Advent usually seems to be the season for the writings of the Prophet Isaiah, but during some research for an application earlier this week I stumbled across one of the psalms of David which I had copied out in about 1992 when I was at university. Today it struck me as being “of the moment”. I wondered why I had copied out this particular psalm, and then found the reason: my hero poet Sir Phillip Sidney had put me onto David, not just as a Prophet and King of the Old Testament, not just as Slayer of Goliath, but as a Poet.
On a hand-out we were given in lectures at Glasgow, there was a passage written by Sir Phillip Sidney in 1583 (I’ve kept to most of the original spelling but for easier reading have substituted “v”s for where the facsimile lent Elizabethan “u”s and “i”s for “j”s). “Vates” is an English/ Latin term for prophet and has etymological connections to the word “Bard”.
And may not I presume a little further, to shew the reasonablenes of this worde Vates? And say that the holy Davids Psalms are a divine Poem? If I doo, I shall not do it without the testimonie of great learned men, both auncient and moderne: but even the name Psalmes will speake for mee, which, being interpreted, is nothing but songes. Then that it is fully written in meeter, as all learned Hebrecians agree, although the rules be not yet fully found. Lastly and principally, his handeling his prophecy, which is meerely poetical. For what els is the awaking of his musicall instruments; the often and free changing of persons; his notable Prosopopeias, when he maketh you, as it were, see God coming in his Majestie; his telling of the Beastes joyfulness, and hills leaping, but a heavenlie poesie , wherein almost hee sheweth himselfe a passionate lover of that unspeakable and everlasting beautie to be seene by the eyes of the minde, onely cleared by fayth?