Ode to a Nightingale v Psalm 29

“In some melodious plot of beechen green, and shadows numberless”, is the location of Keats’ nightingale, and the place of a particular perspective on a world made glorious by sunshine through Springtime leaves below a deep blue sky.  Komorebi, I have learnt, is a Japanese word used to describe “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through trees”, and seems to fit this experience.  It is just one of the wonders of the countryside that we may be experiencing at the moment, in this glorious weather; others, many much more dramatic, appear in the psalms.  At the end of the Common Worship prayer for Psalm 29, said this morning, we beseech Christ to, "open our eyes to see the vision of your [God’s] glory”, as the author pours forth one picture after another of the wonder and power of the natural world. The psalm itself ascribing to nature the voice of the Lord.


Keats literally heard the sound of the nightingale; what we hear in the understanding of the psalmist, again in the words of the concluding prayer, is the music of the Lord’s voice, in special moments that are just as potently glorious, but bound in the feel of the air, the scent of the wood, the sight of light and shadow, and the flickering movement of sunshine, glittering from the pale green of newly emerged leaves.  All is fresh: air, light, leaf and sky.  We don’t need analysis, just the right angle and a mind ready to, “Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget/What thou among the leaves hast never known […]”


What Keats found, that mid-May woodland day, was to be transported by beauty to a place where his and all the, “[…] weariness, the fever, and the fret/Here where men sit and hear each other groan”, had vanished in the bliss of the nightingale’s song.  The music of the Lord’s voice in Psalm 29, is a proclamation not of a sound so beautiful that all is forgotten, but a voice of glorious might that gives strength and blessing, ascribing the powers of heaven to the action and capacity of God’s shaking and intent; a message conveyed from thundering seas to mighty mountains, that all this is held in the palm of God’s hand.


St Patrick, who I don’t think would have sat easily with Keats’ drug-like capitulation to beauty, picked up a powerful sense of God’s protection and reassurance, reflected in the world around him, in his famous “Breastplate”, in which he sees himself literally as binding to himself the Trinity, and all that the Triune God is, as armour to the soul that frets and weakens in the very path of life itself.  “The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace”, ends the morning psalm today, and yet begins the day in the confidence that, as the new dawn appears, and the sunlight fills the sky from 93 million miles away, it is more than warm, dappled light and beauty that take possession of our souls, but the very love of the Father; the gift of his crucified and risen Son, and the power of the Spirit, promised to his Church and felt and known at Pentecost.  


A new day; a new binding on of all that God holds out to us: creation, redemption, sanctification.  Again, in these ten days after the Ascension Day, we wait and watch and pray with those first disciples, and the women who were amongst Christ’s most blessed and loving friends.  Let us know once more, today, their confidence and their hope.


John Mann