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The Quality of Mercy in Poetry

Monday 18 November 2019

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Part of the annual Autumn Lecture Series.

Poet-priest Malcolm Guite is Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge, and teaches in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He lectures widely in England and North America on Theology and Literature. He has published poetry, theology, and literary criticism, and has worked as a librettist. His books include: Love, Remember (November 2017); Mariner, a spiritual biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (February 2017, paperback edition February 2018); Parable and Paradox (2016); The Singing Bowl (2013); Sounding the Seasons (2012); Theology and the Poetic Imagination (2010) and Faith Hope and Poetry (2006). Malcolm has edited two poetry anthologies for Lent and Advent. Malcolm writes Poet’s Corner, a weekly column in the Church Times.

Mark Oakley is the Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge, and was formerly the Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. He is a highly regarded author, lecturer and broadcaster, whose themes include human rights, poetry and the arts, and the place of faith in contemporary life. Mark is author of The Collage of God (2001) and has edited a book on the poetry of John Donne. His book The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry was recently shortlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize and his latest book My Sour Sweet Days: George Herbert and the Journey of the Soul, is published by SPCK later this year.


The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

— Portia, in William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1

‘There can be no future without forgiveness’ (Desmond Tutu). Against a cultural and political backdrop of division, hostility and blame, our autumn lecture series explores ‘the quality of mercy’. The series brings together brilliant and renowned writers, artists, and speakers to address an issue essential to our times. How can our preachers,
prophets, writers, actors and poets help us to see the world through others’ eyes? The spoken, written and embodied word often has the power to bring about catharsis and transformation. Image, narrative and metaphor often hold the secrets of deeper truths. Can a society rediscover an empathy, compassion and depth of understanding that crosses divides and prejudices and widens perspectives? Can mercy ‘season’ justice? Are
mercy and accountability compatible? Shakespeare’s Portia suggests mercy becomes a blessing to both the one who gives and the one who receives. Jesus said ‘Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.’ (Matt 5.7) In this exciting Autumn Lecture Series we will be exploring what that means for us.

*Cover image: Christ before the High Priest, Gerrit van Honthorst. With permission from The National Gallery

Dates, Times & Book

Mon 18 Nov 7:00 PM Free Book

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