Quare Fremuerunt Gentes: A reflection on psalm 2

Back to the fountain where those waters spill
That christened you as his belovèd child

Continuing with my new poetry sequence,corona, A Crown For David, and for David’s Son, which I am weaving in response to the psalms, I come to the second psalm Quare Fremuerunt Gentes?  as it is titled in the Psalter of the Book of Common Prayer, my own devotional and the source text for this whole endeavour. That psalm opens with the question: “Why do the heathen so furiously rage together: and why do the people imagine a vain thing?’ and it goes on to contrast that raging with the beauty and mercy of the true king of the nations: ‘Yet have I set my King: upon my holy hill of Sion.’

My poems are neither a new translation of the psalms nor a learned commentary, but rather a contemporary prayer journal, an account of what it is like to read and pray through these ancient words now and let them speak into our own condition. Meditating on this psalm it seemed to me that whereas it once spoke into the conflicts of ancient Israel, now it speaks into the fury and rage of the call-out culture on social media, the horrible persecution of innocent people by the trolls and the haters, and that is where the poem took me. So this poem goes out particularly to those who have suffered at the hands of ‘the hunters and the haters who hold say/in raging twitter storms’ and I hope my poem might mediate some of the psalmist’s steady confidence into their souls and mine. The final images are drawn from Dante: from that moment at the end of the Purgatorio when he steps through the raging fire and back into the garden and its cleansing waters, and from that moment, later in the Paradiso where he learns from Beatrice that ‘in his will is our peace’.

If you’re new to this series, you can read the firs poem, Beatus Vir, Here

As always you can her me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

II Quare Fremuerunt Gentes


Then let the chaff of life just blow away

The cynic scoffer and the evil troll,

The hunters and the haters who hold sway


In raging twitter storms, the ones who scroll

Through hate- and hit-lists in their tiny rage,

Are dust upon the mirror of your soul.


Blow them away, the idols of this age,

And let their fury settle in the mire.

Uncap your pen and open a clean page


For now the Lord will give you your desire

And set you high upon his holy hill.

He draws you to the garden through the fire


Back to the fountain where those waters spill

That christened you as his belovèd child

That you may find your peace in his good will.


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Filed under imagination, Poems

22 responses to “Quare Fremuerunt Gentes: A reflection on psalm 2

  1. Laurel Clark

    Found you through Steve Bell’s From the Vault and I am grateful!

  2. Stuart Brrown

    Beautiful and such an inspiration to reject this dross. Thank You !

  3. I am looking forward to this series. The first two poems did not disappoint! Over the years, I have written at least two haiku on each psalm–the first series sought to capture the theme of the psalm. The second came from meditation on word or phrase associations–often calling forth a memory of my past. Again, thank you for what has come and what is yet to be. Peace, LaMon

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks that sounds fascinating. It must have been quite a challenge to keep the haikus going especially with some of the more challenging psalms, as I shall doubtless discover with my own efforts

    • David C Brown

      Can we see them?

  4. Ben Hopkinson

    Dear Malcolm, thank you so much for all you send. I’m not good at responding to people but I do want to say how helpful I am finding your psalm reflections (all two, so far!) Let me say, too, what wonderful relief your Quarantyine Quatrains are.
    I believe you know my niece and nephew-in-law, Alison and Michael Wilcockson and Paul Dominiak, who was in one of my confirmation classes.

    Many thanks and all good wishes,

    Ben Hopkinson.

  5. Brian Wunder

    Really fine work.  Thank you.

  6. Malcolm, I am so looking forward to reading the rest of these. The images in the first poem are lovely, although I have a question about the first word in the last triplet. It currently says ‘sowly’, but did you mean ‘slowly?’ 🙂

    Best – Jody Collins

  7. philippe.garmy@okstate.edu

    O that we weary, battered pilgrims carrying on this life’s daily struggled trail, should find such sweet grace, comfort and delight in reading and listening deeply to your holy nursing rhymes…
    Deo gratias

  8. Loving your reflections and meditations.It is all so inspiring. ✨

  9. Pingback: Two new poems from my ‘corona’ on the psalms | Malcolm Guite

  10. Pingback: The 6th poem in my corona on the psalms | Malcolm Guite

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  13. I enjoyed this poem. The line “He draws you to the garden through the fire” made me think of the Garden of Eden, and the fire of the Holy Spirit, but also the fire of suffering. There is no way around the fire, but at least there is a garden on the other side!

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