Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Personification and the Psalms

During this week's morning Psalm readings (I'm using Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime), I've noticed a pattern of personification that the Psalmist has been using. This morning's was familiar: "Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85).

Yesterday's Psalm really struck me: "One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another" (Psalm 19). I love that idea of "each one teach one" applying to the sky. I have this idea for a poem where some night skies have peacefully learned their lessons and nothing spectacular happens; of course, there are always some genius pupils who go off to do their own thing, and any number of night sky spectacles that could be used as an example.

I wonder why the Psalmist used personification. Why does any poet use personification? To make something a bit abstract more real. Or maybe humans just can't resist personifying. I've noticed that it's the rare person with a pet that can resist assigning human traits to the animal.

Personification works. That's why poets use it. That's why humans use it. For all of its possible faults, personification is a valuable tool to help us understand the world we live in.

I love the idea of righteousness and peace kissing. I love the idea of a spectral classroom. I'll be interested to see where else I notice this personification in the Psalms. Now that I've noticed it two mornings in a row, I'll be on the alert for a pattern.

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