‘Hearken O Daughter’: a Response to Psalm 45

After another brief break, this time for a pilgrimage to Canterbury and beyond, I resume the love-worn thread of the time-worn psalter, and we come now to psalm 45. In making my response I was tempted, of course, by its famous phrase ‘My tongue is the pen of a ready writer’ to write about writing itself and make a poem about poetry. But there is an older and richer tradition of interpretation for this psalm and I was drawn to that instead. That older tradition is to draw from this psalm some phrases and images that help us appreciate and bless Mary, the mother of our Lord. The scripture tells us that all generations will call her blessed and rightly so. Scholars think this psalm, with its image of the kings daughters, the handmaidens, the queen in a vesture of gold, may well have been set for a royal wedding, but from early on Christians found themselves thinking of Mary when they read it, and so I have taken occasion of this psalm to write another poem in her honour. I was brought up in the reformed tradition, which tended to ignore Mary in reaction to what they thought was Catholic ‘mariolotary’ but anyone who venerates Jesus must stand in awe of the one through whose obedience and courage he came into the world, the one to whom God entrusted his upbringing, and who, in Luke’s gospel, is filled with the spirit and speaks prophetic words. There is a deep sense in which every Christian must be like Mary and say to God ‘ Be it unto me according to thy word’, and like Mary, try to bear Christ fruitfully into the world and bring others to him.

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.

XLV Eructavit cor meum

And still we live as if we have forgotten

But someone keeps all these things in her heart.

Who bore for us the only one begotten,


The Son of God. And now she takes our part

And calls us to remember all his mercy

Calls us with all our skill, and all our art


To magnify his name, for it is holy

For now she dwells with him, in joy and gladness,

The Mystic Rose of heaven, once so lowly


Whose heart was also pierced, who feels our sadness

And shows us how to pray. Each generation

Has known her help and presence, heard her witness


The great things done through her. In every nation

She nurtures those who bear Christ to the world,

Through her our saviour came, Love’s revelation.


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1 Comment

Filed under christianity, Poems

One response to “‘Hearken O Daughter’: a Response to Psalm 45

  1. lynndmorrissey

    Lovely, Malcolm!! I was not raised in the Reformed tradition, but Baptist, and am now, Reformed. I understand what you are saying about Mary, from that perspective. I have always been deeply moved by Mary’s obedience as a young virgin, when who knows what she may have thought when “visited” by that mighty angelic being, Gabriel, or how God’s great Holy Spirit would come upon her to conceive Christ, or the ridicule she would face, or her life as she raised Jesus, always with that sword that would pierce her soul, dangling continuously over her life, and then finally letting Him go, witnessing His excruciating Crucifixion (yes, words that are redundant in their pain). There is much to be learned and emulated and admired from Mary’s courageous, humble example. And in times of my own long overdue surrender to the Lord on various occasions in my life, I finally utter, “Let it be to me as You have said.” (Why don’t I surrender sooner??)
    PS Surely you know of Levertov’s marvelous poem, Annunciation, one of my favorite Mary poems, and L’Engle’s comparison of Mary’s oft-quoted words as applied to artists (of all kinds) and the birth of their creative works.

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