Study Guide

Psalms Allusions

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Literary and Philosophical References

De Profundis by Oscar Wilde
When Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for "gross indecency," he penned a 50,000-word letter to one of his friends. The letter was written at a bizarre point in Wilde's life, and he expressed much more admiration for religion in this letter than in previous writings. Lord Alfred Douglas received the letter, and later published it as De Profundis (Out of the Depths) in reference to the dark place both the Psalms writer and Wilde occupied while writing. Sad but true.

"A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This 1830s poem mimics a psalm in form, but is much less fatalistic than many of the biblical Psalms. This contrast makes the poem both a commentary and a tribute to the biblical sources. Fancy-shmancy.

Pop Culture References

Rivers of Babylon by The Melodians (1970)
This song retells the story of the Babylonian exile—sounds like Psalm 137 to us. The song was used in Jimmy Cliff's 1972-3 film The Harder They Come, and was featured on the soundtrack, a breakthrough reggae album in the U.S.

"Jesus Walks" by Kanye West (2004)
In the second stanza of this song, Kanye cites Psalm 23: "I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Just one more example of how these psalms still resonate today. A few millennia can't change a thing.

Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky (1930)
In the 1930s, Igor Stravinsky created a symphony based on Psalms 38, 40, and 150. Sounds like a long afternoon at the orchestra.

Ark of the Covenant, Indiana Jones (1981)
Remember the Ark of the Covenant? That sweet gold box in Raiders of the Lost Ark that kills all the Nazis? Yeah. That's in Psalms—132:8, to be exact. There are more descriptions of the ark throughout the Bible, but the Psalms version is a good one for understanding its relationship to God.

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