Daily Archives: June 15, 2020

The Heavens Declare the Glory: my response to psalm 19

under mysterious starlight

In my series ‘David’s Crown’, an interwoven ‘corona’ of responses to The Book of Psalms, we have come to Psalm 19, one of the most famous and beautiful of all the psalms, with its wonderful opening line:

  1. THE heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

It was CS Lewis’s favourite psalm, and Michael Ward has shown in his brilliant book Planet Narnia how deeply Lewis responded both to the beauty of the stars and planets and also to the wonderful penumbra of poetry song and story that has been associated in all ages and cultures with their radiance, their dance through the skies, and the sense they give us of an eternal splendour above ‘the changes and chances of this fleeting world’. This psalm is also a favourite of mine and I approached it with some trepidation, but in the end I found in it an invitation just to enjoy and celebrate beauty in verse.

In this poem ‘the complete consort dancing’ is a quotation from Eliot’s four quartets, and the idea that the stars are themselves words in God’s poem is drawn from Coleridge’s insight, in Frost at Midnight, that all the appearances of nature are themselves ‘ the lovely shapes and sounds intelligible/of that eternal language which they God/utters.

It has been lovely to come to a psalm which for a moment leaves agony and struggle behind, and is sheer celebration. I hope you enjoy it too.

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.

 

XIX Caeli enarrant

In that still place where earth and heaven meet

Under mysterious starlight, raise your head

And gaze up at their glory:  ‘the complete

 

Consort dancing’ as a poet said

Of his own words. But these are all God’s words;

A shining poem, waiting to be read

 

Afresh in every heart. Now look towards

The brightening east, and see the splendid sun

Rise and rejoice, the icon of his lord’s

 

True light. Be joyful with him, watch him run

His course, receive the gift and treasure of his light

Pouring like honeyed gold till day is done

 

As sweet and strong as all God’s laws, as right

As all his judgements and as clean and pure,

All given for your growth, and your delight!

 

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