Daily Archives: June 2, 2020

Two New Poems In My Corona On The Psalms: ‘The Fool’ and ‘The Holy Hill’

In my new sequence of poems written in response to The Psalms we have come to psalm 14, with its portrait of human folly and insolence and it famous opening line: THE fool hath said in his heart: There is no God. We can certainly recognise the characteristics of those who, whatever religiosity they profess with their mouths, have nothing of God on their hearts, and the psalmist’s portrait has been as telling in every previous generation as it is in ours:

Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues have they deceived: the poison of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known ; there is no fear of God before their eyes.

The danger however, with psalms like this is that we use them to point the finger at others rather than to hold up as a mirror to ourselves. Sometimes it’s the contrasts in the sequencing of the psalms that brings us up short. Psalm 15 provides a contrasting portrait to the fool of psalm 14. It starts with the searching question: LORD, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle: or who shall rest upon thy holy hill? and then goes on to paint the portait of a righteous man, which is in direct, almost point by point contrast with the portrait of the fool:

He that leadeth an uncorrupt life: and doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart. He that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbour: and hath not slandered his neighbour. He that setteth not by himself, but is lowly in his own eyes: and maketh much of them that fear the Lord.

Of course if I try to hold this psalm up as a mirror, I see not my own face, but the face of my saviour. Only he can ascend that ‘holy hill’ and I will have to ascend with him or not at all. But, thanks be to God, he has come to have mercy on the fool as well as the wise man.

Because of all the ways these two psalms are contrasted and linked I am posting my two poems in response together so that they can be read in sequence. As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalms’ into the search box on the right. I hope you enjoy the poems.

XIV Dixit insipiens

When heaven’s hidden gates are drawn apart

And our captivity is ended, we’ll rejoice,

But now the fool’s in charge, and in his heart

 

He only echoes his own emptiness:

No god, no vestiges of reverence

Disturb his vanity. Just weariness

 

And mockery, just cruel insolence,

And greed that still consumes the poor like bread,

These only seem to move him. Violence

 

Is like a drug to him. He cocks his head

And speaks his poison words with hissing tongue

And yet we still believe him.  Let him dread

 

The day that’s coming, it will not be long.

The poor have cried, and now they have been heard

The fool will fall before their joyful song.

 

XV Domine, quis habitabit?

The fool will fall before their joyful song

But maybe I will fall with him as well.

You know me Lord, you know how much I long

 

To rise with you, how much I long to dwell

Within your tabernacle, to ascend

The path that glimmers on your holy hill,

 

But you know too how much I just pretend

To virtues not my own, I am not fit

For that ascent. I fail unless you lend

 

Your strength and take my life and make of it

A new life altogether. Oh descend

Into my darkness, lift me from the pit

 

And set me on the way that you intend

How ever slow and spiralling the path

Then help me, step by step, my guide and friend.

 

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