16 May 2019, The Tablet

I’m afraid we’ve got a job lot: fire and hail and, as available, dragons

I’m afraid we’ve got a  job lot: fire and hail and, as available, dragons

I opened the window to get a better look at the hail. We don’t get much in our locality. If I had a vineyard, I’d have been worried. But I haven’t. The hailstones bounced on the hard road and, having initially fallen a long way, bounced again to use up their energy. They looked like stones skimmed on the sea, but each went in its own direction, making the mobile pattern pleasantly random. It might have been a pan of water coming to a lively boil or a swarm of springtails, those little arthropods that, for their size, jump so high.

Hail is invoked in Morning Prayer on Sundays, strangely paired with fire: “Praise the Lord from the earth, sea creatures and all oceans, fire and hail, snow and mist.” In the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England uses the translation of the Psalms by Myles Coverdale. Before “fire and hail” he puts “ye dragons, and all deeps” – mysteriously attractive recruits to joint praise. The Catholic translators of the Douay version (printed in 1609 by Laurence Kellam “at the signe of the holie Lambe”) agreed, and made it “ye dragons, and all ye deeps”. They and Coverdale were following the Vulgate’s dracones.

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