Living Streams: A Response to Psalm 42

Like as the hart desireth the water brooks

Psalm 42 is one of my all time favourites, I love its opening line:

  1. LIKE as the hart desireth the water-brooks: so longeth my soul after thee, O God.

In English, though not in Hebrew, this translation offers us that other sense of the deepest desires of the heart, which is, of course what the psalm is all about. And I love the image of the ‘water brooks’ the ‘living streams’ the ‘fontes aquarum’ as it was in the old Latin translation.

So it was a pleasure to make this response to the psalm, and to remind myself that though I am also an author of ‘dusty books’ and my words too have ‘rung from pulpits’, in the end it is not the words about God that we want, but God himself.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

XLII Quemadmodum

You are my heart’s desire from first to last

Like as the hart desires the water brooks

So longs my soul towards you, so I thirst


For living streams, not for the dusty books

They write about you, nor the empty words

That ring from pulpits, nor the haughty looks


Of those who market you. These are the shards

Of broken idols. I long for the deep

In you that calls the deep in me, the chords


That sound those depths and summon me to weep

At first with tears of grief and then with tears

Of joy, that I may sow those tears and reap


A timeless harvest, that the ripened  ears

Of grain may shine as clean and clear as gold

Shucked of the husk of all my wasted years.


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Filed under christianity, Poems

22 responses to “Living Streams: A Response to Psalm 42

  1. David C Brown

    Thank you; There is nothing greater than the knowledge of God.
    And, I like that word, “shucked”.

  2. Dear Sir: I’m wondering if you are thinking of writing a responsive poem for Psalms 42-43 as a unit. I’d love to see it. Shalom, Curt Gesch

  3. lynndmorrissey

    This is powerful, Malcolm…. that insatiable desire to drink at the fountainhead of God, His refreshing, endless supply of living water. And your idea of sowing tears and reaping a timeless harvest, reminds me of these lines from Ps 126: “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Wishing you joy and a huskless life (I’m penning that line in my journal and praying I’ll not waste more of this gift of life God gives me each day).

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks yes I was also riffing on ps 126 (another favourite)

      • lynndmorrissey

        You are always riffing! 🙂
        BTW, we have four resident fawns in our backyard. We could barely believe how small they were (and frankly still are) or that the mama could have carried four! Yikes! They’ve brought us great pleasure and super photo ops.

  4. lynndmorrissey

    Malcolm, you obviously employ a lot of alliteration, assonance, and often, inner rhymes in your poetry. Do you so much consciously do this, or do these devices simply sing forth as you write, almost automatically. I only write free verse, and find that these often emerge unbidden. Just curious about your writing process.

    • malcolmguite

      Most of them emerge ‘spontaneously’ but I think that is because I am soaked in so much classic poetry and so much in love with the sound of the English Language

      • lynndmorrissey

        This is what I suspected. I just think that some people have the music of language in their breath and blood; it can’t help but emerge. And yes, the more you soak in beautiful, lyrical language, the more it bubbles forth in what you write (your breadth of knowledge of classic poetry is staggering). I’m a vocalist (in a pro Bach chorus), and I do think there can be a lyrical connection between singing and writing. I keep thinking of how your mother would be so proud to see the poetic voice in you that she helped engender keep singing through all you write. thank you for sharing with us a bit of your personal “process.”

      • malcolmguite


  5. Barbara Parry

    Like the grain analogy!

  6. Angela Morrison

    Thank you Malcolm, this is so beautiful

  7. Rob

    Rich and beautiful poem, from beginning to end. I enjoyed the contrast between true religion and an academic one. And the ending was very moving as we look long for redemption’s culmination.

  8. Liz Campbell

    Beautiful. I really appreciated this one.

  9. Pingback: Bring Me To Thy Holy Hill: A Response To Psalm 43 | Malcolm Guite

  10. MaryAnn Shisler

    Beautiful reflection that takes me deep into my soul and the mystery of the Holy. Thank you!

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