
A great man's armour He advanced
Against both death and its wielder
In the name of God whose ranks they defied:
By death death has been wrested
Into His victorious hand. Shielded
By the Conqueror's shield, defended
By His sword, victors by His victory
We cleave to our Deliverer.


Peerlessness   whether the descent
To the lower parts of the earth, whether
Ascent above all heavens;
Or simply child, man, carpenter,
Preacher and sufferer, not one
Can compare: how rightly therefore,
His worth proved, He has the place
We could not give though knowing He
Deserves it   accommodated on the Father's
Throne, coronated in His affections:
And among His brethren, those equipped
To surround His glory, refracting
To the magnification of His splendour.


Tearlessness   He will preside
Where not cheeks only but eyes
Will have received God's personal attention;
There, Minister of the Sanctuary, He,
Sweet Psalmist of Israel will orchestrate
Response. Under the King's direction
Instruments He has made will answer
To long years tautening and tuning,
To provide God what He first desired:
Amid the praises of His people - a home.

Tuesday 26 March 2024


(Written 15 October 1984)

My little daughter,  you know no language yet -

Forgive me then  while I expatiate

With this new composition  didactic verse

Using a style  I've borrowed from Old French.

It's no new wisdom  which I have to dispense

But you may find  it's helpful none the less.

Your life is an adventure  and you'll explore

Though you may not  wander from pole to pole.

Never, my daughter, repose in what you know

But always be a person  who pries and probes -

Through wind and rain,  like a keen Viking, row

Until you land  on you own Vinland shore.

Plough your own furrow  and always plough it straight;

Do not divert  to someone else's way;

Broadcast good seed  and then, with patience, wait -

Anything good  will grow in months, not days;

When it is ripe  harvest before the rain

And for the future  be generous with you grain.

Allow the time  occasionally to wander

Across the hills  or by the babbling waters;

Perceive the boredom;  the glory and the horror

Within all nature - slow slugs or leaping horses,

Ravenous shrew  or deft fish-killing otters.

Let each one halt you  and give you cause to ponder.

Fish just to meet  your own and other's wants

But not for pleasure - a sport which God abhors.

Both good and evil  will come within your trawl:

Discriminate - don't keep and swallow all.

Although winds blow  and bucking billows toss

Persist until you can  relish what's caught.

To be a poet  would do you little good

And whether I would like it  I am not sure.

There's poetry in life  as you will prove -

In every movement  a subtle rhythm moves,

In every word  a fertile tension broods;

And every object  is image for a mood.

I know that you  will never be a queen

- But you must rule  within yourself at least;

Only by self-control  can you be free.

Be careful not to watch  all that you see;

Be careful not to heed  all that you hear;

Your heart is the most precious  thing that you keep.

Philip had four  daughters who prophesied -

If he was fortunate   I can't decide!

So, little one,  prophesy if you like

But you must pray  from your depths to God's height,

Must find the answer  to darkness in God's light,

Must find in Jesus  the purpose of your life.

My little Rosalie, I'll soon have ended:

I'm sure you think  I've been too long already.

To tell the truth  you don't seem interested

In being wrapped  in archetypal vestments.

I guess it's nearly time  that you were bedded,

A so good night  and may God add His blessing.

Sunday 24 March 2024



The One by whom the worlds began

Who furnished Earth by what He said

Was found in figure as a Man

Without a place to lay His Head.

By Him on good and worthless ground

The seed, the word of God, was sown

And now for His delight abound

Fruits from good ground for Him alone.

From this world's raging seas He brought

Disciples, sinners born again:

He patiently and gently taught

Till they were also "catching men".

Unending gentleness and care

For those whom men despised as least,

With constant toil for men in prayer,

Displayed perfection of a priest.

And as the perfect Victim too

He met death in the darkest hour,

Emerging as the Victor who

Quelled death and him who had its power.

Ascended high to God's right hand

He sits upon the throne of grace

Acclaimed by all who understand

He has secured their heavenly place.

And as the Chief Musician now

He moves God's service, phrase by phrase,

Touching each harp-string to endow

Eternal, orchestrated praise.

Around London canals

Thursday 7 March 2024


A paean,
Eruption of soul and spirit,
Touching the King.

Bursting from silence
I prophesy the Coming One,
The Day Spring.

Stolid, a craftsman, why
Choose me as trustee of
The Holy Thing?

Though the weather cuts
And stones abrade,
Nettles and thorns sting

We glory in our pilgrimage
More than in ease
Or governing

Glad to be encumbered ‑
Gold, frankincense and myrrh ‑
By gifts we bring.

More than an angel
Redeemed, directed, lightened,
I now can sing.                                 

Sunday 3 March 2024


Pre-eminently David was a shepherd:

One with a heart his flock could all rely on.

He was no hireling but prepared to jeopard

His life to fight against the bear or lion

To lead his flock or lead his men to Zion.

But the Good Shepherd, Jesus, supersedes:

In love He suffered and in grace He leads.

Into the valley, humble yet defiant,

Confident in the way Jehovah led,

David went down to battle with the giant:

A skilful sling-stone smote Goliath dead

And David carried off his severed head.

Through greater depths and through exceeding woe

The Lord has quelled a more injurious foe.

Rejected and despised, a wanderer,

David found refuge in Adullam's cave;

And needy souls who gathered to him there

Because their debts were great or needs were grave

Found that he had ability to save:

Christ, who had once no place to lay His head,

Is Saviour now as risen from the dead.

As God's anointed David had dominion

That ranged from the Euphrates to the Sea;

Hundreds of judgments hung on his opinion,

Myriads of minions hung on his decree

While Israel was glorious and free.

But Christ will shoulder just administration

As King of every people, tribe and nation.

To build the house of God was his desire

And under God he was its architect;

It was most worthy that he should aspire

To serve God in a place he would erect

But God refused to give his will effect.

Only through Christ could God acquire a place

To dwell with men in righteousness and grace.

David went in to sit before the ark

To hear Jehovah in complacency;

He laid aside his realm's and household's cark

And heard the promise God had to convey:

Sustained by this he rose and went his way.

But in God's presence our High Priest remains – 

All things by love and vigour He sustains.

Whether the waters by his feet were calm

Or he was bruised by torrents of oppression

From each experience David formed a psalm.

He raised a hymn to God through his confession

And found a song as carried through depression.

But Christ now leads a heavenly company

Surrounding Him to praise eternally. 

Sunday 25 February 2024


Looking towards the Pentland Hills

(Genesis 32:31, Hosea 12:4)

I had the vigour of my prime
   On which I could rely
In all my ventures till the time
   The angel touched my thigh.

All things I gathered to my will
   Whether by truth or lie –
I cheated shamelessly until
   The angel touched my thigh.

I hobble forward like a tramp
   Despite the dawning sky
Since, as I felt his bitter cramp,
   The angel touched my thigh.

But I can garner richly now
   A bountiful supply
And gladly testify of how
   The angel touched my thigh.

I hold the dignity of prince
   For that is God's reply
To all this world's discomforts since
   The angel touched my thigh.

My composition which God taught
   Could in no part apply
Nor could I freely bless had not
   The angel touched my thigh.

Though once this lameness made me sad
   God helps me so that I
Worship before Him and am glad
   The angel touched my thigh.   


Tuesday 20 February 2024



        Holinesse on the head,
  Light and perfections on the breast
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
  To lead them into life and rest:
        Thus are true Aarons drest.

        Profanenesse in my head,
  Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
  Unto a place where is no rest:
        Poore priest thus am I drest.

        Onely another head
  I have, another heart and breast
Another musick, making live not dead
  Without whom I could have no rest:
        In Him I am well drest.

        Christ is my onely head,
  My alone onely heart and breast
My only musick, striking me ev'n dead;
  That to the old man I may rest
        And be in Him new drest.

        So holy in the head,
  Perfect and light in my deare breast
My doctrine tun'd by Christ (who is not dead,
  But lives in me while I do rest)
         Come people; Aaron's drest.


Not my words, for words merely mine
Could attain no value in God's
Environment; only the Word
Could institute right words; the Son
Be language that is right; the Christ
Give anointed praise. Yet I must
Give voice - and others' cadences
Meld with my own. And if your heart
Is right with mine you can sing words
Not mine, but more than mine - and ours:


Praise the One who is Creator,
Heaven's and earth's Originator
Yet come near as Mediator
    Between God and man.

Praise the Christ who as a stranger
Once was cradled in a manger,
Come in flesh to be the changer
    Of the course of time.

Praise the Man who here was sowing
Seed from which good seed is growing
In abundance overflowing
    To the Father's joy

Praise the Shepherd who has sought us:
With His precious blood He bought us,
With His tender arms he brought us
    Back into His fold.

Praise the Victor who invaded
Realms where Satan's might pervaded;
Now no power we are persuaded
    Separates from Him.

Praise the Man who God perfected
For the work which He effected
Now He leads the Sons selected
    To a glorious sphere.

Praise the Firstborn of creation
End of all man's perturbation
Bringing reconciliation
    As the Prince of Peace.


(This attempt towards autobiography contains poems from earlier periods, this being appropriate to my objective. AI, DI, DIII, EI & FI were previously poems in their own right; DII was a fragment which needed a setting; GI is, of course, by George Herbert. The poet of AIII is GMB.)

And further: I had the concept of a archetypical village with the seven characters the chief, the shepherd, the peasant, the soldier, the tramp, the poet and the priest in it.  I have used this - varied, so that the chief could be a king, for example, as a basis for poems around the time this was written.  I think I'll follow up with other examples of this.

Friday 16 February 2024


 On the Pentland Hills


Around us are our tender flock
Within this howling wilderness;
Under the shadow of the Rock
Care for them with me, Shepherdess.

As shepherds must we'll guide their feet
Amid the desert's brokenness
To where the gentle grass is sweet:
Care for them with me, Shepherdess.

We'll keep them near the water's flow
Whilst all around is barrenness;
While by is glassy streams they grow
Care for them with me, Shepherdess.

Teach me, as Rachel must have taught
Jacob, to heed their tenderness
In case the lambs are overwrought:
Care for them with me, Shepherdess.

A greater Shepherd guides above
Our ignorance and bruckleness;
Under the shelter of His love
Care for them with me, Shepherdess.


The shepherd's skill
  Moving from man to dog
    From dog to sheep
    Moves at a level subtler and more deep
  Than that of one who carves a log,
Or sews a frill:
Instincts are thirled to will.

The fisherman
  Must read both sea and sky
    To sense his way
    Between where currents sport and fishes play.
  Wave-borne lest he wave-swamped should die
Instinct he can
Enfold a vivid cran.               
(A cran is a measure of fresh herring)

The poet folds
  Images to his mind
    Herded by tropes
    Into the verse that fabricates his hopes:
  Or trawls in deeps to find
Silvers and golds
Live in swamped vessel holds.


No, I am not ashamed
Of not being sailor or soldier:
These have no claim on
My genes. But can salt wind
And water, silver of fish
And their gut stench, screech
Of gulls, and wave voices
Inveigle themselves within
Chromosomes? Their homes abutted
On the North Sea, my forebears
Enfolded a living from it by
Dull courage of necessity,
Harsh days and long nights,
Sea burials. Widows', wives'
And mothers' untold fears
Rubbed into the family psyche.
His mother dreading the loss
Of all her men, my grandfather
Abandoned the sea (and the boat
He had named the "Glad Tidings")
Yet spent his days with fish.
My father learned to handle them
Deftly. But to me sea
Or fish are alien. Of that
Unravelling, I am ashamed.

(But don't lay any blame to the shepherdess.)

Tuesday 6 February 2024



When first I found Africa
Missionaries dared The Dark Continent:
Livingstone, Moffat, Mackay.

Hence I saw slavery;
Africa, a vast stank
The Americas drained.

Powerless I discovered
Cultured tribes
Thirled to the Boer's want.

Here be great beasts
Lazing lions, gangling giraffes
Locust hordes of gnus.

In jungled hills, next
In gentle grandeur
Mountain gorillas stravaiged.

Recently I came on
Brasses from Benin
Bold in their figuration.

"There is all Africa,"
Sir Thomas Browne affirms
“And her prodigies in us”.


Perhaps no great adventures, but we went
Upon the "Claymore" to the Western Isles;
In the old escort timidly we bent
To Applecross for clouded haunting miles.
We stumbled the Five Sisters of Kintail
And saw Skye mountains crag the sunset's glow;
And through your leadership I did not fail
The sgurrs and stucs that loom above Glencoe.

Exploring ethics and philosophy,
Discussing truths of Christianity
And girls we rambled on without an end
Finding that it was good to have a friend.

Till as my Best Man finally you sent your
Old friend upon a more exciting venture.


The Laird's face
Is altogether too big for me;
The mask wobbles on my brow.

The peasant mask
Is broad on my cheeks
Tight on my cranium.

The shepherd's tender smile
Fits my lips

My lines do not yet
Fit the gnarled visage
Of the tramp.

But the poet's mask
Most comfortably
Conforms to me.

For a priest
To hide within a mask.

Thus I attempt to explore
The space
Between the mask and face.

Thursday 1 February 2024





If I have looked at your stooped back
And your tense muscles (naming them thews)
The sunlight blond on your hair
And the green sprouting of your virile crops
Praising them, forgetting the runnels of sweat
Stinking in your armpits, the honed wind
Nailing your skin, the worms of decay
Coursing up through your limbs, loneliness
The hawk hovering over your shoulder
Preparing to stoop, prying, forgive me
I am a man; and remember yourself
That crabbed fingers and rounded shoulders,
Fumes in the lungs, halter on the heart,
Attend your dream. At least my
Dream is noble. Your life is harshness
And your dream luxuriant decay.


When I consider the poets I have loved
This I discover is their common element:
Soil.  Whether Mackay Brown's patchwork,
Drudgings among stones, furrows pages
To be tuned through station of the year to harvest;
Thomas, amid his peasant parishioners battling
Doggedly against the tilth that bore them,
Longs to absorb them; Heaney's diggings,
Peat embruing to constitute bog people;
Rowe's more exotic peasants stolid
As the tractor mangles their world; or the one
Poem I know of Ogston's celebrating
The crofter's sordid defeat, soil
Is their material. I have enjoyed reading also
Part understood volumes on geomorphology:
Glacier or flood sculpting clay or rock.
Yet there are romantic touches to my
Love of their works for the soil itself
I handle only in a little loved garden:
Not that the peasant loved his land,
A harsh mistress rooting age into his limbs.
Soil, tilth, peat or clay:
This is the word I have shunned: Earth.


The vital water, silting and moistening,
Compounds the good ground.

The fecund seed, broadcast on the earth
Clung in the good ground.

The thievish birds jibbed at the nets
Shielding the good ground.

Roots writhed down, toward the procreant water
Imbuing the good ground.

Toward the sun sprouts pullulate
Out from the good ground.

Master, garner the mellow fruit
From your good ground.