Thursday, February 27

David of Chapter 16 and 17

Who is this youth, fresh from wooly fields,
Emissary bearing bread and cheese
To trembling troops in tented camp?
It had been priorly said,
When a skillful harpist was sought
To allay the darkness of a tortured king’s soul,
“I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite,
Skillful in playing,
A man of valor
A man of war
Prudent in speech,
A man of good presence”
And then this final note, the capstone cadence,
“And the Lord is with him.”

It is this son of Jesse whose presence
Now captivates bystanders
And angers elder brothers as
He boldly questions
The sound of thunderous jeering
Resounding over soldiers shivering in fear,
“Come out and fight man to man,
Cowards the lot of you!”
Michelangelo's DAVID

The harpist hears the dissonant growl
Parsing its true meaning,
“Who is this Philistine that he should
Taunt the armies of the living God?”
Youthful fervor, incredulity, passion,
Infuse and fire desire to 
Silence dripping insults.

A brief interview before the King,
A trial of armor quickly flung aside,
Resolve like a mountain
Steadies piercing eyes and 
      gathering brows,
Muscles bulging with justice,
Nostrils flaring for battle,
Strong, large hands reaching 
      for familiar weapon.

A clear brook yields five smooth stones,
Small rocks crying out with the wisdom of ages
“We have survived the flood, the hail, the darkness
And this is our moment, our call to sublime duty.”
Rejoicing, they fall securely into shepherds pouch.

With practiced, sure movement the Harpist Warrior
Rushes confidently forward
Solitary, yet a multitude
Backed by charging bear
And roaring lion,
Blood coursing through manly veins
Hallowed by honor and godliness.

At the epicenter of the conflict-
The good name of God.
He will not have it,
This dragging through the refuse heap
The honor of One whose companionship and glory
He has grown to love over youthful years,
Neath starlit skies and bleats of young lamblings
Searching for mother ewe’s milk.

The roots and tenderness of family and country
Are burned deep and long align with Godward gaze.
His mission is clear.
He has been a giant slayer long before this monstrous day.

Some good sayings have their origins in
Fables and myths of old where truth is ferreted
Out of magical spinnery.

This saying,
“in the blink of an eye”
Bleeds headlines true, 
As a ruddy youth
Takes the man-beast by surprise,
His evil roar stopping midstream
When strong practiced hands
Aim with swift precision,
Hurling lone antique projectile,
Smooth, round, lethal,
Piercing forehead skull,
A deep, quick, merciful blow,
A blinding silencing of the foe.

No longer the verdict of one courtier;
Now all have seen
“The son of Jesse the Bethlehemite,
Skillful in playing,
A man of valor
A man of war
Prudent in speech,
A man of good presence”
And then this final note, the capstone cadence,
The clue to the giant’s dangling head,  
Ghastly, bloody in young victor’s hand,
“And the Lord is with him.”

                                             © 2014, Nancy Gerst

 Based on the story of David slaying Goliath from the Old Testament, I Samuel, chapters 16 and 17.

More about the sculpture DAVID:   with travel commentary by Rick Steves; and insights about the work in commentary from Robert Bloem, at the University of Colorado Boulder.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Arthur Honegger's KING DAVID, complete (Le Roi David)

Text here including the original French (from the Genevan Psalter) and English. 

Thursday, February 20

So Many Stars, So Many Flowers

So many stars, so many flowers adorning
Life’s paths from crystal cathedral heavens
To earth’s deepest bourgeoning bowers.
I cannot contain all the joy they sing out,
All their ripening beauty too rich for rhetoric,
Each a magic universe bustling about.

Is this streak of unseen light wasted,
An anonymous eddy in time?
Is that velvet petal, demure in its forest floor retreat,
Unspectacular because it lacked my gaze?

Oh eyeless, gibbering heart!
The hallowed hiddenness of tiny or distant things
Points to the ineffable vastness
Of One who knows each bud in its
Elegance, magnificence, and transience,         
One who names each star and charts its
Flaming path through time and space,
A world of artistry launched into existence
By Marksman’s hands deft in their aim,
Ideas destined to beautify in grand mystique,
A cosmos eluding comprehension,
Yet made for our delight as we sip the
Juice of its Spirited sweetness.

© 2014 Nancy Gerst 

Sure on This Shining Night 
choral setting by Morten Lauridsen with spectacular photos of the celestial skies.

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night 

I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.  
                          James Agee, 1934                

Photos below by Raleigh photographer Katherine Micks.