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March 09, 2020


Bob MacDonald

Even I, I will give thanks to you in this senseless instrument, your truth O my God. (Psalms 71:22a)

The stem נבל is used 17 times in the Psalms. It is the ׳lute׳. Its other senses include the 'wither' of Psalm 1, the traditional 'fool' (I prefer 'senseless' here) of Psalms 14 and 53, as well as the 'corpse' of Psalm 79. The final use of this stem is the 'lute' of Psalm 150:3.

I expect Herbert would have known this Hebrew pun.

Aware or not of answer to prayer, I suggest that the whole movement of the Psalms can be seen as the prayer to resurrection: not withering, through the senseless, to rousing the dawn with the lute (Psalms 57 and 108) to the new song of Psalm 144 and its final celebration in the last acrostic and the final 5 Hallelujahs.

I have been following you every day this Lent. It is not a practice that I usually pay attention to. But Herbert is the awesome poet in the tradition of his family, including of course the Countess Mary Herbert.

Jim Gordon

That is very helpful Bob, and further illuminating! I agree Herbert almost certainly 'got' that pun. A senseless instrument - could that also mean a purposeless instrument, because without a player? Thanks for following my posts, and for the wee nudge on the Carnival!

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