Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Song of the Sea: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 27 with poem by Matthew Arnold, The Scholar-Gipsy

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 Ruth 2 Ezekiel 27 John 6

Daily Text: Ezekiel 27

Song of the Sea
Inserted into the middle of this beautiful poem of lament, this song of the sea, in Ezekiel 27, is a list of trading peoples and their objects of trade. The list itself is illuminating and awe-inspiring for its variety and the beauty of its variety. But the list is not the meat of the chapter. The poem is. The first strophe is a metaphor of Tyre as a beautiful, well-built and well-manned ship of commerce. The second strophe turns suddenly to see the sinking of this great ship in the heart of the seas. It is a common east wind, seen briefly, and graphically in Psalm 48:7; common it may be, but it means the end of this ship. What is not said is that the east wind is Babylonia, for Tyre is a nation, not a ship. What is also not said, is that this is a prophecy concerning Tyre’s fall given by YHWH to Judah’s prophet in exile, Ezekiel, and that Tyre’s downfall is willed by this same YHWH. For the exiles of Judah it is a clear statement that their rejected God is God not only of their people, but of all the peoples of the world. And this God’s discipline knows no borders.

from The Scholar-Gipsy
l. 232
Matthew Arnold
1822-1888

As some grave Tyrian trader, from the sea,
Descried at sunrise an emerging prow
Lifting the cool-hair’d creepers stealthily,
The fringes of a southward-facing brow
Among the Aegean isles;
And saw the merry Grecian coaster come,
Freighted with amber grapes, and Chian wine,
Green bursting figs, and tunnies steep’d in brine;
And knew the intruders on his ancient home,

The young light-hearted Masters of the waves;
And snatch’d his rudder, and shook out more sail,
And day and night held on indignantly
O’er the blue Midland waters with the gale,
Betwixt the Syrtes and soft Sicily,
To where the Atlantic raves
Outside the Western Straits, and unbent sails
There, where down cloudy cliffs, through sheets of foam,
Shy traffickers, the dark Iberians come;
And on the beach undid his corded bales.
413:18:16

Collect for the Day
On this day of gales and storms,
be with all those, Lord, who work at sea,
that they may be skilful and brave
and come home safely in calmer days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[475:189:372]

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