A Sonnet for the Church of St Edward King and Martyr
On the day that the Church commemorates the death of St Edward, King and Martyr (March 18), I thought I’d share a sonnet that I wrote to honor a church that’s named after this English saint, St Edward King and Martyr, in Cambridge, England. (Here is a bit of background on St. Edward, who is honored as a saint in both the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church as well as in the Eastern Orthodox Church).
I first visited this lovely church in 2011, attending the worship services, hearing Malcolm Guite read his marvelous Transfiguration sonnet in the context of a meditative prayer service, having tea in the church’s garden with the churchwarden and learning about the church’s architecture and history, and climbing to the top of the bell tower (which was great fun but not for the faint of heart).
Meditative worship at St Edward’s was a wonderful experience, in the full sense of the word, that is, evoking a kind of peaceful wonder and delight at the beauty of stone and silence and the spoken word.
I was also both intrigued and encouraged by experiencing worship at a church that incorporated contemporary elements such as poetry into the liturgy, yet did so in a way that felt consistent with the liturgy as a whole.
I wrote the first draft of this sonnet while still in Cambridge, and then revised it on the way home. The memory of silence and peace was particularly precious amidst the noise and fretfulness of Heathrow Airport!
This poem was a joy to write, in part because it is a kind of thank-you to Malcolm for his friendship and his encouragement to me as a poet, and in part because I find that I connect strongly to “place” as a source of inspiration for writing. I hope that this poem evokes some of that peace and stillness of heart even for those who can only visit St Ed’s in imagination.
St Edward King and Martyr
A doorway into silence here. Without,
The heedless world still frets and clamors on,
With traffic’s roar and squeal, a drunken shout,
A snatch of song that blares and then is gone.
Within, each indrawn breath breathes silence, air
As thick and clean as if a storm had passed.
The stones are rich with memory, soaked with prayer,
The ebb and flow of longings come at last
To rest. A present silence gathers here,
A darksome pool, its depths unknown. We cast
Within our hopes, betrayals, loves, and fears;
The ripples arc, and cross, and fade at last.
St Edward’s, place of gentle peace, secure
For hopeful seekers: long may you endure.
Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.