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A Psalm

by Thomas Merton


When psalms surprise me with their music

And antiphons turn to rum

The Spirit sings: the bottom drops out of my soul.


And from the center of my cellar, Love, louder than thunder

Opens a heaven of naked air.


New eyes awaken.

I send Love’s name into the world with wings

And songs grow up around me like a jungle.

Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes

Your Spirit played in Eden.

Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise

Shine on the face of the abyss

And I am drunk with the great wilderness

Of the sixth day in Genesis.


But sound is never half so fair

As when that music turns to air

And the universe dies of excellence.


Sun, moon and stars

Fall from their heavenly towers.

Joys walk no longer down the blue world’s shore.


Though fires loiter, lights still fly on the air of the gulf,

All fear another wind, another thunder:

Then one more voice

Snuffs all their flares in one gust.


And I go forth with no more wine and no more stars

And no more buds and no more Eden

And no more animals and no more sea:


While God sings by himself in acres of night

And walls fall down, that guarded Paradise.

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Thomas Merton was never a great poet. He did, as a Trappist monk, have a lot of experience chanting the Psalms. I think the poem addresses a process of contemplative absorption that is related to being absorbed in music, in this case a particular form and content of "sacred" music. I like some of the images, and I thought some members might appreciate reading the poem, and maybe even find it thought provoking.

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