With the dawn of a new church year, we have launched a new feature on our website, a weekly post of poetry that resonates with the lectionary readings for that week (Revised Common Lectionary).
*** Revised Common Lectionary ***
Lectionary Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
A Soliloquy of One of the Spies
Left in the Wilderness
Gerard Manley Hopkins
He feeds me with His manna every day:
My soul does loathe it and my spirit fails.
A press of winged things comes down this way:
The gross flock call them quails.
Into my hand he gives a host for prey,
Come up, Arise and slay.
Sicken’d and thicken’d by the glare and sand,
Who would drink water from a stony rock?
Are all the manna-bushes in the land
A shelter for this flock?
Behold at Elim wells on every hand!
And seventy palms there stand.
Egypt, the valley of our pleasance, there!
Most wide ye are who call this gust Simoom.
Your parched nostrils snuff Egyptian air.
The comfortable gloom
After the sandfield and the unreined glare!
Goshen is green and fair.
Not Goshen. Wasteful wide huge-girthed Nile
Unbakes my pores, and streams, and makes all fresh.
I gather points of lote-flower from an isle
Of leaves of greenest flesh.
Ye sandblind! Slabs of water many a mile
Blaze for him all this while.
In beds, in gardens, in thick plots I stand.
Handle the fig, suck the full-sapp’d vine-shoot.
From easy runnels the rich-pieced land
I water with my foot.
Must you be gorged with proof? Did ever sand
So trickle from your hand?
Strike timbrels, sing, eat, drink, be full of mirth.
Forget the waking trumpet, the long law.
Spread o’er the swart face of this prodigal earth.
Bring in the glistery straw.
Here are sweet messes without price or worth,
And never thirst or dearth.
Give us the tale of bricks as heretofore;
To plash with cool feet the clay juicy soil.
Who tread the grapes are splay’d with stripes of gore.
And they who crush the oil
Are spatter’d. We desire the yoke we bore,
The easy burden of yore.
Who is this Moses? Who made him, we say,
To be a judge and ruler over us?
He slew the Egyptian yesterday. To-day
In hot sands perilous
He hides our corpses dropping by the way
Wherein he makes us stray.
Your hands have borne the tent-poles: on you plod:
The trumpet waxes loud: tired are your feet.
Come by the flesh-pots: you shall sit unshod
And have your fill of meat;
Bring wheat-ears from the loamy stintless sod,
To a more grateful god.
Go then: I am contented here to lie.
Take Canaan with your sword and with your bow.
Rise: match your strength with monstrous Talmai
At Kirjath-Arba: go. —
Sure, this is Nile: I sicken, I know not why,
And faint as though to die.
*** This poem is in the public domain,
and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.
David R. Slavitt
If Moses could not enter, which of us can presume?
His offense was striking the rock? But where does it say
that to strike a rock is forbidden? And what harm did he do
to the rock, that, anyway, gave the precious water?