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Malcolm Guite: Poet’s Corner

16 September 2022

As Malcolm Guite pondered this time of transition, he came across the great coronation psalm

I WAS away in America when I heard news of the Queen’s death, and tears came to my eyes for the loss of someone whom I had never met, yet had been an unfailing presence, a reassurance and an example of servant leadership for the whole of my life.

I was relieved to know that I would be flying home that very evening, and that I would soon have my feet on the soil over which she was sovereign, and among the people she loved and served, who would know and share my grief.

And so I was at home to witness not only the mourning, and the many beautiful recollections and remembrances of her long and fruitful reign, but also His Majesty’s moving address to the nation, the first singing of “God Save the King”, and the formal proclamation of our new Sovereign.

Even as these great occasions of state are celebrated, the ordinary life of the Church and the nation goes on, but its very routines are sometimes lifted into a new light by this time of transition. So it was that, in my usual journey through the Psalter, I came to Psalm 21, often referred to as a coronation psalm:

The King shall rejoice in thy strength, O
   Lord: exceeding glad shall he be of thy
Thou hast given him his heart’s desire: and
   hast not denied him the request of his lips.
For thou shalt prevent him with the blessings
   of goodness: and shalt set a crown of pure
   gold upon his head.

As I read it, I felt this psalm shimmering into new significance. Early Christians applied it to Christ “the son of David”, and therefore the understanding of coronation itself deepened. Before he wears the golden crown prophesied in this psalm, Christ, the true Messiah, comes to suffer with his creation and to wear the crown of thorns, the corona spina, as it was called in Latin. For the word corona, which we have learned to dread, is there in the word coronation, and is surely part of Christ’s corona spina; for he enters into our suffering that we might enter into his glory.

Turning back to my response to this psalm in David’s Crown, I felt that this poem might serve as a prayer and blessing for these days between the grief of parting and the consolation of a new coronation:

Now may you find in Christ, riches and rest,
May you be blessed in him, and he in you
In Heaven, where to grant you your request

Is always blessing, for your heart is true:
True to yourself and true to Christ your king.
Breathe through this coronation psalm and view

The glory of his golden crown, then sing
The exaltation, goodness, life and power,
The blessing and salvation Christ will bring.

But first he wears a darker crown. The hour
Is coming and has come. Our Lord comes down
Into the heart of all our hurts to wear

The sharp corona spinea, crown
Of thorns, and to descend with us to death
Before he shares with us the golden crown.

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