Psalm 87 gives us a moment of visionary uplift, much needed, before we plunge down into the shadows of psalm 88. It is a vision of Zion, the holy city, set upon a hill:
- HER foundations are upon the holy hills: the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
- Very excellent things are spoken of thee: thou city of God.
But perhaps the most significant phrase in the psalm is the final one:All my fresh springs shall be in thee. This speaks of more than an earthly city but the deep well, the spring of love arising from the presence of God in our own souls, for the true Sion is within us. I sometimes wonder if John Milton had this psalm in mind in the moving section of Book III of Paradise Lost where he says that in spite of his blindness:
Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred Song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit:
I certainly had Milton in mind when I wrote my own response to this psalm, and looked to him for example and inspiration in my own long poetic endeavour.
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 ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.
Kindle these lines with all your quickening powers,
For all my springs of life arise from you,
And like blind Milton in his midnight hours
I visit Sion’s hill in dreams. I view
Siloam’s sacred brook and bathe my soul
In those pure streams that cleanse me and renew
My vision and my purpose, make me whole
And sound again. The city of my God
Shines clear once more upon his holy hill,
My feet are set upon the royal road
That leads me through these shadowlands, until
I hear the trumpets, and set down my load,
Beside the river bank and drink my fill
From that deep well of light at last and hear
My saviour’s words of welcome: ‘all is well!’
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