Peace to thee

A friend of mine just returned from a Holocaust conference in Germany. He briefed me on it over lunch today, not only on Nazi atrocities but on the uncongenial relationships between Europeans and Jews in history. Another friend of mine is a retired Israeli social worker who has me listening to BBC Arabic to improve my Arab ear. Atrocities, politics, the Middle East — they’re hard to get away from these days.

Jerusalem especially is hard to get away from. In Hebrew it means “Vision of Peace,” but in Arabic it has a different name: al-Quds, “the Holy.” Arabic speakers almost always and only use this name of Jerusalem. Both names have the vice of being empirically and obviously false. Jerusalem has been as holy and peaceful for the last 2,000 years as the Holy Roman Empire was holy and Roman and an empire. And yet Jerusalem endures. It is like Adam and all his children: fallen, disappointing, weak, vicious, dying, and yet with impossible glories promised for the future.

One of my favorite poems is Psalm 122. It’s a song of ascents for Hebrew pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem. One of my longstanding projects is to metricize the psalms as an interpretive and poetic exercise. So from this jumble of related threads comes today’s poem: a metrical version of 122, meant to take what the psalm requests (“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”) and express it performatively. It’s written especially for the tune Beech Spring, an American folk tune and Sacred Harp melody. (A flute-and-strings version of the folk tune is here, and the hymn arrangement here.)

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Psalm 122

Come with me to holy Zion,
To the house of prayer and grace;
And our feet shall stand together
In that sweet and holy place.
Peace be with thee, peace around thee,
Peace upon thee without end,
Peace to every soul who loves thee,
Peace to thee, Jerusalem.

O Jerusalem, how lovely
Thou art fashioned, stone to stone,
Round the mount that stands forever
At the everlasting throne.
And the tribes of all the nations
Join together and ascend
To the place where God has met us
And has made His peace with men.

Peace be with thee, peace around thee,
Peace upon thee without end,
Peace of God and man surround thee,
Peace to thee, Jerusalem.
For my brethren and companions
I will bless thee yet again:
Peace of Father, Son, and Spirit,
Keep us evermore. Amen.


About middlingpoet

From the Gawain poet to Rainer Maria Rilke: I love traditional poetry.
This entry was posted in Current Events, Hymns, Psalms and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Peace to thee

  1. Pingback: A New Hymn | Theology Central

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