There was a big high wall there
that tried to stop me.
And a sign was painted:
It said “Private Property.”
But on the back side
it didn’t say nothin’ …
This land was made for you and me.Woody Guthrie, This Land Is Your Land
… but this apocalyptic song has been running through my head lately.
Ah love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.from Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold
Apparently, based on the YouTube comments, the following song has been out for six months. I just discovered it last week, playing the country station on my car radio while running errands, and it quickly became my theme song for the week.
It’s just so doggoned unifying.
Also, I like the phrase “one big …”, as in an earlier Andrew Klavan quote, “It was like the whole country was one big series of bad choices.”
And though this song is upbeat, there is a certain insight to calling life “one big country song,” because country as a genre can be pretty tragic. You know what they say: if you play a country song backwards, you get your wife back, you get your truck back, you get your dog back …
In the video at the bottom, skip all the initial stuff which you may find to be a rant. He starts talking about Imagine at 37:30. He reads the existing verses, then makes up two of his own. Or, you can just read my transcription below.
“Imagine only good stuff happening
And really good stuff, too
No bad stuff, no sad stuff,
And no mad stuff too.
Imagine everyone’s happy
And they are being real nice
No one’s being super mean
And there are no fights.
“That’s just something from my heart. That’s where my heart is right now. You know, listening to this song, he covered a lot of stuff that we shouldn’t have like greed and hunger, but I’m thinkin’ … all the bad stuff. You know?”
“Colored People,” the classic song by D.C. Talk.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling
— even the LORD, who is my refuge —
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For He will command His angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD,
“I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”Ps. 91:1 – 16
So many things to notice about this psalm. For one thing, it’s one of the better-known psalms. The hymn “Under His Wings” is taken from it. And it’s worth noting that this poem portrays God as … a chicken. This is not the only place in the Bible where God is portrayed as a mother hen protecting her chicks under her wings. (Or, given the mention of the “fowler’s snare,” maybe in this poem a wild game bird is in view.) This is one example of how, though He is called He, the Old Testament God is also shown to be maternal.
Another thing that stands out to me is how the ancient Israelites felt just as helpless as we do in the face of violence, “disaster,” and the “deadly pestilence.”
One of my most vivid memories about this psalm came during an orientation activity when I had just arrived in Asia. A seasoned missionary read the entire thing to us, and then went on to tell a bunch of stories about times when he and people he knew had not been protected from various kinds of disaster.
Jesus knew this as well. Satan actually quotes this psalm to Him, “He will command His angels concerning you …” in Luke 4, to get Him to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. Jesus does not jump.
This is a poem. It is strangely heartening to read.
Yet it doesn’t always happen this way.
Yet it is the word of God.
I don’t understand it either.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert … Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, a sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Fun project: write a send-up of Ozymandias that stars Lord Pacal instead.
Evergreen Verse, selected by Hilary Laurie, J.M. Dent, Orion Publishing Group, London, 1998. Ozymandias on p. 89
The Magnificent Maya, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1993. Photo of Lord Pacal on p. 85