*** DEBUG END ***

Malcolm Guite: Poet’s Corner

16 October 2020

Out on an autumn walk, Malcolm Guite, like Shelley, exults in the wind in the trees

I HAVE been out and enjoying our windy autumn weather. I always feel a surge of excitement when a big gust comes, and I exalt in the “wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being”, as Shelley called it in his exhilarating ode.

It’s especially thrilling when one approaches woodland in a big wind, and so it was for me, pushing my way through the gusts as I climbed Rivey Hill and approached the ancient woodland that clothes its summit. The closer I got, the louder came the roar of the wind in the trees. It’s an extraordinary sound: if you close your eyes, it might be the roar and pounding of waves in a storm, and you have the momentarily dislocating eeriness of the sound of the sea above you.

I didn’t go into the woods themselves, as I could imagine not only “the leaves dead, Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red”, but also, in this wind, great branches flying and falling, and, perhaps, even one or two of the trees coming down; so, I skirted the top of the wood and simply savoured the sound.

As I walked, I found that it was not only Shelley’s ode, but something far older, that came to my mind: the rhythmic cadences of Coverdale’s version of Psalm 29 from the Prayer Book: “The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedar-trees: yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Libanus. He maketh them also to skip like a calf: Libanus also, and Sirion, like a young unicorn.”

Earlier this year, it gave me great pleasure to make my own poetic response to that psalm in David’s Crown, the psalm-poems that I have been writing, and I realised that the poetic form of terza rima, which I had chosen for that sequence, was, in fact, the same form that Shelley had used in the “Ode to the West Wind”. In my poem, though, I wanted more than the great voice of the wind in the trees, the rivers in full spate, and the thunder. I also wanted the voice of conscience; and, more than that, the voice of compassion which seems to speak from the very wounds of Christ.

The poem came out like this:

XXIX Afferte Domino

Call us O Christ, and open up the gate.
Call us to worship with your mighty voice:
The voice that sings through rivers in full spate,

The voice in which the forests all rejoice,
The voice that rolls through thunderclouds, and calls
The deep seas and steep waves, the quiet voice

That stirs our sleeping conscience and recalls
Us to the love we had abandoned, leads
Us through the parting mists of doubt, or falls

Upon us like a revelation, pleads
With us upon the poor’s behalf, blazes
In glory from each burning bush, and bleeds

Out from compassion’s wounds, raises
Our spirits till we dance for joy
And gives us too, a voice to sing his praises.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available



The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)