It is known under several names. Ailsa Rock, Ailsa Craig and Paddy’s Milestone. The latter marks the halfway point between Belfast (N. Ireland) and Glasgow (Scotland) and named as such by those migrating from Ireland to Scotland in the 1800s! It is estimated that some 80% of “curling stones” are made from the granite which is quarried from Ailsa. For the seven years that I lived in Troon, Scotland, I could view Ailsa from our living room and bedroom. We often said that if you could see Ailsa it would mean that it would rain soon and if you could not see Ailsa, it was raining already! The photo above shows Ailsa in all her glory with Royal Troon golf course in the foreground!
In the summer of 1818 the poet John Keats took a walking tour of Scotland, beginning in Dumfries to visit the grave of Robert Burns. Keats writing to his younger brother Tom, who was close to death comments that the tomb was “not very much to my taste, though on a scale large enough to show they wanted to honour him”. Moving on to Ayr, just next to Troon to visit Burns birthplace and childhood home, Keats is even more displeased writing that the garrulous old caretaker who showed them round was “a mahogany faced old Jackass” who talked so much that “his gab hindered my sublimity”. In writing to Tom he commented that he tried to write a poem in honor of Burns but discarded his notes. (Thankfully his walking companion kept a copy and we shall turn to it in my next post.) As they traveled on north from Burn’s Cottage, their path took them along the coast. On viewing Ailsa Rock, as it was then known, Keats was inspired to write the the poem below. I offer it to you whether it be raining or not! Today I offer Psalm 121 as a prayer and meditation. Enjoy!
To Ailsa Rock
Hearken, thou craggy ocean pyramid!
Give answer from thy voice – the sea-fowl’s screams!
When were thy shoulders mantled in huge streams?
When from the sun was thy broad forehead hid?
How long is’t since the mighty Power bid
Thee heave to airy sleep from fathom dreams –
Sleep in the lap of thunder or sunbeams –
Or when gray clouds are thy cold coverlid?
Thou answerest not, for thou art dead asleep.
Thy life is but two dead eternities –
The last in air, the former in the deep!
First with the whales, last with the eagle skies!
Drown’d wast thou till an earthquake made thee steep,
Another cannot wake thy giant size!
Prayer: Psalm 121
Assurance of God’s Protection
A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore. Amen.