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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, October 13, 2006

Siege and Fall of Nineveh: Nahum 2 with poem by Francis Quarles, Nahum 2.10

Daily Readings
Sirach 29, Jeremiah 37, Nahum 2, I Esdrus 1:34-58

Daily Text: Nahum 2

Siege and Fall of Nineveh
Nahum 2 is a prophecy of the siege and fall of Nineveh sometime prior to its actual fall in 612 B.C. Assyria is counseled to ‘guard the ramparts, watch the road, gird your loins and collect your strength’ in preparation for the siege that is coming. Nahum goes on to describe not only the siege, but the fall of Nineveh and what it is going to mean. It was going to mean exile, slavery for the women, loss for the ruling class, plunder for the victors. Nineveh would be drained of population like water from a pool and nothing could stop it for the LORD of hosts was against Nineveh.

Verse two is an insertion that is meant to explain what is going to happen. Essentially, this sentence proclaims that though Assyria has ravaged Israel and Judah, God is restoring them and their restoration presages the destruction of Assyria. Presumably, this prophecy is for Judah and is meant to encourage her. But if Assyrians saw it, it must have brought a chill that haunted them until the fulfillment of the prophecy. It is beautifully graphic, but the beauty is all in the eye of the beholder Judah, certainly not her enemy, Nineveh.

Nahum 2.10
Francis Quarles

She’s empty: hark, she sounds: there’s nothing there
But noise to fill thy ear;
Thy vain enquiry can at length but find
A blast of murmuring wind:
It is a cask, that seems as full as fair
But merely tunned with air:
Fond youth, go build thy hopes on better grounds:
The soul that vainly founds
Her joy upon this world but feeds on empty sounds.

She’s empty: hark, she sounds: there’s nothing in’t,
The spark-engendering flint
Shall sooner melt, and hardest raunce shall first
Dissolve and quench thy thirst;
Ere this false world shall still thy stormy breast
With smooth-faced calms of rest:
Thou mayst as well expect Meridian light
From shades of black-mouthed night,
As in this empty world to find a full delight.

She’s empty: hark, she sounds; ‘tis void and vast;
What if some flattering blast
Of flatuous honor should perchance be there,
And whisper in thine ear:
It is but wind, and blows but where it list,
And vanishes like a mist:
Poor honor earth can give! What generous mind
Would be so base to bind
Her Heaven-bred soul a slave to serve a blast of wind?

She’s empty: hark, she sounds; ‘tis but a ball
For fools to play withal:
The painted film but of a stronger bubble,
That’s lined with silken trouble:
It is a world, whose work and recreation
Is vanity and vexation?
A hag, repaired with vice-complexion, paint,
A quest-house of complaint:
It is a saint, a fiend; worse fiend, when most a saint.

She’s empty: hark, she sounds: ‘tis vain and void.
What’s here to be enjoyed,
But grief and sickness, and large bills of sorrow,
Drawn now, and crossed tomorrow?
Or what are men, but puffs of dying breath,
Revived with living death?
Fond lad, O build thy hopes on surer grounds
Then what dull flesh propounds:
Trust not this hollow world, she’s empty: hark, she sounds.

Collect for the Day
Grant peace and eternal rest to al the departed, but especially to the millions known and unknown who died as prisoners in many lands, victims of the hatred and cruelty of man. may the example of their suffering and courage draw us closer to thee through thine own agony and passion, and thus strengthen us in our desire to serve thee in the sick, the unwanted and the dying wherever we may find them. Give us the grace so to spend ourselves for those who are still alive, that we may prove most truly that we have not forgotten those who died.

[286:132:446 Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire]


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