Friday, 20 November 2009

The Song of Jonah in the Whale's Belly

I heard this on Radio 3's superb 'Words and Music' this week, and didn't think much about it except that it had some attractive rhymes; then somehow it got stuck in my head, and so I'm going to post it although I have nothing to say about it. I don't even really know why I like it. But I do, and whoever chose it for a programme on the theme of 'Solitude' was a genius.

And happy feastday of St Edmund! Did you know he's the patron saint of wolves? I find this bizarre. Why do wolves even need a patron saint? I wonder who the patron saint of whales is.

Not St David, I guess.


Anyway, here's Michael Drayton:

The Song of Jonah in the Whale's Belly

In grief and anguish of my heart, my voice I did extend,
Unto the Lord, and he therto, a willing eare did lend :
Even from the deep and darkest pit, & the infernall lake,
To me he hath bow'd down his eare, for his great mercies sake.
For thou into the middest, of surging seas so deepe
Hast cast me foorth : whose bottom is, so low & woondrous steep.
Whose mighty wallowing waves, which from the floods do flow,
Have with their power up swallowed me, & overwhelm'd me tho.
Then said I, loe, I am exilde, from presence of thy face,
Yet wil I once againe behold, thy house and dwelling place.
The waters have encompast me, the floods inclosde me round,
The weeds have sore encombred me, which in the seas abound.
Unto the valeyes down I went, beneath the hils which stand,
The earth hath there environ'd me, with force of al the land.
Yet hast thou stil preserved me, from al these dangers here,
And brought my life out of the pit, oh Lord my God so deare.
My soule consuming thus with care, I praied unto the Lord,
And he from out his holie place, heard me with one accord.
Who to vain lieng vanities doth whollie him betake,
Doth erre also, Gods mercie he doth utterly forsake.
But I wil offer unto him the sacrifice of praise,
And pay my vowes, ascribing thanks unto the Lord alwaies.

Michael Drayton (1563-1631), in lovely Elizabethan spelling from here. Read it aloud. It's awesome.

OK, I looked it up. The patron saint of whales is Brendan the Navigator. The illustration on that page shows why...

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