Since the publication of my new poetry collection David’s Crown, I have had a number of enquiries about the symbolism in the beautiful cover illustration made for me by the artist Rebecca Merry, who also did the lovely cover for Sounding the Seasons. David’s crown is subtitled ‘Sounding the Psalms’ and is in some senses a companion volume to Sounding the Seasons. Sounding the Seasons was a cycle of 70 sonnets going through the full circle of the Christian Year from Advent to the feast of Christ the King, and David’s Crown is a special sequence, a ‘corona’ or crown of 150 linked poems taking you through the complete cycle of the 150 psalms. Given the connections and parallels between the two collections I thought it would be wonderful to invite the same artist back to illustrate the new book and I was delighted she agreed.
Rebecca’s cover for Sounding the Seasons consisted of a beautiful roundel with a cross at the centre and the four quarters of the circle each illustrating both one of the four elements, of earth, air, water and fire, and also each of the four seasons. Just as there was the cross of Christ in the centre so also the emblems of Christ’s passion were placed at all the compass points of the circle with the crown of thorns at the top and his pierced hands and feet at the sides and the foot of the design. This beautifully expressed the theology and symbolism of the poems in that sequence: Christ at the heart of the world he loved and gave his life for and also beyond and transcending it.
In making the new design for David’s Crown I asked Rebecca to reprise some of those earlier motifs but also to add some new ones concentrating particularly on the Corona Spinea, the crown of thorns, representing christ’s passion and compassion with us in our own Corona crisis, but also blossoming into roses the sign of his eternal love, the love that took him to the cross.
There is also a motif of prayer beads in the design: a Rosary of five ‘decades’ or groups of 10 beads. We included this because the original chaplets or ‘coronas’ of beads were first used in the early church for counting off the psalms themselves, or short prayers based on the psalms, before they later became associated with Mary and became the ‘rosary or ‘rosarium’, the rose-garden of prayer, in which Mary os the type and example of the praying soul and the church at prayer. I conceived my own corona of psalm-prayer-poems, as a new psalmic rosary, each poem a fingered bede of prayer, the linked lines leading on from one to the other.
Rebecca has achieved this beautifully in her design. another strong motif in the poem is that transfiguration of the corona, or crown itself, the way Jesus, because he has first worn the crown of thorns will finally wear the crown of gold, and so will we, in and through him. Finally we brought in the motif of King David himself, the shepherd who becomes a king and is the type and forerunner of Jesus, the son of David, the good shepherd and the true king. So the crown of thorns at the top of the sounding the Seasons design now becomes a crown of Gold, and the wounded hands at each side of the earlier design now become the hands that hold the lyre, on one side to symbolise David’s poetry and the sceptre with the star of David on the other to symbolise his kingly rule, but the pierced feet at the bottom of the circle remain the same, to show that for the Christian the true meaning of all the psalms, and of all my poems in response to them, is founded and fulfilled in the Passion of Christ.
Many of these motifs come out in my poetic response to psalm 21, a coronation psalm, which I am pasting in below.
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.
There is also going to be a launch event/webinar on Feb 11th at 7pm GMT it will be completely free and you can register for it Here.
Now may you find in Christ, riches and rest
May you be blessed in him, and he in you
In Heaven, where to grant you your request
Is always blessing, for your heart is true:
True to yourself and true to Christ your king.
Breathe through this coronation psalm and view
The glory of his golden crown, then sing
The exaltation, goodness, life and power,
The blessing and salvation Christ will bring.
But first he wears a darker crown. The hour
Is coming and has come. Our Lord comes down
Into the heart of all our hurts to wear
With us the sharp corona spina, crown
Of thorns, and to descend with us to death
Before he shares with us the golden crown.
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