john davies
notes from a small curate


    Blue Coat School 1/10/03

    Psalm 104

    What is the force that drives nature? What makes flowers flourish, what is the creative force behind the crops we celebrate at harvest time?

    The writer of the psalm lived in an age of certainty; and so he was able to say: God is that force. We live in less certain times which mean that harvest is a bit of a mystery to us.

    The great 20th century Welsh poet Dylan Thomas explored this mystery in his classic verse, The force that through the green fuse drives the flower. In it he makes deep connections between himself and the force behind nature; but expresses a sense of deep disconnection as well:
      The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
      Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
      Is my destroyer.
      And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
      My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

      The force that drives the water through the rocks
      Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
      Turns mine to wax.
      And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
      How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

      The hand that whirls the water in the pool
      Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
      Hauls my shroud sail.
      And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
      How my clay is made the hangman's lime.

      The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
      Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
      Shall calm her sores.
      And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
      How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

      And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
      How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
    The psalmist says: there is a force behind creation; and I am able to name it, itıs called God; I celebrate it, it brings meaning to my life.

    Thomas also says: there is a force behind creation. But by contrast he says, I am dumb to express it, I canıt explain it, I canıt do anything to influence it, Iım earthbound, deathbound.

    Harvest is a time for giving thanks for the force that drives nature; a time for celebrating the creative force which makes the crops grow. A time for considering how closely we ourselves are tied into nature and its cycles.

    Whether or not we feel we can name the force that drives nature, Harvest invites us to wonder about it.

    Let us give thanks for the force which drives nature - creating life, bringing food, shaping the world from the atom to the ocean;
    The more we wonder about such things, the more in awe we feel.
    Let us celebrate our place in this world of growth and creativity; let us embrace the force which, in generosity and goodness, drives it. Amen

    More from me on Dylan Thomas here