Sunday Poetry: Psalm 23, King James Version

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Given the holiday, I thought I would find a nice Easter poem to share today. Take this as a friendly warning – do not go to any of the poetry websites and search for poems about Easter. You will be assaulted with bad poetry. They will range from “humorous” poems about Easter bunnies, through trite religious sentiments all the way to ponderous theological crap. The only decent Easter poem I was able to find was “Easter, 1916” by William Butler Yeats, which is not about Easter at all.

Perhaps Easter would receive more poetical tribute if it rhymed with orange, and thus settled a recurring problem for versifiers.

So, as frustrated by my Easter search as the finder of 11 eggs, I turned to one of my favorite pieces of religious writing, though it comes from what we Christians call the Old Testament, and fails most of my rigid, orthodox tests of what a poem ought to be.

It has no rhyme. It has no articulable rhythm. I didn’t learn it in an English class.

But it’s as poetic a piece of writing as you’ll ever find. It has lent strength to the suffering, and reassurance to those in need. Its images are some of the most famous in the world. Reading it gives me a sense that only great writing can deliver – a sense of being in the presence of something greater than all understanding.

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