Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The departure of the Queen of Sheba

The Old Testament reading set for morning prayer this morning was the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. (1 Kings 10)
I couldn't resist posting a poem I wrote a while back about this story, focusing not the arrival of the Queen, which Handel's famous music celebrates, but her departure. She came to find out what the fuss about Solomon's wisdom was all about (fame due to the Lord, says the Bible very clearly!) and was duly impressed by it. But at the end she went home - and maybe put some of that wisdom in to practice. We're often tempted to hang around people who we think have all the answers, rather than taking away the lessons and applying them in our own lives. It takes someone with a real sense that she has her own calling and her own life to lead (and her own nation to govern) to have the strength to go home! Anyway, that's what struck me when I wrote this....

The Departure of the Queen of Sheba

Odd – perhaps not? – that Handel should hymn your arrival,
all hustle and flurry,
spreading of treasures and doors flung wide,
when all the time the true surprise
is not that you arrived, but that you left.

You left this man
for whom unnumbered women gave their eye teeth,
and much more besides.
You left this man
- astonishing in his glory,
like no other king on earth –
though legends say that you and he were more than friends.

You left him.
Packed your bags,
rolled your silks,
furled your banners,
closed the palace doors behind you.

This is truly music-worthy.
You went home.
Only one who rules her own land
would have had the nerve.

Anne Le Bas. 1999

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