In triumph the Archangel stands atop
__The medieval fortress church and isle
__That bear his name—the legendary spot
__Where Satan fell to Michael’s strength and guile.
“Impossible,” was Saint Aubert’s reply
__When Michael thrice commanded him to build
__A church. But, in the end, he did comply,
__And Michael’s holy vision was fulfilled.
Surrounded by both sea and tidal sands,
__The island’s soaring, stone-knit, spired facade
__Displays a beauty shaped by human hands
__Inspired and guided by the hand of God.
Each day ten thousand tourists come to stare,
But few among them come to kneel in prayer.

 

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.


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11 Responses

  1. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I love the effortless conversational feel of this admirably crafted sonnet. It swept this reader up in the history, spirituality, and sheer wonder of the “soaring, stone-knit, spired façade” that speaks volumes in its tourist-drawing silence. For me, the closing couplet is a sad indictment of times that overlook the ongoing fight between good and evil and the significance of our Savior. The picture is beautiful, too. Thank you, Mr. Tweedie.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      James – This poem is only what I always expect from you in a sonnet, tightly wrought and accomplished and with a tale to tell; something to tell me that I didn’t know before. As in the comment above I can admire the conversational tone you have used, and
      while it is a pity that visitors cannot be drawn into sites like this for more noble reasons it is good to get them in at all. I wonder what proportion of those who visit Westminster Abbey each year attend for communion with God and how many are there to view the exhibits, and would visitors’ figures treble if there were some way we could actually see Ben Jonson standing upright in his little niche in Poets’ Corner. And so many of these monuments do have fascinating stories to tell. Look at Mary, Queen of Scots, imprisoned in various castles in England by Elizabeth for nineteen years and beheaded, and they are both finally laid to rest in WA within feet of each other as though to emphasise Elizabeth’s long years of vacillation.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        TY, Peter. I have been privileged to have attended Sunday worship in Westminster Abbey on two occasions. (As well as one evensong service and one organ recital). Once, while seated in the South Transept listening to a sermon by the Dean (I actually remember the sermon!) I looked under my chair and discovered that I was sitting on top of Tennyson or some such personage. Unfortunately, I was not present at Mont Saint-Michel for the early morning matins or noontime mass. I did, however, “kneel in prayer,” albeit briefly.

  2. Leo Zoutewelle

    James, I really like this poem; its wonderful simplicity well fits the subject.
    Thank you.
    Leo

    Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    A beautiful sonnet about a beautiful place. Tweedie has given it a double volta — one in line 9, where the narrative history ends and the physical description begins, and another in line 14, where he hits the reader with a deflating puncture.

    And believe it or not, right now at another well-known poetry website the discussants can’t even come to a conclusion about what a sonnet is.

    Reply
  4. Gerrald Agyemang

    The poem is really deep with challenging spiritual frictions “That bear his name—the legendary spot, Where Satan fell to Michael’s strength and guile” “Impossible,” was Saint Aubert’s reply” yes its impossible and its wonderful. Thanks James A. Tweedie

    Reply
  5. C.B. Anderson

    James,

    You are the real deal. You have a command of the English language and a command of figurative rhetoric that unite to create delectable five-course meals for anyone who loves good poetry. If you had been my pastor, perhaps I would still attend church every Sunday.

    Reply
  6. Rod Walford

    Beautifully descriptive and well constructed. But how sad (albeit true!) is your final line. For me, it adds great perspective. Good work James.

    Reply
  7. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you all for your kind and affirming responses to the poem. It was, perhaps, both brash and foolish for me to attempt to capture the experience of such a transcendent place as Mont San-Michel and frame it within the limited constraints of 14 lines of formal, structured verse. Your comments lead me to believe that, in some small way, I succeeded in the attempt.

    Reply
  8. David Watt

    I never tire of reading your ‘geographic’ poetry. Whether the theme is a windswept island, or a medieval fortress.

    Reply
  9. Sultana Raza

    I love the flow of this poem, didn’t know the story behind it, and now my wish to visit it is renewed again. Though when that will be, none can say…

    Reply

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