Returning to my series on the psalms, we come now to psalm 17, a favourite for many reasons, not least because it is the source of many of the most beautiful and comforting phrases in the lovely service of Compline. Compline, or ‘night prayer’ is the final service of the day and its name is derived from the Latin completorium as it is spoken and sung at the completion of the day. One of the joys and privileges in my role as chaplain at Girton college is to sing compline, late on each tuesday night with our wonderful college choir, but anyone can say or sing it, and in this lockdown, away from college, my wife and I have said it together. In fact she has made a podcast of that for others to join in, which you can find HERE. There is so much to love in this service but i am especially moved by the response:
V:Keep me as the apple of an eye
R: Hide me under the shadow of thy wings
All these phrases are drawn from psalm 17, a psalm which has the beautiful ending:
But as for me, I will behold thy presence in righteousness: and when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it.
So when I came to make my response to this psalm I decided to make it a poem of thanksgiving for the comfort of Compline and to reflect on how the beauty of that service serves to re-enchant a disenchanted world.
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.
Oh comfort me until I fall no more.
In this dark season when I am so frail
And fearful, comfort me. I stand before
You in your house at evening. I avail
Myself of compline’s long familiar chant
To call on you. I ask you to prevail
Over the powers that dull and disenchant
Over the scoffing of a world that’s steeped
In its own excess. And instead to plant
Me firmly by your waters, and to keep
Me as the apple of an eye, to hide
Me in the shadow of your wings. I’ll sleep
In peace and take my rest. I will abide
In your rich presence now, and when I wake
I will behold you, and be satisfied.