In our poetic journey through the psalms we come now to psalm 51, the great psalm of David’s repentance and renewal, and so also of ours. From the time these words helped David to confess his sin and come back to God to be cleansed, indeed, remade in his grace they have also provided very generation with the words of return, the courage of honesty, the promise and achievement of a new beginning. For those of us who encounter and pray the psalms in our liturgy, those of us for whom each psalm is still a song, the words of this psalm are inextricably linked with the astringent beauty of Allegri’s setting of the Miserere which we here sung always on Ash Wednesday but also on other occasions when we need it, and my poetic response is both to the psalm itself and to Allegri’s beautiful setting of it.
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.
LI Miserere mei, Deus
He calls you to discern his time and season.
The sempiternal season of his mercy
Lifts like the sun above your dark horizon.
Expose your darkness, sing your miserere,
His light will judge, and judging, heal your sin.
Then bathe in sheer beauty, as Allegri
Sounds out your penitence, and let Christ clean
Your soul once more and scrub out every stain
Washing you thoroughly. For he has seen
What you confess and what you hide. Again
He mends your broken bones and makes for you
A clean heart, comes to comfort you again,
Comes with his Holy Spirit to renew
The spirit in you, calling you to sing
Of all your loving God has done for you.
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