Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rosary on the Coast

It was in Poland that the idea of the 'border rosary' first appeared.  Out  to the edges of their country went the faithful in groups on a chosen day, surrounding it and protecting it in onanimous prayer.  A month later the Irish did the same, and a few weeks ago it was the turn of the faithful of Britain to ring England and Scotland and Wales.  The Rosary on the Coast was prayed in more than four hundred places.  It seems a very simple, almost child-like idea, but I think it is precisely this that makes the gesture so poetic and moving.  Here is a little meditation in verse, composed perhaps as if one of those fifteenth-century writers of Marian hymns had been seized by a premonition of Hopkins...

Turn to us, Lady of grace,
Heavenly Queen and Mother of Heaven’s King,
Look on our island home
That, all along shifting shingle and
Out by the waves and the flinging of spray and foam,
The faithful of England,
Of Wales and of Scotland embrace –
Embrace in a rosary-ring.

Land at our backs (the land
We were given to live in,
Blessed, beloved, but riven
With sorrow and sin and a bland
Indifference to sorrow and sin);
Only the water before us.
The Church is at home and at ease
Out at peripheries,
And to these we have come, to begin
The pattern of mysteries:
A murmuring Marian chorus
Whose music matches the sea’s.

Out at the limits of Britain we tell our beads;
All round the length of the coast.
Lady, you see what ails us most;
Mary, you know our needs.
Evil is lively, and preys
In brazen campaigns or in ways
More cunning, designs and arts,
All to sour well-meant intentions
Into angers, suspicions or greeds:
Weaving and tightening tensions,
Hardening hardship and hearts –
Yet whether sin roars or recedes,
The Church is alive, and prays.

Down by the tides and the sands
The prayer that you gave us is said;
Decades we pray for our lands
In the decades that lie ahead.
O Mother of God, whose Son
Hung on the Cross and won
Heaven’s eternal day for us;
Over the water, O bright
Star of the Sea whose light
Whose guiding star-light never fails;
And the Church’s mother indeed,
All down these wave-washed miles
Hear our petition; O cease
Never to keep in your sight
All England, all Scotland, all Wales;
Cease never to intercede
For faith and for life and for peace
In every last inch of the British Isles.
Lady who waits down the Walsingham Way for us –
O Blessed Mary, pray for us.


  1. Thank you for this. "Whose music matches the sea's" is a very lovely line.

    The influence of Betjeman upon your poetry is always very notable!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment! Am very glad that you liked it. This was rather an experiment, an excursion into free verse...

      I owe a great deal to Betjeman, my first major poetic hero!


Please add your thoughts! All civil comments are warmly welcomed.