The Holy Grail
Sonnets for Heaven's Queen

Holy Grail



I read one day, in some old Breton lay, 

That underneath the opened side of Christ 

A rock, to catch the Savior’s blood, they say, 

Depressed into a cup, as soldiers diced;


And how good Joseph of the Holy Shroud 

Had marked the miracle, and took the Grail 

Of Christ’s Last Supper, and, when all the crowd 

Had left, took down His corpse from cross and nail;


And how the Chalice of the Sacrament 

He used to catch the Blood that had not ceased 

To flow from all five wounds: The Testament, 

Forever new, of our redemption’s feast. 


Yet God preferred His living Vessel most: 

O lovely Handmaid of the Holy Ghost! 





In song and story did those old trouvères 

Revere the Vessel of the God-Man’s blood, 

The quest of knights and dream of damsels fair, 

Retold from castle hall to rustic wood; 


Alighting in the village square they sang, 

Of Galahad, the noblest and the best, 

Whose legend yet rings out as once it rang, 

Of how, to find the Grail, he passed the test; 


And how the scions of one princely line, 

Of bearing gentle but of courage proud, 

In virtue deft, in charity benign, 

To view the Grail would ever be allowed. 


As only loving minds shall rise to see 

The Vessel honoured by divine decree. 





And so we spent our ages crowning thee 

With garlands woven by the hand of time; 

We praised thy beauty grace alone could see: 

It filled our poems with cadency and rhyme. 


Our finest works, of music, sculpture, art; 

Our noblest words, our every happy thought, 

Were all but celebrant of thy pure heart, 

Imperfect gifts by loving children wrought. 


We sang your Aves as we watched our sheep; 

We sang them as we tilled the grateful land; 

Or when we woke, or when we dropped to sleep, 

We passed our suns and moons with beads in hand. 


In thee the best of our poor selves we poured, 

Devotion’s Vessel, Chalice of the Lord! 

From Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen © Joseph Charles MacKenzie. All rights reserved.

Winner of the 2020 Society of Classical Poets Competition (America's highest honor in classical verse), Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet of New Mexico. He is also the only American to have won the Scottish International Poetry Competition (see: Times Literary Supplement, Jan 27, 2017). A Pushcart Prize nominee, MacKenzie's verses have appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), The Telegraph (London), and many other venues. He wirtes primarily for Trinacria (New York) and the Society of Classical Poets (New York).


  • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Thank you, Pauline Rodgerson, for your kind comment. The iambic meter of the traditional English sonnet is the poem’s heartbeat, if you will, whereas the rhyme creates the aspect of song without which there really is no poetry.

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