Some original poems and songs by Colin Symes

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Adiutor Laborantium
adapted from the acrostic Latin hymn of St Columba.

Invocation Above Edinburgh

Speak, Holy Spirit
(Haiku form)

Incarnation - Sonnet XXX

Upon the Sudden Death of Diana, Princess of Wales, 31st August 1997

 In The Heart of the Angel



The Holy Island


Adiutor Laborantium
adapted from the acrostic Latin hymn of St Columba.

1997 was the 1400th anniversary of the death of St Columba, responsible for the advance of the Message of Jesus Christ across Scotland; this is a translation and adaptation of his hymn,'O Help of the Labourer', written in acrostic form, in celebration of his life and his work.

O help of the labourer, O King of all good,
Who lifts up the lowly, and brings low the proud,
My guard on the ramparts, defender most sure,
Opposing all evil, keeps the faithful secure;

O judge of all judges, chastising the stray,
Great Father of lights, pure and life-giving way,
Illumined with splendour, my hope’s constant spring,
My help and my strength , hear the prayer that I bring;

Though tiny and trembling and wretched I come,
As I row through this age’s dark, infinite storm,
May Christ draw me with Him to His haven of peace,
Where He reigns, and the strains of His praise never cease.

So released from the thrall of the foe,
To your bright paradise I shall go;
Jesus Christ, living, reigning King,
Through Your name hear the song I now sing.

© Colin Symes, 9th June 1997
Columba’s 1400th Anniversary

Latin original;

Adiutor laborantium, Bonorum rector omnium,
Custos ad propugnaculum, Defensorque credentium,
Exaltator humilium, Fractor superbientum,
Gubernator fidelium, Hostis impoenitentium,
Iudex cunctorum iudicum, Castigator errantium,
Casta vita viventium, Lumen et pater luminum,
Magna luce lucentium, Nulli negans sperantium,
Opem atque auxilium, Precor ut me homunculum,
Quassatum ac miserrimum, Remigantem per tumultum
Saeculi istius infinitum, Trahat post se ad supernum
Vitae portum pulcherimum Xristus; infinitum
Ymnum sanctum in seculum Zelo subtrahas hostium
Paradisi in gaudium. Per te, Christe Ihesu, Qui vivis at regnas.

To Roger

Roger is an old schoolfriend and fellow believer from Brentwood days; while on holiday in Norfolk in summer 1995 we took Roger's sailing dinghy out onto the River Yare on a beautiful summer evening and had a great time. Out of it came this poem.

Closing my eyes
I still can visualise
The sunset, the moon’s rise
Over the Yare reedbanks,
Under Norfolk skies

And our sharing
A two-man craft,
Catching the wind,
Silent, but for the slip of water
As the river unwinds before us,
Sailing against the tide.

In this eternal moment
The timelessness of brotherhood suprises,
Finding we still share
The One Life-Preserver.

Barnham Broom, Norfolk ,14th July 1995


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Speak, Holy Spirit
(Haiku form)

There is a strange story to go with this poem; I wrote what I thought were my first Haikus on 16th May 1983. Haikus are an ancient Japanese poetic form, but, to my amazement, looking back on these lines, written in 1981, I found that they too were in Haiku metre, even though I knew of no such form until two years later !

Speak, Holy Spirit,
While, open-eared and hearted,
I attend Your voice.

I may only hear
What You, for my direction,
Elect to reveal.

Cause me so to walk
That without Your gentle voice
I may make no move.

Here in Your flowing
May I turn like the millwheel
To feed my brethren.

Empowered by streams
Driving the innermost part,
May I give to men.

Speak, Holy Spirit,
While, open-eared and hearted,
I attend Your voice.

Norwich Cathedral Cloister. 8.9.81


I enjoy the challenge of the sonnet form, and here follow two of the many I have written over the years; the first, a meditation on the Incarnation, and the second, an elegy, written on the day of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Incarnation - Sonnet XXX

Confined, a holy seed in virgin womb,
Divinity and humankind unite
In Him; polarities of day and night
Are woven into one upon the loom
Of flesh - the child who is the looked - for doom
Of hell's inferior forces, who is Might
Destined to put demonic hordes to flight
And by his masterstroke, death to consume -
Now, in the quietly-dividing cells
The young, obedient, faithful mother bears,
The God of all the universes dwells,
Our forming, unremembered moments shares;
Such unimagined empathy compels
Our love of Him, to whom none else compares.

Edinburgh. 2nd November 1987


An Elegy

Upon the Sudden Death of Diana, Princess of Wales, 31st August 1997

And should it end, so sudden and so mean,
A grim fatality beside the Seine,
And shall we never see her smile again,
Which once we thought to light on us as Queen ?
And can life be as frail as hers has been,
A champagne foam atop a draught of bane,
A bitter taste and ache all that remain
Of one too-hurried life, now lost, unseen.
A sea of mourning flowers covers the land,
A nation in a state of disbelief,
Still praying for a way to understand
Such tragedy, a Hand to soothe its grief;
‘The silver cord is severed’, as unplanned
As our day yet to come, the unwelcome thief.

Edinburgh, 6th September 1997, The day of her funeral at Westminster Abbey.


A favourite place of prayer and mediation for me is Blackford Hill, overlooking the city, especially early on a September morning, when the sun is just up over Berwick Law on the horizon. Here is an Invocation, followed by a Contemplation, both written on one of such morning.

Invocation Above Edinburgh

Creator of all I see before me,
Encircle with Your embrace
This city;

Redeemer of all I see before me,
Reveal your saving power
To this city;

Restorer of all I see before me,
Renew the hard, granite face
Of this city;

Ignite the furnace-fire here
That melts stone, great Three-in-One.

Blackford Hill, 23.IX.1996

A Contemplation

I hear heaven near,
Feel the fire, feel the wind;
Whirring wings, holy things
Brush my face, hush my breath -
No sound required; God-inspired
Silence speaks, while I wait
Here at heaven’s gate.

Blackford Hill, 23.IX. 1996


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In The Heart of the Angel

This poem was written just before Christmas 1994, and looks at the story of the Incarnation from another perspective - that of heaven, looking down to earth at the moment of Jesus the Son's departure for our planet.

I still can't quite believe He's gone.
As I hung His robe of jasper
I could still smell His sweet fragrance..
I just can't quite believe He's gone.

We all assembled to bid him farewell,
Watched His Father look deep into His eyes,
Saying nothing - yet saying all we knew
Was in His desperately- loving heart.

The moment came as Gabriel returned,
Earth prepared, the mother now expectant;
Laying down the sceptre and the orb,
He turned to us and raised a blessing hand.

We groaned as one as the Spirit wrapped Him
In a cloud of glory and carried Him
Out of our dimension into their time,
Through the brilliant firmament descending.

We gazed as He reduced from view into
A microscopic nothingness, a seed
Of Godhead implanted in the maiden,
Enfleshed in terrestrial mortality.

I heard a whisper in the robing-room
That He might be betrayed and suffer harm,
That this was His intent, to let Himself
Become the victim that they might be freed.

They should not use Him so, and I for one
Am ready with my bow to fire on all
Who'd dare to raise a hand against His person,
Were He to call on me for His defence...

But now we wait, and as I place
His Grace's robes of power here,
My tears fall on my hands, and all
Heaven's quiet with hope of His return.

Edinburgh, 6th December 1994


St Cuthbert's Island, Lindisfarne

Enclose me, cast me off by this pure flow

Of living water's separating tide,

From every commerce with the world I know,

And leave me at my Saviour's wounded side.


Here turmoil may but glare at my repose

From earth's crass, teeming, noisome further shore;

Though all my darkest heart my Father knows,

He grants me space to bide here and adore.


What need have I of man's fickle acclaim,

Which wanes and dies like unsubstantial fire ?

Here close me in with Jesus, only name

Whose sound can satisfy my soul's desire.

© Colin Symes February 1999


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