Malcolm Guite



Whilst the Cities Sleep: Quarantine Quatrains

By Malcolm Guite

It’s funny how forgotten, yet familiar books suddenly suggest themselves in lockdown! I have been re-reading a lovely old copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, in Edward Fitzgerald’s famous verse translation, and taking comfort, pleasure and fresh insight from it in this isolation. I’ve also been re-entranced by its elegant form. Fitzgerald cast his translation into a series of little quatrains: four line stanzas, each chiming sonorously on a single rhyming sound. They start with a couplet, and then he allows himself a free unrhymed line to gather energy and momentum before ringing the quatrain to a close as the final line returns to the first rhyme sound with renewed emphasis, and satisfying finality.

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Dancing Through the Fire

By Malcolm Guite

[Editor’s note: In case you didn’t know, Malcolm Guite has an excellent collection of poetry for the seasons of Lent and Easter—one poem for each day, including classics like Dante, contemporaries like Rowan Williams, and the work of Guite himself. The collection is called The Word in the Wilderness, and it makes an excellent companion to the Lenten season. To give you a taste, here’s a poem of Guite’s called “Dancing Through the Fire.”]

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Poet’s Corner

By Malcolm Guite

I was giving a lecture in Oxford the other day, and took the opportunity, as I often do, to drop into the Eagle and Child. It’s a fine old 17th-century pub, unspoiled by “improvement;” it still has a couple of those lovely wood-panelled “snugs” which encourage camaraderie and close conversation—and, most famously, “the Rabbit Room,” where C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and their friends met on Tuesday lunchtimes, for the kind of sparring, cajoling, but ultimately encouraging conversation that was at the heart of their informal club, “The Inklings.” As Lewis said of these pub sessions in a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves: “The fun is often so fast and furious that the company probably thinks we’re talking bawdy when in fact we’re very likely talking theology.”

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