Morning! Welcome to Monday’s Zeph@10am with Jenny. I thought I’d share a happy poem with you this morning……
Funeral Blues – W. H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
I first came across Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’ whilst watching ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Little has stuck in my head from the film (except that it definitely featured some weddings and a funeral, and woman with the nickname ‘Duckface’), but this poem stuck. It made it into my notebook of collected poems. I thought I’d share it with you today, because it seems to reflect something of the song – not Psalm – of David that I’m looking at today. It’s not in Psalms. It’s in 2 Samuel 1:17-27. Perhaps you’d like to have a read now.
I double-checked the meaning of the word ‘psalm’ this morning. It means a sacred song, so this is definitely not a psalm. However, it is a song of David and in my meanderings through his life, it comes at one of the most significant points. Saul, and his son Jonathan, have been killed in battle against the Philistines. For David, it finally lifts the danger that he has been fleeing and hiding from for so long, as the person who was trying to kill him is dead himself. It removes the barrier to God’s promise for his future taking place, and he is about to be anointed king. But it also marks the loss of his closest friend.
I commented last Monday that I wasn’t sure how much I really liked David. From what I had seen in his Psalms, there was a lot of whinging, if we’re being honest. David was quite keen to see the enemies of God (i.e. the enemies of David) fail and be punished. With that as the back drop – with David’s biggest enemy dead – the tone of this song is unexpected. It could have been a song of triumph. It is not. It could have been a song of praise to God that his enemies had indeed got their comeuppance. It is not. It goes quite some way to restore David’s character in my estimation. He chooses to ignore all the attempts to kill him and instead focuses on Saul’s strengths – he was a mighty hero, good with a sword, swift and strong. He was beloved and gracious. His leadership brought great wealth to his people. (Red dye for fabric was more difficult to come by and expensive).
The thing that struck me most about this song, however, was not its content so much, but rather, ‘he commanded that it be taught to the people of Judah’ (v18). David took control of the political narrative if you like – but chose to take it in a direction that another person may not have done. He could have cast aspersions on his political predecessor, but he didn’t.
Like David – and Auden – we are currently in mourning. We may be mourning a particular person. Too many families have lost someone recently. We are all mourning the loss of normality; seeing people; taking part in our normal activities. We all have an event that we had been looking forward to that is now curtailed or cancelled. Perhaps take a few minutes to tell God about those particular things, and how you feel – poetry not required!
There are those who hold similar power to David in our own country and across the world. Unfortunately a global health pandemic is also a political event. The two cannot be separated. Governments will rise or fall as a result of their handling of the situation. There will be politicians everywhere who will be trying to control the political narrative. Let’s pray now for a few more David’s, attempting to keep the narrative positive and constructive.
Unlike David, we do not have the power to control the narrative across a whole nation. We do, however, have control over our little bit – our corner of social media, our kitchen table, our socially distanced interactions. We can choose to be genuine, or to put on a front. We can choose to be helpful or unhelpful in our responses. I’ve seen too many friends feeling pushed off social media lately because of the unkind or unhelpful responses of other people. Given how few our interactions are at the moment, let’s pray that God will help us make sure that those we do have are a force for good in the world.
“Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
I think it might be time for a coffee? Have a good day!