To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
GEORGE BUCHANAN’S PARAPHRASES
OF BOOK I OF THE PSALMS
GEORGE BUCHANAN'S EPIGRAM TO THE RIGHT NOBLE MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
You Lady, sent to the Caledonian land by means of countless ancestors, who now protects the scepter, you who transcend your birthright by your merits, your years by your virtue, your sex by your spirits, your breeding by the nobility of your manners, accept in friendly wise these songs, the noble work of a prophetic king, clad in Latin dress. They have been begotten far from Cirrha and the spring of Permessus, almost under the stars of the northerly sky. And yet I did not have the courage to expose my ill-begotten offspring, lest things displease me which have pleased you. For perhaps they will be indebted to your good nature for that which they could not hope to obtain from their master.
Blessed is the man whom the corrupt influence of ungodly men hath not turned aside from the straight path; who hath not gone on in a course of error, or, sitting in their infectious chair, given a favourable ear to scoffers; but seeketh diligently after the path to a better life, and studieth the laws of God both night and day with deep attention. He shall be like a tree which hath been planted on the brink of a well-watered bank, which the Dog-star scorcheth not with its violent heat, nor the winter blasteth, but liberally blesseth the husbandman with a plentiful increase, nor, smiling with a fading blossom, flattereth its disappointed owner with a pleasant prospect of fruit. The people that know not the divine covenant, being without law and contemners of Heaven, are not so, but they shall be like the dust swept away with a sudden whirlwind, which the gentle breeze, moving with rapid rotation, tosseth about as a sport through the void atmosphere. When, therefore, the righteous judge shall come on a bright cloud to pronounce sentence, and shall charge the world with their guilt, impiety will not dare to lift up its woeful countenance, nor, wretched as it is, join itself to the righteous assembly. For our heavenly Father knoweth the way of those that are righteous and void of deceit, and understandeth their thoughts. But atrocious wickedness, that followeth the crooked windings of deceit, shall perish.
Why do the tumultuous nations cry out with vain uproar, and the people rage with empty threats? And why have mighty tyrants, with princes, combined together in a hostile manner against the Lord and the Lord’s Anointed? “Why,” say they, “don’t we bravely break asunder their bands, and take their reins from off our necks?” But our heavenly Father, to Whom the supreme power of the universe belongs, shall laugh at the empty threats of these impotent mortals. Then, roused with just indignation, He will speak to these unhappy men, and confound their dark machinations in His fury. “And I will invest,” says He, “my king with a crown, who shall give laws to the holy hills of Zion, and spread My statutes far and wide throughout his world.” The Lord then said unto me, “Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I will give thee, as Mine heir, to rule over all territories of people, wheresoever the earth extends itself amidst the surrounding waters, and to rule them forever with an iron rod; and when thou pleaseth, to humble the proud and break in pieces the rebellious, as vessels formed of brittle clay are broken.” But do ye, to whom the supreme power over the nations is entrusted, and who from your lofty tribunal give judgment to the people, dispel the clouds of error and learn the truth. Serve the Lord with trembling, and let the fear and reverence of the Lord accompany your joys, that ye may embrace the Son sent by him, lest He inflict the vengeance of His just indignation on you for wandering from the path of righteousness. For when His deserved wrath against the unrighteous shall burn but for a little, you will then know how happy they are who place their hopes in Him.
Ah, what a great faction both for number and power harass me with inveterate malice! What a strong combination of abandoned men conspire against my life! And they assert that now there remaineth no hope of salvation for me in God, when Thou hast so often screened me when fighting under the covert of Thy shield, when Thou art the author of my praise, when Thou crownest my head with glory. When the Lord from His holy hill heareth me calling upon him by night, I both lie down and sleep free from care; I rise again void of fear. The Lord watching over me, numerous bands will not affect my heart with fear, not even if the savage cruelty of all nations should conspire against me. Thou, Lord, wilt go forth as my leader to the battle to deliver me, and wilt break the cheekbones of all my enemies, and bruise the teeth of the wicked with Thy potent right hand. But do Thou, the alone hope of our salvation, embrace Thy people with Thy wonted goodness.
O Father, o eternal sovereignty of gods and men, Who knowest my sincere intention, Who openest to me a safe way, destitute of counsel and uncertain of my life, imploring Thee in my straits, and leadest me out into a spacious plain, now grant Thyself propitious to me, beset with malicious fraud, and graciously comply with my just prayers, merciful and ready to hear. O the blinded understandings of men! How long, forsaking me and intent upon deceitful shadows, will you rack your anxious minds upon vain cares? At length believe me, signifying the truth: God will preserve in all dangers him on whom, as His elect, He vouchsafes to bestow distinguished honour. The Lord, merciful and exorable, hears me calling on Him and asking relief. Therefore, wretches, now a least acknowledge the providence of God, and desist from your depraved vices. Weigh with yourselves by night, on your silent couch, your words and actions through the long day. The Lord is not appeased by the fibres of cattle, but by an innocent mind. If you bring this to His altars, secure in mind, you may expect plenteous blessings from His bountiful right hand. the greatest part of the world only demands base wealth, these wishes only teaze their minds. But do Thou only, gracious, look on me with a reconciled countenance, may the pleasant air of Thy favour shine upon me. I am happy enough if Thou be my friend. Let another cram his granaries with corn, and fill many cells with generous nectar, and rejoice in heaped up gold. But I, void of sollicitous thoughts, will ly down by night, and take rest without anxiety. Thou fortifiest my calm mind with strength, my breast with certain hope.
Mighty God of the universe, mercifully hear my words with a gentle ear, receive the mournful complaints of my meditation with a flexible mind, and without severity. Attentively observe what a cry dilates my side. Seeing thou only art my King and my God, Thee alone do I worship and supplicate in my distress. Righteous God, hear me crying in the morning. For I, cherishing no vain hope, will invoke Thy name in the morning in a chaste prayer before the beam of the rising sun. Thou, o God, delighting in true piety, detesteth the wickedness of impious rites, nor can the mind studious of depravity hope to enjoy Thy friendship. Violence and guilt are affrighted at Thy countenance. Thou art the enemy of fraud and cruelty that delights in blood, Thou wilt cut off the tongue that dares to dissemble. But I, depending upon Thy goodness, will approach Thy sacred threshold and enter into Thy Temple, in due form I will adore Thy holy majesty with pure devotion. Do Thou, o God, as my leader, display before me the light of Thy equity, that I may escape the deceitful nets of my enemies, and direct my dark steps when in doubt. Truth shuns the mouth of my foes, deceit and uncleanness inhabit their breasts, their throat is more dismal than the putrid tomb which gapes, exposing the corpses, their flattering tongue, fawning with secret poison, contrives hidden blows. O God, O gracious Parent of the universe, destroy this abandoned nation. Gracious Father, render their attempts vain, and may those who forsake Thee feel the deserved punishment, being cut off from the very root. But may those who with undaunted resolution have placed to themselves a sure hope in Thee only, ever securely rejoice in Thy goodness and adore Thy name. For Thou bountifully revivest the upright and pure of heart with Thy right hand, liberal of good things, and Thou protectest them with Thy favour as a shield.
O Lord, while Thy anger boils, while Thy mind rages, do not seize me in my guilt. While Thy fury burns in a course of rage, abstain from inflicting punishment. O spare me, spare me. Weakness wastes me away in my sickness, apply Thy health-giving hand. The strength forsakes my decayed body, the joints of my bones being loosened, and grief heavily vexes my troubled mind. How long wilt Thou neglect me in my misery? How long wilt Thou forsake me? Now return and deliver me, distressed, from the jaws of death. As soon as cruel death has laid on his relentless hand, who any more makes mention of Thee? Who, overwhelmed, in the profound darkness of death will celebrate Thy name? By night beating my grieved breast in sighs and groaning, I bathe my couch with tears. My bed is drenched, watered with plentiful showers of tears. The sight of my eyes is dim, blunted by long sufferings, and the complexion and vigour of my body has faded away amidst the sneers and frauds of my enemies. But do you, rabble, who rejoice in impious crimes, begone, lay aside your vain hope. The Lord, appeased, hath heard my lamentations and the sound of my mournful complaints. The gracious Lord hath heard me His supplicant, and complied with my request, that sudden shame may overwhelm my enemies, and blushing confound their looks, that they may suddenly be pale with sad disgrace, and bewail their shameful rout.
I have placed the hope of my safety in Thee, o preserver of the world: deliver me from the jaws of my enemies, who laboriously plot my destruction with cruel intent. If no protector assist me, even as a fierce lion tears the feeble cattle, so the furious enemy, thirsting for innocent blood, will tear me in pieces. If a true informer hath accused me deservedly, and no liar hath contrived false accusations; if I have done damage to the peaceable; if I have not spared the ill deserving, then let him follow pursuing till he take me; when taken, let him overthrow me; when overthrown, may he kick me upon the ground with his foot, and may he trample the haughty pride of my scepter and throw it away. Lord, arise. May the wicked fury of my foes stir Thee up to just anger. Arise and render the promised revenge of treachery. Arise, let Thy august majesty shine over all the earth. May the congregation of the people run together and acknowledge Thee their King and Father. O thou Who, holding a sceptre in Thy almighty hand, dost punish crimes over all nations, avenge me, if I in a proper manner demand punishment, viz. with a pious and innocent voice. O righteous Judge, Whom nothing concealed in the most secret corner of the heart escapes, crush the impious attempts of wicked men, but support and cherish upright minds. Secure, I nothing dread my enemies while God is my guardian, Whom simple candour of mind delights. He preserves the pious, but always threatens destruction to the wicked. If the enemy persists, already He draws the sword, already prepared He bends the bow, and plucks forth a deadly dart, and whets His deadly arrows in the cruel fire. Behold, he who hath laboured of abominable wickedness hath conceived sorrow, and shall bright forth as it were vain images which mock the troubled mind during sleep. He hath digged a deceitful pit that he might catch me, but unwarily he fell into his own pit, his mischief shall return, and his frauds shall fall back on his own head. Therefore, freed from frauds and fear, I will celebrate the justice of the Father of the universe and His holy name, and will chearfully give him thanks and repeat his praises.
Father and guardian of mankind, how hath the sacred majesty of Thy name astonished all lands which the sun in his course beholds! And how hath Thy greatness raised itself far above the orbs of the shining heaven! Even sucklings do declare with what tender care Thou preservest the world; that Thou mayst stop the mouths of Thy enemies rashly reproaching Thee, enemies whose mouth spews out fury against Thee, and thirsts for blood. When I behold the heavens calm and clear with crystal light, the work of Thy powerful right hand, when I view the moon and shining stars that were created by Thee, silently I think with myself how little is man, that Thou shouldst be mindful of him! How little is the offspring of the human race, that Thou shouldst vouchsafe to visit it! Thou hast made him near equal to God, adorned with glory and honour, and created him prince over all the works of Thy hands, Thou hast put under his feet all that draw the breath of life. Oxen and sheep obey Him, and every beast that is fed in the fields, and every bird that measures the air with the swift flight of its wings, and every fish that traverses the seas by the swift motion of its fins. Father and preserver of mankind, how hath the sacred majesty of Thy name astonished all lands which the sun in his course beholds!
Undoubted preserver of the universe, Thee do I sing. From my soul I pay Thee due thanks, and I will unfold Thy marvellous deeds to future generations. Safe under Thy protection, I will fear nothing, but chearfully will I sing joyful songs to Thee; I will praise Thee, the eternal ruler of the highest heavens. Mine enemy, rashly elated with impious hopes, being foiled, hath shewed his back by a panic flight, and hath gone to ruin by the valour of Thy powerful right hand. Thou my avenger destroyest those who are desirous of my destruction, thou art a fortress to the trembling pannel. Thou my judge decideth my cause from Thy lofty throne. Thou checkest the fury of the barbarous race with Thy mighty power, Thou destroyest the wicked, so that fame will not tell even their names to future generations. Lo, to what are the swollen threats of the enemy reduced! Behold, the man who overthrows towns even to the ground, and, when overthrown, hath obscured them in a cloud of lasting silence! But the everlasting Lord of the universe hath established to Himself an everlasting throne of righteousness, that He may rule the world with equal laws, that He may rule the nations justly. When violence, pregnant with unbridled rage, has brooded, Thou discoverest a protection to the miserable, Thou layest open the citadel of a safe refuge in adversity. They who have known Thy name, and that Thou never abandonest Thy friends in the last danger, do deservedly place sure confidence in Thee alone. Wherefore celebrate ye the Lord, the guardian of Mount Zion, with just praise, declare the arduous acts of His council far and wide through foreign nations. The avenger of innocent blood demands punishment, nor suffers with impunity the poor to be oppressed with violence. He applies His ear to the complaints of those who cry. O do Thou, being more merciful, more nearly consider my affliction, whom hostile violence attacks with wicked malice, and recuse me from the jaws of grim death, that I may extol Thee with praises, where Zion, far conspicuous for its bulk, rises to the heavens, and joyfully attribute to Thee my acceptable preservation. Their own deceit hath sunk the perfidious nations in deserved destruction, their feet have stuck entangled in toils in which they prepared to catch others. O the admirable equity of God the judge! The contriver of deceit is taken by his own deceit. O this is an affair to be laid up in the deep recesses of the mind! So it is: an unexpected day devours the wicked with destruction, sudden death buries the nations who forget God in everlasting darkness. But simple meekness that trusts in God shall not depart from the mind of the Lord forever, nor shall the expectation of the poor be disappointed of a joyful event. Father of the universe, arise, nor suffer the little impotent worlding to exalt himself over the poor. And do Thou, o Judge, restrain the wicked nations by the reins of justice. Surround them with the greatness of Thy power and strike terror into their cruel minds, let the children of men know that their lot is ill established.
Guardian of mankind, how long wilt Thou neglect Thine own in their straits? How long wilt Thou be absent while the wicked arrogantly oppress the good with tyranny? O that wickedness would fall back on the head of the wicked man, and let him perish by his own artifices! While the impious man fulfils the desires of his sense wickedly, thus he glories, thus he rejoices in himself, as if he had gained immortal honour by right means. His unbridled pride overlooks the distinction between right and wrong, and sweetly applauds its own prudence, that it believes there is no God. He hugs the dream of his own felicity because all things go on prosperously, nor thinks that Thou wilt be both his judge and the avenger of his crimes. He values his enemies less than nothing, thus reckoning with himself: “I, being free from adversity, will pass my life securely even to the latest old age. Never shall any care nor grief intermix itself itself with my pleasant enjoyments.” His mouth spues forth abominable base language, and foams with reproaches and guile. His pestilentious tongue incessantly brings forth troubles and griefs to good men. He placeth snares about the meetings of ways, that he may secretly entrap the innocent. He intently looks with penetrating eyes on the poor passing by. As a blood-thirsty lion, lodged in his deep den, lurks, so, panting with a trembling heart, he from his lurking place is ready to fall upon the weak, and he draws them on when seized upon, involved in the many-knotted folds of his net, and humbles them with mischiefs, and he cunningly conceals his cruelty in darkness. Ah, with what havock does he destroy those that pass by, proceeding with those arts! Then, foolishly credulous, he thus concludes with himself: “God is entirely ignorant of these things, He turns away his face from human affairs, unconcerned about right and wrong.” Lord, arise, lift Thy hand on high. Inflict wounds with certain aim, do not abandon the pious, destitute of help, in forgetful silence. Can the obstinate distraction of the wicked thus dare to contemn Thee, so as secretly to mutter with themselves in their silent heart, “God does not regard human affairs?” Surely Thou seest, Thou seest all things, and the wicked shall fall into Thy hands, that he may know that the sufferings and pains of the poor do not escape thee. The helpless and innocent are left upon Thee, Thou as tutor protecteth the fatherless. Do Thou break the power of the wicked, do thou tame the violence of their wicked mind, until wickedness, cut off by the root, and the wicked be erased together. Than shalt Thou as Lord hold the firm sceptre of government for ever and ever, and extirpate the wicked nations far from the borders of thy earth. Those born down with grievous sufferings pour forth these desires, these humble prayers, and those whose minds are touched with these incitements beg it of Thee with tears, that Thou mayest free the poor and fatherless from the immoderate insolence of the powerful, that Man, conscious of his own weakness, may lay aside his haughty mind.
Whereas I entertain not an uncertain hope of preservation and trust in God, you say to me, “Begone to the distant rocks, flying before the timorous birds.” The wicked man, lo thou seest, bends the bow, he applies his arrows to the string that he may hit the innocent and upright of mind, when off their guard, from his lurking-place. But thou, good King, dost subdue these rebels with Thy powerful right hand, and renderest vain the designs of their mad fury against the humble who do them no harm. God, inhabiting the eternal palaces of heaven and sitting on His shining throne of stars, views human actions over all the earth with piercing eyes. Neither the righteous nor the unrighteous escapes Him Who seeth all things, but the righteous ruler of the world from His soul abhors those who are bent upon evil with malevolent eagerness. He shall rain snares upon the wicked, blasts of thunder shall hurl flaming fire mixed with brimstone utterly to erase the wicked. And the righteous Father of righteousness in a peculiar manner embraceth the just with a sacred love, and beholds equity that knows no fraud ever before His face.
O my Saviour, bring assistance, bring assistance. Inviolable faith has retired, foiled. Plain fidelity has fled the society of men. Every one speaks vanity with his fellow, practising lying with a fawning tongue, and devising wickedness in his heart. May God bruise the lips seasoned with the sweet venom of deceit, and may He entirely pluck out the lofty tongue from its very root. And may He pluck out the tongue of those who are void of modesty, and are not afraid to say, “Let us, bravely intrepid, inure our tongues to lying perjury. And come, let us harden our face to every crime. For never do I believe any but myself has the reins of my mouth, or the command of my tongue.” But the Lord, drawing into His ear the lamentations of the wretched and the groans of those that suffer hardships, says, “I will arise and place the needy secure, that he may breathe in a safe sort far from snares.” These things said the Lord. Whatever proceeds from the faithful mouth of the Lord is purer than gold, than gold which the seventh flame boiling hath melted, while the thick gross goes to smoke and ashes, being tried by the furnace. Therefore do Thou, holy Father, mindful of Thy promise, restrain the malicious venom of the wicked tongue. Best Guardian, defend us ever from that contagious race of men. For impiety walks at liberty far and wide, every place is full of evils when the law is in the hands of the unjust, and the commands of bad men are to be feared by the good.
Sole Governour, how long wilt Thou neglect me, who am abandoned? Wilt thou forsake me, overwhelmed in everlasting oblivion? How long in anger wilt Thou hide from me Thy lovely countenance? How long shall turbulent cares distract the quiet of my mind? How long shall my heart be tormented, fluctuating in a tide of grief? How long shall the insolent foe triumph over me, prostrated? Lord of the world, behold me. Bring me aid and pour in Thy light, lest death shut my eyes in an everlasting sleep, lest the arrogant enemy boast that I was defeat by his power, lest the deceitful who hate me rejoice at my grief. Thou, liberal of help, refreshest me with the hope of safety. Great King, I, having obtained safety, will extol Thy name with praises.
Madness, indulging vice, thus craftily says to itself, “The credulous fear of men hath invented a deity to itself, whereas chance brings all things about by random accident.” Therefore impiety, unafraid of God, hath given itself up entirely to wickedness, nor doth any study to follow righteousness from the heart. God had turned His eyes from His heavenly Temple to the pursuits of men, to see if anyone not foolishly wicked would recall his mind to the worship of the deity. You would think all had conspired to commit all wickedness: they perpetrate things base, wicked and exsecrable, nor has any an hearty inclination to practise righteousness. For how should they practise righteousness? What access should they give to sound counsel, whose minds villainy and crime have infected? Who devour my people as a wild beast does its prey, nor do they worship the Lord of the universe with the heart. But horror shall shake them with cold fear, when God, the patron of righteousness, shall bring help to the innocent, upbraiding the wicked with these words: “The piety of the innocent hath occasioned your laughter, you have mocked the pious zeal of the needy, their prayers, their lingering hopes, their fearful anxieties. But God, in Whom the poor trusteth, will bring his hopes and desires to a happy issue.” O if God would send His hoped-for help to His own from the rock of Zion! For when He shall break their chains and set His own at liberty, the children of Abraham shall rejoice with a free mind, and the offspring of Isaac shall cry out with deserved joy.
Great King, who shall inhabit with Thee the Temples of sacred Zion? Whom wilt Thou set upon Thy sacred mountain, that, free of evils, he may enjoy a gentle tranquillity? He whom simplicity, free of fraud, delights; and who, resolute in his purpose, closely follows righteousness; nor, cruel in mind, hath taught a flattering tongue to dissemble agreeable things; nor, a liar with his mouth, contrives destructive arts; nor invents mischief to his neighbors; nor stains his dear friend with shameful reproaches; who despises the disdainful wicked man; who respects a fearer of God and the pious; both tenacious of his purpose and unteachable to violate his promised fidelity; who hath not ruined the poor by usury, nor betrayed the innocent for a bribe. He who hath performed these things shall enjoy everlasting repose in the holy mountain.
O Creator of the universe, and the undoubted safety of mankind, rescue Thy servant from present danger, who respects Thee alone. I thy servant do willingly acknowledge Thee my Lord, and declare it to the people, but there is no need of my offices to Thee, who art perfectly happy. Therefore to this I have applied my mind, that I might prosecute with pious zeal that nation which alone thou hast chosen by lot out of all people. But they, unmindful of Thee, have revolted. They have fashioned each to himself new gods, worshipping the ludicrous dreams of their mind. I will not taste their bloody dishes, I abhor their banquets. Being witness, or solemnizing covenants of fidelity, I will never employ their names. But the everlasting favour of the Lord will protect the people of my lot, and He will give the reward of their labours heaped up plentifully. O beautiful inheritance! O charming lot of my patrimony! How does the beauty of flowers smiling on all sides entertain my mind! Immortal honour to the eternal God, by Whose admonition I pass the day, and am stimulated in my breast by secret motions during the shade of night. Whatever I set about or perform, I see the Lord as present. He on my right hand ever cleaves to me, that I be not moved from my stedfast pace. My heart, fluttering with pleasant joy, beats in my breast, my tongue desires to express Thy praises, good hope silently refreshes my body. For Thou wilt neither allow my soul to dwell under the darkness of Hell, nor that my rotten carcase, dissolved, may drop into ashes. Thou openest the way of life, rivers of pleasure flow from Thy countenance, Thou givest joys with a liberal hand.
Gracious Governour of the world, equitably hear me praying for equity. Receive with a favourable ear the complaints which no lying tongue pours forth to Thee. Being injured, I fly to Thy tribunal, I appeal to Thy faithfulness, I seek Thee for my protector. Behold with favourable eyes the just oppressed. Thou hast often narrowly observed my secret thoughts in the lonely darkness of the silent night, and my heart, troubled with a fearful motion. Often hast Thou tried my soul with hard adversity as with fire, nor found me conscious of fraud and guilt, threatening cruel things to the guilty. My speech was correspondent to my mind, and my words to my meaning. My heart, relying upon the precepts of Thy laws, hath abhorred wickedness and impious attempts. Direct my steps in this way by the circle of Thy laws, lest my feet slip with an uncertain fall and the slippery places betray my unsteady soles. I call upon Thee, I flee to Thy help so often tried in hard dangers. Being merciful, lend an attentive ear to the grievous complaints of me praying. Do Thou, being good, support those who commit their safety and hope to Thee. Yet severe, do Thou bridle the arrogance of the heart rebellious against Thee with Thy avenging right hand. Do Thou, foreknowing, defend me as the tender apple of the eye, hide me trembling under the shadow of Thy wings, far from the attack of the wicked. For a band of wicked men threaten my life, they enclose me as within a rampart of their power, they thunder with their insolent tongues, and they threaten malicious curses in a cruel tone. They block up all the avenues of the ways, they guard the commodious grounds, and destine them for my death,and in their minds perpetrate the absent crime, as a fierce lion, heated with rage, rushes upon his prey, as a lion’s whelp, now weaned, hid in his deep den, looks out. Father, arise, prevent their wicked attempt, and, the tyrant being laid on the ground, deliver me from Thy sword wherewith now he cruelly rageth. Nor allow that the pride of impotent rich men oppress me with violence, whose only care is to enjoy the fading enticements of a flattering life while they may. Thou pourest forth wealth to them from Thy rich storehouse, the earth deep dug into. Thou furnishest corn to their belly, and cheerest their houses with a numerous offspring. The purity of my life shall grant me, when loosed from the chains of the body, to behold Thee. That day shall render me truly happy in every respect, a day filled up with all the enjoyments of pleasures, when Thy holy majesty shall allow itself to appear to the mind without a cloud in pure light.
Gracious Lord, I will worship Thee. Holy Father, I will love Thee with my whole heart, my power, my only strength, my tower, my fortress, my hope, and my comfort in my straits. Thou art my buckler, Thou art my weapon, Thou art a sure anchor of safety, Thou art a most pleasant station of a sure harbour. For so soon as I open my lips in Thy praises, worshipping Thee and seeking peace, the enemies’ arms depart; safety, and peace its attendant, advances on gentle wings.
Already grim death had involved me in its deadly snares, now Hell did entangle me beset in its rapid waters. Already I stuck, tied with a Stygian fetter, and I was dragged along, a gin holding my foot. Here I, overtaken, both a supplicant and humble, called upon God with my voice, and cried to the heavens in my perplexed circumstances.
He, sitting upon the throne of the resplendent heaven, heard me praying. After my cry had ascended on high and He had lent attentive ears to my complaints, forthwith the earth, affrighted at the appearance of the Lord, trembled, and the mountains, loosened in their hollow contexture, shaked, and thoroughly resounded from their lowest caverns.
A smoaky heat flowed from His nostrils with a breathing blast, the rapid flames with whirling points flow from His mouth, and enliven things touched by it with living ember. And the heaven, when ordered, gently bows its head, that it may send down its Lord to the globe of the earth, sable shades of darkness come under His feet.
He, flying in His swift chariot, a flaming bird holding the reins of which soars on the swift wings of the wind, He (I say) encircles Himself with the dusky covering of fogs, and extends the dark waters in the hollow clouds. Shafts of flame darted from His piercing eyes scatter the dismal darkness with its clear blaze. Then a crackling shower of stony hail falls down, and vast sheets of wandering flame are scattered. But so soon as He broke silence with sacred speech, forthwith all the heaven resounded with terrible thunder, and the earth, struck with frequent crackling showers of hail, sounds, and fire blazes from the broken clouds, and the flaming arrows fly through the vast void, and the flashes double. The gaping earth, being shaken, opens the cisterns of its springs and releases the mouths of its fountains, and, being affrighted, is shaken and shews its foundations, and lays open Chaos. To such a degree does the voice of the eternal Mouth thunder! So violently does the breath of His dreadful resentment roar!
He stretched out His saving hand from the heaven and snatched me, perishing, from the rapid bellows. He rescued me from my strong foes, and mocked the ill-natured hatred of the powerful towards me. When deceit, desirous to do mischief, aimed at me in hard times with secret art, He lent me help, and opened a large way in my adversity, and brought back His chosen friend from death.
Surely the Lord saw both my mind and hand void of crime, and He vouchsafed me deserved honour. For .neither impiety nor the credulous delusion of wickedness turned my steps from the right way. The law of the Lord and His awful precepts were ever present before my eyes and in my thought, I rejoiced in simple truth, and my will, being free from fraud under that witness, had shunned scandal and the artifices of wickedness.
Therefore He bountifully hath given me to reap this fruit of an upright life, and the just Judge, Who sees all things, hath enriched my innocent life with a reward.
Every man makes Thee like to himself by his own manners: Thou art harmless towards the harmless, the friendly man finds Thee a friend, and Thou art good towards the good. Being more cunning, Thou defeatest ill-devised artifices by artifices, Thou upholdest the adverse affairs of the humble folk in the hard conflict, and contemnest the haughty pride of the uplifted eye. Thou placest me in a remarkable light, taken from the society of the low people, and Thou enlightenest my darkness with a bright splendour. Thou being my leader, I break through their strongest ranks shining with brass, and surmount the high tops of a tower-bearing wall. Assuredly, as the Lord is holy, He opens up the compendious track of secure life to them who follow His sacred ensigns. Whatever speech hath proceeded from His eternal mouth is more pure than gold often refined in the furnace, He protects with His buckler minds supported with a firm hope, and forbids them to despond in adversity.
Say, ye who worship mock deities of painted timber, or ivory or stone cut into various shapes, does any other Lord in the aethereal heaven sway the government of the universe? Who other governs the globe of this earth and does all things He pleaseth with His invincible arm? That God strengthens my limbs with a lively power, and shews the way free from polluted guilt. He hath made me to vie with the swift stag in running, and set me on a height far from cruel danger, and He hath granted me to handle my arms with a skilful hand in the pressing danger of war, and to bend the stuff bow of solid brass, and, when bent, to break it by my strength.
He hides me all over under the covert of His saving buckler, and, liberal of relief, supports and strengthens me with His right hand when giving way, and He shews a safe way thro’ passages beset with snares, and hinders my soles to stumble with a false step through unpassable places. I pursue my foes while Thou art my guide, I catch them when defeated, nor do I return till their haughty souls have fallen, their resolution being broken, and till they fall down prostrate at my feet, so that they cannot rise again, and with their arms repair their ancient ruins. Thou diffusest a lively vigour over my limbs and bendest my nerves [sinews], vigorous with fresh strength. Thou teachest me to war, and whosoever provokes me Thou throwest to the ground, and dispersest by flight my frightned foes. None hears them crying. I prayer they ask for the Lord’s assistance, He refuses his ear turned away from them imploring him. I drive them forward as the violence of the north-wind drives a cloud of dust, and furiously rush upon them when in confusion, and I trample them under my feet, as the filthy dirt is trampled upon in miry streets. Thou makest me, rescued from the contempt of the low people without distinction, to check proud nations with imperial sway, and commandest unknown nations thro’ distant towns to stretch out to me servile hands, astonished at the strangeness of my fame and my name only heard, and they feign fair words with flattering tongues, nor dare they trust enough to their safe walls.
Therefore I will extol thy deeds far and wide thro’ neighbouring cities, and, holy Father, Thou shalt always be celebrated with my song, Who commandest thy king to be safe amidst all hardships,and enrichest him with wealth, and wilt embrace him and his offspring with plenteous favour forever.
O nation addicted in mind to the impious errors of a mad philosophy, behold with your eyes and with your mind the firmament blazing with the light of so many flaming stars. Hence learn how wise the Creator was who suspended the palaces of heaven on a flaming vault, and bended the capacious arch of sea and land. The day always succeeding the night, and the night the day, in a continual vicissitude, teach that perishable things do not move thro’ the void by fortuitous progression, but the whole harmonious fabric sounds aloud the power of God Who upholds all things, not by a voice that may reach the ears of a few with a scanty sound. For there is not any barbarous nation inhabits the utmost parts of the earth in its remote borders, who knows not the fixed tenor of the heavens moving by an established law. Who cannot but admire the globes always shining in a clear night with a flaming brightness? Or when he sees the sun in the morning, as one coming from his camp in his beaming chariot? Whether he displays his beautiful countenance from the eastern billows, as a bridegroom shining with gold, and his temples adorned with a crown of jewels, or, when hastning downward the flying day, divides time by his rapid chariot, like an hundred-handed giant as to his limbs, strength and force, passing thro’ the oblique constellations, from his eastern hinge even to the utmost bounding of the west, he produceth, cherisheth and nourisheth all things with his vital heat. But the order and remarkable beauty of things does not so arrest the eyes of the beholders, as the divine law sways their minds to things honourable by secret reins. Its promisses, void of slippery fraud, strengthen the mind with the light of truth. A crime is punished with so much equity that even the punishment delights and repairs the damage. His precepts open the eyes with their pure light, venerable religion shines with an unsullied dress, which age, that overcomes all things by time, hath not violated. Right, and conscious truth attending, preserves in tables of brass Thy decrees, more sweet than honey, and more valuable than gold or bright jewels. Thy servant constantly preserves these things impressed on the recesses of his inmost breast, not ignorant how abundant a reward awaits him that keeps them. Who can remember the errors of an inconstant mind? What strength of wisdom can find them out? Therefore purge away these stains that winding error has secretly spread, let not the direful power of haughty pride claim to itself the sway of my mind. So wilt Thou easily rid me from the fetters of the greatest evils. Receive, appeased, what words my tongue expresses, what my mind ponders with itself in my silent bosom, o Lord, God and Redeemer, the fortress of our safety.
Although the mad fury of a barbarous nation should lay waste all far and near with fire and sword, yield not thou to adversities, but go the more boldly to meet them. The Ruler of the world will hear thy prayers. And as He graciously heard Jacob extending his hands with his voice to heaven in perplexed circumstances, He shall hear thee praying and protect thee safe from the enemy by the majesty of His venerable name. He shall strengthen thy limbs with secret power from His holy Temple, He will support thy mind from Zion. He will prosper thy wishes, He shall keep thy gifts in remembrance. Every sacrifice shall be accepted, the flame rolling a splendid light to the stars shall immediately reduce to ashes the consumed burnt-offering. He will be present at thy undertakings, and turn all accidents to thy advantage, and shall frame all events to thy desires. Now we will praise Thee returned, and sing of our fathers God, the author of our preservation, after the manner of our fathers: all public places, all meetings of ways, all temples shall resound thanks to God, and shall address His holy name with praises. Whatsoever He shall be sought for with a pious mouth, He will grant, and will give us a joyful event to just petitions. But (I know it, nor does a false omen deceive my mind) the Lord will return His own king safe, he will send help, opening the sanctuary of the sacred heaven, and will protect thee with His most powerful hand. Let it be the boast of Syria to number their troops of chariots, and to make their axles rough with crooked hooks. Let the Persians, breaking the ground with the sounding hoof, trust in horses and patrol far and wide with loose reins, let them boast of their chariots and horses. We in our straits will call upon the name of almighty God. Neither their chariots nor the strength of their horses will make good to them that the vultur will not tear their limbs with his crooked talons. The favour of God will raise us, low and quite depressed, and He will uphold us with His divine power. Do Thou, our Saviour, bring help. If thou favour us, we neither covet the arms of our allies nor fear those of our enemies. Our most excellent King will regard us and, when invoked, will favourably hear the prayers of His own people at every hour.
Blessed King of the heavenly hosts, that the king, rid of anxious cares, triumphs with joy, his foe being overcome, he confesses it is owning to Thee. Thou hast given him strength to endure labour, Thou hast granted him to return safe from the obstinate fight. He never as yet suffered any repulse when he sought Thee with humble voice, he hath desired nothing in the concealed recesses of his breast with a vain hope. Thou hast blessed him with all the conveniencies of life, both above his wishes and before his wishes. Thou hast given to his sacred head to bear a crown bright with gems and gold. He requested life, immortality, free from death, was added to him. Thou art the author of his renown, by Thee he shines with remarkable glory. Thy favour hath given him to be an example of happiness to posterity, to be the measure of their wish to mothers when they pray for good to their pleasant children. Thou surely art the hope and anchor of his confidence. Thou art a harbour in adversity, depending on Thee alone he firmly will bear every blast of turbulent fortune. Thou shalt seize upon the rebellious, Thou shalt demand punishment with Thy avenging hand. As a fire burning in close furnaces devours the old branches of wood, so the blast of Thy fury shall devour Thy wicked foes. Thou wilt cut off from the root the whole race and seed of the wicked nation. For they treacherously contrive secret fraud and mischief against Thee, and they entertain empty wishes in their depraved mind, and conceive vain hopes. Pale with fear, they shall rush to flight, thou pursuing, and shall bear dishonourable wounds upon their back. While they shun their fate by flight, Thou shalt again turn Thine arrows upon their face. O eternal Judge, Who managest the reins of the universe with Thy potent right hand, arise, let the insolence of thine enemies acknowledge Thy power. Then shall the congregation of the pious praise Thee, the Parent of the world, with solemn songs, propitious to the prayers of Thy suppliants, but terrible to the wicked.
O God, why dost Thou forsake me? My God, why dost Thou forsake me? Alas! I pour out words in vain: whether the day discloses the lands with its light, the day will see me calling in vain, or if the night wraps up the earth in silent darkness, every night hears me calling, no night but sounds with my complaint. Thou art the holy inhabitant of the holy city, Thou art the song of the offspring of Isaac, Thou was the sure hope of our ancestors. They who intrusted their safety to Thee went away after obtaining from Thee their safety, they who sought Thy help in adversity, being saved, gave thanks, they who gave up themselves to Thy faithfulness did not suffer disgrace, nor the scorn of their enemies. But I am a worm, not a man. I am the talk of the vulgar, the reproach of the most despicable. For the mob that meets me mock at my misfortunes, and nod, and wink, and shake their head, and stretch out their lips. They embitter their railleries with these ill-natured words: “Behold him who was dear to the Lord, behold him who was secure in the confidence of the deity. Now let Him save him, now let Him rid him from danger, whom He caresses with so much love.” O Lord, thou forthwith receivedst me when brought forth from the womb of my mother. I depended on Thee my hope when as yet a child hanging at my mother’s breast. From the womb Thou art my God, Thy favour hath followed me from my mother’s belly. So now depart no further in the last critical danger. The last danger approaches, my friends, terrified by the fear of death, have fled away. Wild bulls, fat bulls, have surrounded me on all sides, they gape with their jaws after the manner of roaring lions which hope and hunger rouses. Rivers of blood flow over all my pale body, the jointing of my limbs relaxes the ligaments, my breast is melted within me, my heart is melted with fear, as wax by the sun. My limbs, deprived of strength, have withered like a potter’s vessel, my stuff tongue hath cleaved to my dry jaws, now I stand at the heap of the grave. Ravenous dogs oppress me with their barking on all sides and attack me with their teeth, a cruel conspiracy of the worst of men have pierced my hands and feet, and they number my bones, my bones appearing through the skin of my distended body. After that their fury hath spent all its torments, their mind, still swelling with rage, feeds itself, satiates its eyes, and enjoys a pleasant spectacle in my sufferings. They part my garments among them, they have made lots the deciders of my coat. But do not Thou, Lord, depart, do not abandon me in the utmost distress. Thou alone art my strength, Thou art my might. Run, quickly succour my life, defend me, abandoned by all, repel the bloody sword of my cruel foes, restrain the ravenous violence of these dogs, check the foaming jaws of these lions, break the horns of these unicorns, save Thy supplicant. Then, death being vanquished, I, safe by Thy help, will declare Thy name to my brethren, I will set forth Thy strength, Thy faithfulness and Thy constancy to the assemblies of the godly. O ye who worship God with a pure mind, praise God with pure songs. Ye seed of Jacob, celebrate the greatness of God with solemn praise. Ye offspring of Isaac, acknowledge the clemency of the deity towards the faithful. He hath not despised the loneliness of the needy, He hath not turned away His face out of disdain of the poor. He hath heard me calling and restored me to a pleasant life. Therefore I will proclaim Thy praises throughout the remotest regions of the world, I will declare Thee to the nations, I will pay my vows before the congregation of them that fear Thee. The meek people, ignorant of fraud, shall eat when called to the sacred banquets, and, having ended the entertainment and being filled with sweet nectar, shall praise God the giver. They shall celebrate God, Who, tho’ so great, insinuates Himself with flaming vigour into the hearts of those who seek Him, that they, being forever alive, may rejoice far from the fear of death. Therefore the earth, alarmed at so new a sight, shall from its utmost borders, wheresoever it is inhabited, bow its neck under the yoke of the Lord. All the families of all nations shall serve Him, and shall worship the Lord upon their faces. For the kingdom of the threefold fabric belongs to the Lord by an everlasting right. He shall govern all the nations. The potentates of the earth shall sit down at his table and, being filled with the dishes of the sacred banquet, shall willingly come under His yoke. The poor man, who can scarce move his sickly limbs with his wearied joints at the departure of life, shall at the threshold of his tomb bow the knee to him. Also posterity with a continued offspring shall worship Him, and moreover shall tell their posterity thro’ long ages the favour of the deity towards me. This seed shall serve Him, this nation shall be accounted His for the time to come.
Ye ravenous dogs, why do you attack me to no purpose? Envy, why dost thou push a a wicked aim? The Lord superintends me, as a shepherd his flock, nothing at all shall be wanting to me. Sometimes I am delicately fed in the mild pasture of the verdant plain, which the beauty of the early spring; paints; sometimes when wearied I gently stretch out my full side. A rivulet of pure water gently humming restores to my wearied limbs, and refreshes my spirits with agreeable cherishment under the scorching heat of the sun. When my wandring mind, following the soft enticements of error, made to the wild forests, my good Shepherd, pitying, drew me back again into the way of righteousness. Nor, if death should threaten me with wounds in awful darkness with its doleful hand, can I fear to go forward, Thou being my leader. Thou wilt make me secure with Thy shepherd’s staff. Thou heapest my table with dainties, Thou furnisheth wine in full bowls and refreshest my head with ointment. Fretting grief wastes the envious while they behold this. Thy goodness shall never leave men, and Thy favour ever abounding with blessings, and I shall spend the long period of an undisturbed life in Thy house.
The whole earth indeed is the Lords, and whatsoever anywhere it either barren conceals or fruitful furnishes, and those who inhabit the wild mountains, and fruitful plains, and cities civilized with sacred laws. He hath fixed the solid globe of the earth upon the sea, that it might be steady amidst the unsteady waters, and tho’ so often beat upon by the rapid waves, it might ward off all their attacks by its firm cohesion. All things therefore deservedly belong to the Lord, but yet He hath dedicated one peculiar dwelling to Himself. Who shall ascend thither? To Whom shall this power be granted, that he may fix his happy step in that holy place? He whose hands and mind are innocent, who neither meditates vanity in his mind, nor, perjured, hath done damage to any. To him shall the Lord give riches, He shall rid him from violence and petulant reproach by His favourable providence. This is true piety, by this there is a way to the heavens, thus may we behold the face of the true deity. Ye gates, ye everlasting gates of the everlasting palace, come unlock your entries, come open your doors, pluck off your bars, lay open your thresholds, that He the great King may enter, He famous for much glory. Who is this new guest Who enters these sacred dwellings? Who is this King famous for much glory? He is the Lord, powerful far and wide both by his right hand and and his wealth, and renowned in war for much victory. Ye gates, ye everlasting gates of the everlasting palace, come unlock your entries, come open your doors, pluck off your bars, lay open your thresholds, that He the great King may enter, He famous for much glory. Who is this new guest Who enters these sacred dwellings? Who is this King famous for much glory? He is a leader powerful in arms and numerous forces, He is that King famous for much glory.
Let this man trust to arms, let another defend himself by the vulgar train of his vassals and the force of his soldiers. O Creator of the universe, my hopes depend on Thee alone, and regard Thee alone in my distress. Holy Father, do you cause that my hopes, become vain, be not matter of laughter to my insolent enemies. So shalt Thou free me from shame, nor shall blushing confound the countenance of the rest who have placed the anchor of their confidence in Thee. May their hopes disappoint them, and the shame and grief of a disappointed hope torment them, who from the love of unclean things defile themselves with uncleanness, and, tho’ provoked by no injury, delight to vex good men. Do Thou shew me the right way thro’ the vague windings of life, amidst rough places and darkness, and, by the splendour of Thy light going before me, conduct me to the way of truth, delivered from the pursuing waves of error. For I depend upon Thee my only hope, I acknowledge Thee alone for my God and the upholder of my safety. If the rule of my manners, bowed by vice, hath perhaps turned aside, if slippery error hath deceived me, or if my unwary youth, overcome with the enticements of pleasure, hath polluted itself with wicked crimes, yet, mindful of Thy goodness and lenity, do Thou take pity, Who, swaying our parents with gentle reins, even from the infancy of the world hath used a fatherly indulgence towards them. What Thou mightest deny to our behaviour, Thou canst not deny to Thy mercy, nor wilt Thou deny, nor wilt Thou (Who art good) send those away empty who pray for good things, nor wilt Thou, the rule of right and equity, ever be wanting to those who seek the right way. Thou embracest the modesty of the meek mind, and teachest the distinction betwixt righteousness and wickedness. Thou, being leader and companion, leadest meekness void of fraud thro’ a safe and short way. Being merciful and favourable, Thou forgettest our sins. Thou performest Thy promises with a liberal hand, also Thy merciful indulgence hath lessened our punishment, and Thou keepest a stedfast faith to Thy promisses towards all who contemn not the conditions of the holy Covenant. That ages of posterity may know this meekness, and the glory of Thy name may spread itself far and wide over all corners of the world, merciful Father, pardon our errors, which much anxiety, and impotent love, and anger hard to be governed, and grief, and error (no discerning judge of truth) hath occasioned. O thrice happy he who worships God with a pure mind! Whatever maxim of life he embraceth, God is ever present to him as his leader and director, and prospers all this actions. His quiet mind, far from anxious fear, shall abundantly enjoy all plenty, and a long succession of offspring shall establish his house, and a race flourishing with much progeny shall transmit the father’s wealth to the grandchildren. Besides, the Lord will discover, by His own light, to the minds of the pious mysteries despised by the wicked and hidden from the impiously wise, and shall teach the knowledge of His most holy Covenant, which alone is the director and rule of a happy life. Therefore, blessed King of the heavenly host, I seek Thee alone with my mind, I turn away my eyes nowhere from Thee, Thou alone shalt rid my feet from the deceitful nets of my enemies. O holy Guardian of mankind, look on me with a friendly eye, and defend me, forsaken by all and helpless, with Thy sacred right hand, and free me from cares which, being very many, vex my mind and ever distract with new pains. Pardon me, tormented again and again with excessive punishments, and overwhelmed with sufferings, mercifully forget my transgressions. Alas! how great a power of a wicked party pursues me with arms! What a cruelty seeks to destroy me with implacable hate! Do Thou deliver me from dangers, do Thou protect from the scorn of enemies his life who has placed all the hope of his safety in Thee, nor trusts in any other means than his own integrity and Thy clemency. Grant that the nation which embraces the precepts of Thy laws may be safe on every side, Thou being its defender.
A tyrant pursues me openly with violence, calumny pursues me secretly with malicious guile. Most excellent Creator of the universe, I appeal to Thee, who beholdest the secret recesses of my breast. My mind is void of fraud, and my hands innocent and free from violence and wickedness. My hope is fixed upon God, Who will not suffer me to be overwhelmed by the violence of my cruel lot. Search with fire my reins, and the inmost chambers of my heart, and the hidden secrets of my senses, as the cunning craftsman tries gold melted in the hot furnace. There Thou shalt behold a mind which ever remembers the gifts of Thy bounty, and a course of life, free from deviations, purely spent according to Thy laws. Let the vain tongue be far from me, nor expect me for its companion, let him depart far from my house who hath learned to disguise his sentiments in his deceitful breast. I hate the counsels of the wicked, I abhor worse than venom their ungodly assemblies, whose hearts leap for joy when they have perpetrated execrable deeds. But with a mind not conscious to itself of guilt, and being washed in pure fountains, I will go to Thy altars, and, being the joyful leader of the joyful choir, will offer sacrifices to Thee. Our concert with the sounding timbrel and harp shall praise Thee, and shall declare Thy wonderful deeds to posterity in the illustrious assembly. My mind ardently loves both the house in which Thy name is sung and the Temple where Thy deity is worshipped, the Temple which conceals the pledges of Thy glory draws me thither when absent. Let not a heathen land bury these my bones among bloody barbarians who hatch wickedness with a deceitful mind, and snatch at presents with a greedy hand. I will go on in innocence to pursue my appointed way. Do Thou graciously apply Thine ear more nearly to my complaints, and defend me from sad dangers. That I walk thro’ even places with a sure foot, that I follow righteousness, is owing to Thy bounty, wherefore I will extol Thee, the support of my health, with praises in the throng assembly.
When God shines before me in darkness and defends my life, what open violence can affright me? When a wicked faction had prepared all their forces against me alone, they themselves fell into the snares they had laid for my death. If they threaten camps and armies hostile with threatning weapons, secure in mind I behold their camps, and void of fear view their battles. One thing have I desired, and will desire it again and again, that, rid of evil cares, I may ever be an inhabitant of Thy holy Temple, that I may admire Thy sacred courts, and may sing praises to God while the breath of vital air moves my limbs. Then shall He hide me concealed under the shade of His canopy, and defend me, removed far from danger, as if placed in the fortress of an inaccessible rock. Neither shall He even now suffer me, deserted, to be oppressed by the violence of a wicked party, and, being conqueror, I will pay my vows, nor shalt Thou, the author of my victory, be unmentioned by me. Hear Thy supplicant calling on Thee, and, being good and merciful, raise me up, crushed with adversity. My mind pants for thee, my countenance intent always looks to Thy countenance. Hide not from the light of thy amiable countenance, nor leave me in darkness. Suffer not Thy servant to be cut off in anger, and defend from the enemy that life which he owes to Thee, and, only hope of my safety, rescue it from danger. My dear friends, my relations, my father, yea my fond mother had left me, but God, Who never abandons the pious in their distresses, hath not left me. Bountiful Father, teach me Thy ways and lead me in the right path, lest violence and fear draw me, affrighted by the enemy, from the way of righteousness. O do not leave me exposed to the lust of wicked men. Impious witnesses maliciously forge false accusations against me, and arm themselves with lies. My mind, overcome with so great evils, should now have fainted, unless the hope of Thy goodness had encouraged me that joy would soon return after anxious sufferings. And I myself, alive among the living, expect the blessings of a happy life. Therefore do not succumb in adversity but, being brave, always hold it out: the Lord will strengthen thee and support they courage. Do thou, being brave, always hold it out.
O Potentate higher than the star-bearing orbs, the protection and undoubted safety of my life, lend a favourable ear to my supplications, lest I become like those who go down to their tombs. O Father, hear the vows which I Thy supplicant enter up with groans to Thee, stretching out my arms towards heaven, ever watching with its twinkling flames, to heaven, the Temples that are witnesses of Thy glory. Number me not with the wicked assemblies, nor punish me as a companion to those criminals whose tongue is bedaubed with fawning compliments, but their mind infected with cold poison. May they receive the rewards of their naughtiness, and wages adequate to their execrable designs. May they reap according to their sowing, and suffer punishment worthy of their most mischievous purposes. Thy all-foreseeing providence, Who raisest me to eminent honours, does not either restrain their infected hands from wickedness, nor mollify their minds infested with spite. therefore shall neither a long series of their offspring flourish, nor a lasting race receive their father’s wealth, but destruction shall overturn their race and family with a speedy overthrow. Praise be to the Lord of the universe, Who hath shewed Himself not inexorable to my prayers. From Him is my strength, He is my shield in adversity, from Him is my hope, from Him my assured help in misfortunes. Wherefore my heart exults rejoicing, my lips resound Thy praises in songs, Who protectest They people in their troubles, and rescuest Thy king from all snares. O King of men, guard Thy people, grant that the race of Heber may ever plentifully abound in all the enjoyments of life, so long as the sun shall bring back the continual day.
Whether thou art rich in gold, or powerful in wealth, or famous for glory obtained in war, gratefully acknowledge the deity, and attribute to Him whatever Thou bringest to a happy event. Express praises to Him, and reconcile the Father of the universe by humble prayer, and dignify with just honours the name of God, Who rules the starry mansion with a nod. Whose voice rains the liquid dews from the pregnant cloud, causes terrible tumults in the heaven with thunder, and stirs up the plain surface of the sea ruffled by the winds, a voice full of majesty, nor ever possessed of power ineffectual to execute His commands, whether He intends to bare Lebanon of the cedars, and to lay flat lofty ashes by the winds, or to tear asunder rocks fixed in rocks, and overturn mountains plucked up from their known seats, as the frolicksom wantonness of a heifer vexes the bull along the verdant wilds. The fire struck out leaps from the clouds at the sound of His voice, the wastes of Arabia tremble, the wild beasts are afraid, their painful births come forth before the time, and their strength fails. Whatsoever thing the heaven contains in its golden Temple, whatsoever things the laboured earth bears, whatsoever things the sea conceals in its hidden waters, they do all acknowledge the power of God. O eternal Governor of the universe, the avenging ocean trembled at Thy voice and covered the mountains with its waves when it pleased Thee to destroy the wicked nations with water. Whilst Thou givest strength, we fear not our enemies fierce with their forces and formidable in number. Whilst Thou givest us peace, plenty, with a full horn, shall enrich the progeny of Isaac.
O most excellent Creator of the world, our songs shall ever praise Thee, the harp shall praise Thee. I, preserved from the jaws of approaching death, will pay my vows to Thee. Thro’ Thee, the proud enemy neither insults at my tears nor enjoys himself in my misfortunes. When doubtful of safety, I called for Thy aid in my straits. By Thy means, having recovered strength, I enjoy the desirable light of vital air, nor do I ly under the long night of the dead and darkness of the grave. O people devoted to pure worship and chaste rites, extol with praises your common Father, appeasable by your prayers, and praise Him with a memorable strain. The violence of His avenging wrath evanisheth like a fleeting bubble of water, but the savour of God bestows on good men life void of sorrow with a liberal hand. If perhaps our faces are bedewed with tears in the late evening, immediately with the golden light both laughter returns and pleasure that cheers our drooping minds. When I enjoyed the blessings of a happy peace, I said to myself, “No storm of doubtful fortune shall shake me from my established station of prosperity.” When Thou bestowedst on me power, riches and honor, when Thou establishedst my kingdom with brasen walls like a mountain, a flattering credulity nourished my empty pride. Thou withdrew Thy hand, leaving me to my folly. Unfaithful fortune, with fickle wings, took a turn backward, suddenly leaving my house in confusion. Immediately I addressed Thee, o Monarch of the world, with a humble heart, bedewed with tears I sought Thy aid. I said, “What will my blood when shed avail Thee? What gain shall be to Thee of my death? Shall dumb ashes in the cold grave sound forth Thy praises and declare Thy wonderful deeds to posterity? Do Thou appeased, lend a favourable ear to my prayers, nor turn away Thy countenance, severe, from my complaints. Drive away from my members the severe trouble of the pestilential disease. ” Thou forthwith appliest Thine ear to me humbling intreating: instead of tears, Thou bringest me back laughter, and, instead of pain, joy and chearful applause. Wherefore our songs shall always praise Thee, our harps shall praise Thee. The voice dedicated to Thee shall serve Thee, and Thy praise shall afford matter to our Muses.
In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar &c.
Meter: four-line stanzas of iambic dimeters
Most excellent Creator of the universe, I have placed my hope in Thee, but do Thou, being gracious, take care that I be not ashamed of a vain hope. O righteous Protector, rescue me from the fraud of my enemies, graciously hear Thy supplicant, readily lend Thy hand to me, thrown down. Keep me as shut up in an inaccessible rock, or brasen tower: Thou art to me a fort of an inaccessible rock and a brasen tower. Therefore, that thy name may be a terror to wicked minds, go before me in the way, deliver me from secret snares. Thou art my strength, I recommend my life to Thy protection. Do thou, o God, stedfast in Thy promise and mindful of thy covenants, deliver me. Those fools who follow after vain dreams I utterly abhor. Thou art a sure hope to me, Thou art the haven of my confidence. The light of Thy compassion, shining in the midst of severe hardships, suddenly filled my troubled soul with gladness. When the unbridled tyranny of my wicked enemy had bore me down, Thou deliveredst me from the pale jaws of death instantly threatening. Take pity upon me, worn out with so many misfortunes, overwhelmed with so many sorrows. Mine eye waxes dim, my mind is stupified, my body is consumed with grief. My frail life, enfeebled with grief and lamentations, passes away, and amidst my misfortunes the strength hath flowed out of my withered bones. The insolent enemy derides me and insults over my misfortunes, my neighbours have a horror at me, the rest shun me through fear of danger. I am blotted out of the remembrance of my kinsmen, as one dead, I am more contemptible to my fellow citizens than a piece of an earthen vessel. The mob provokes me in my presence with bitter reproaches, a party, combined for my destruction, plots violence. In the mean time, in confidence of Thy aid, I despise the guile, threats, injuries and affronts of my enemies. Thou conductest the threads of my life and regulatest its duration, do Thou deliver me from the tyranny of my wicked enemies. Go Thou, kind and favourable, show Thy amiable countenance to Thy servant, and protect me by that mercy with which Thou usest always to protect Thine own. Let it not be shame that I implore Thy aid: may shame confound the wicked, and may long silence lull them in their graves. Let the tongue accustomed to lying, the tongue which used wantonly to provoke and pridefully slight good men, be put to silence. O how great and how many advantages redound to those who worship Thee! With how many prosperous successes dost Thou enrich Thine own, the world bearing witness! Thou protectest them, shut up far from the threats of the powerful, and fortifiest them in Thy house from the poison of the wicked tongue. O Governor of the world, everlasting thanks be to Thee, Who hast withdrawn me from dangers, as it were, into a fortified tower. When I, hopeless and needy, could scarce defend my anxious life by flight, I said with myself, “No God hath left me to my cruel enemy.” But Thou, not forgetful of me in extreme dangers, applied a favorable ear to thy supplicant, and calling upon Thee. Therefore, ye candid and pious, love the most gracious Father of the universe, Who humbles the proud and raises the obedient. Ye who place your hope in God, trust Him continually, nor let the vigour of your mind succumb in a hurricane of turbulent fortune.
O thrice happy the man to whom the favour of the most gracious Father hath forgiven his death-brining crimes, to whom it hath covered over the shameful scandal of his character concealed in forgetful silence! O thrice happy he, to whom the gracious Judge hath not imputed the sliping errors of his deviating live, neither hath found deceit shut up in the dark recess of his breast. Whilst I hugged my disease in my silent bosom, I, being feeble, dragged along my limbs, my bones being loosened. Mournful grief, not capable of being concealed, roused my complaint. Thou, enraged, bearedst me sit down with a very strong hand, whether night had shut up the day in gloomy darkness, or whether the day returning had again brought to view the world with its rosy light. To such a degree did consuming sorrow boil my discoloured skin, to such a degree did pain dry up my limbs with leanness, that the hearvest of Africa is more gently scorched during the sultry heat of the Crab. Then, changing my mind, I brought into view my wounds, I disclosed my fault to Thee, I shewed my fraud, and Thou forthwith was reconciled to me, disengaged from my guilt. Therefore let the man who wants to keep the sanctuary of his heart pure appease Thee with suppliant prayer, nor, th9ough the sea should overflow the globe, need he dread the threats of the death-brining tide. Thou, my ever-present protector, deliverest me from terrible danger. thou diffusest joy to me over my whole body, as he who, breaking the prison, hath shaken off the chains of the enemy. Nor is that all. “I will,” sayest Thou, “take away the darkness of thy breast. I will show what way the path of a happy life leads, nor will I ever turn My eyes far from your steps. Only be not like mules or horses, whose brutal hearts know not mutual endearment, but, checked by the rugged bits, they bear slavery.” Many torments await obstinate naughtiness. To him who shall pray to the Lord in pure faith, He will grant peace and pardon, not being ever inexorable to spare a suppliant. You who adhere to simple right, and to whom truth ignorant of frauds is acceptable, rejoicing in the deity ` you, express your joy by your gestures and voice.
Ye who have the love of pure equity, joyfully praise the Lord, the maker of the world, with a song: this song becomes the lovers of equity. Let the harp praise Him with its soothing murmur, let the melodious psaltery praise Him, let the hand, skilful to play upon an instrument of ten strings, here display its art. Let us rehearse new songs to Him, joyfully sound ye with the trumpet to Him alone. For faithfulness and established truth is in His words, and equity its companion in His deeds. For He is a lover of justice and equity, and truth that knows not to deceive, and of bounty known to all over the vast territories of the earth. He winded up the lucid globe of the shining heaven by His word, and whatever sparkles with transparent rays in the flaming plains of the sky. He hath limited the shore and restrained the licentiousness of the restless sea, and hath confined the waters (as it were) in a storehouse, whence He might bring them forth upon occasion. Let both the east and west fear Him, and whosoever anywhere inhabits the utmost bounds of land or sea worship Him as the only Lord, at Whose nod whatever dies or lives lives and dies, to Whose established laws all, being liable, they trembling obey. Who more wise in His own mocks the wicked arts of the profane people and deprives the wicked counsels of the unrighteous multitude of their success. But what the Creator of the universe hath once proposed to Himself in His secret purpose remains unchangeable, as long as day and night succeed one other by rotation. O fourfold, o more than happy those to whom God is patron! Whom He hath taken to Himself, and whom He hath pleased should be called His own inheritance! The Father of the world looks down from His blessed abode of the starry heaven, and from His serene sanctuary beholds the labours and cares of men. For not even what lies hid shut up in the secret recess of the breast escapes Him, the soldier hopes in vain that he will be safe by his strong arms. Often the flight of the warlike horse, outstripping the east wind, deceives the hope of the rider. But God always beholds the just and pious with a steadfast eye, that He may turn away the darts of impending death and the cruel rigour of famine. From hence is the only hope of help to us, from Him alone is a sure protection in adversity. He will sprinkle with sweet joy breasts dedicated to Him, He will bring the hopes and prayers of those who trust Him to a happy issue.
Whether a prosperous lot shall have cherished, or a more severe vexed me, I will praise the Lord at all times, my mouth shall always resound with His praises. This shall be a pleasure, this shall be a comfort to me, this shall be an alleviation to me in adversity, and the sorrowful multitude shall solace their troubles by my example. Come, let us all together address His name and deity with praises. He heard me praying when in danger, and immediately dispelled my fear. Those who commit all their counsels to Him, their gay countenances shall shine with joyful gladness, nor shall the shame of a denial confound their cheeks with blushing. Lo, when this poor man cried, He rescued him from all dangers. An angel, sent down for their preservation, fortifies the camp of those that fear the Lord, and drives away the approaching foes, and defends the pious from wicked violence. Make trial, and immediately ye shall know how unmeasurable the goodness of God is, how happy they are who place all their hopes and riches in Him. O holy nation, worship ye the Lord, nothing shall be wanting to those who worship God faithfully. Violent cruelty shall suffer hunger, but all things shall be supplied to good men in abundance. Children, come hither and attend, that I may point out to you the true fear of the deity. Whoever thou art who, happy, desirest to lead a life long and free from cares, check the poison of thy tongue, keep thy mouth pure from wicked guile. Set about things that are right, shun those that are crooked, embrace the calm delights of peace. God, attentive, both beholds the innocent and lends His ears to their prayers, but He looks upon the wicked with a stern countenance, and even blots out their name. The Lord hears the righteous man when invoking Him, and rids him of all dangers. When hope abandons the sufferings of mortals, when the mind, oppressed with troubles, sinks under the load, God is there present and allays those evil cares. Fortune, unfavourable to the righteous, always suggests troubles to pious endeavours, but God, Who always is the protector of good men, blunts the darts of fortune and keeps their bones, that they be not bruised. His own wickedness taketh revenge on the ungodly, and whoever is the enemy of the pious, he, cut off from the root, shall perish in his house. God defends the lives of those who worship Him, neither does He abandon their estate and family.
Holy Creator of the universe, be present, protect me by Thy superior aid, and turn back upon my enemies the destruction which they prepare for me. Take Thy shield with Thy darts, draw Thy sword, go forth against my enemies. Say to my soul, “Fear nothing, being secure by My aid.” Let shame and the ugly blush of disgrace overspread the face of my enemies, may those who lay hidden snares for me take a shameful flight. As the fierce north wind carries along the light dust with swift whirling motion, so may the avenging angel push them headlong in trembling flight. Let their way be slippery with mire, and grim night cover the heaven with darkness, and let the avenging angel squeeze them headlong with pale fear. For they have endeavoured by malicious fraud to catch me, undeserving, in their nets, and they have digged a hidden ditch for me, innocent. May they stick in their own nets, and rush, blindfold and headlong, into the pit made for my destruction. In the mean time, my breast, filled with pleasant joy, shall exult; my mind, fearless of danger, shall worship the Lord, the author of my joy; and my senses, the interpreters of my mind, shall cry out, “Who is like unto the Lord God, Who defends the poor from the presumptuous violence of oppressive pride, and breaks with His avenging right hand the cruelty that molests the indigent of help?” Combined calumny rages against me with atrocious accusations, they forge an unknown crime to my ruin, they recompence with malicious hatred my good deeds, and watch for the destruction of my life. When the pain of an infectious plague hath burned them in their sickly bowels, I, loathsome, in mourning apparel, and pale with hungry famine and thirst, and prostrate on the ground, did appease God by my tears and humble supplication. Thus a sincere friend mourns at the death of a beloved companion, thus a brother bewails his only brother, thus the anxious affection of a son laments at his mother’s tomb. If providence hath touched me with a heavy hand, they run together, they celebrate among themselves their malicious joys. The very dreg of the people combine, they create envy to me, not unaware, and scoffers with smell-feasts tear me with keen abuse, they whet the tooth and vomit fury. O most excellent Father, what end wilt Thou appoint to such lingering patience. Drive away this mockery, nor deliver me, abandoned, to these ravening lions. That I may attribute to Thee what I have received, viz. that I live and see the pleasant light of the sun, and I will praise Thee in the throng assembly, Who art ready to bring assistance to Thy suppliants. Grant that the rabble, always glad at my troubles, may not nourish their wicked hopes, nor let my cruel enemy make signs at me by nodding or winking, and exult over my misfortunes, who insults with bitter words and, being wickedly sly, pursues the peaceable with cruel treachery that he may intangle the unwary in his concealed snares. They forbear not to rack their jaw with laughter, they say, “Aha, with our eyes, even with our eyes, we have seen a joyful day.” O Thou, Who viewest the universe with eyes which see all things, dost Thou see these things? Therefore without delay protect me. Now at length awake and vanquish ungovernable pride by Thy avenging hand. And, righteous Judge, bear down the wicked with just punishment, nor suffer that they reap joy from my grief, nor that they mutter with themselves in their secret breast, “O brave, it is well. All things fall out beyond our wishes. We have overcome, there he lies.” Let they pay for their foolish mirth with vile infamy, and let dishonourable shame, the companion of disgrace, wipe away their unseasonable joys at my misfortunes. But let those to whom my equity and mind, not conscious to itself of evil is desirable, ever lead a joyful life far from sorrow, and extol the Lord with their praises to the stars of heaven, Who rids His servants from anxious cares. Holy preserver of mankind, my tongue shall ever sing Thy righteousness and Thy praises while the warm breath moves my breast.
Although thou shouldst burn a thousand intrails in fires used in sacrifices, give kisses to the very stones, and often repeat thy prayers, and, open-handed, shouldst heap the altars with thy gifts, yet thou wilt not bring about that I shall believe thou art pious. Your crimes cry out against you and deny that thou believest there is a God Who governs the world with His counsel. Howsoever thou flatterest openly, yet thy impiety, shut up in thy secret breast, is not not concealed: it breaks forth like fire, and draws along with it the hatred of thee, and destruction the companion of hatred. Whatsoever thou speakest is tinctured with fraud, thou abhorrest those who suggest better things to thy unfavourable ears. Thou contrivest abominable wickedness during the whole night, shunnest what things are right, but always embracest those that are worse. O great Governor of the world, the earth, the sea, and the heavens are sensible of the gifts of Thy favour. Whatsoever the heaven surrounds, having their beginning, do flourish, and, declining, fall down, in obedience to Thy laws. The extent of Thy righteousness and wisdom, which hath both made all things and governs all things that are made, is by far higher than the snowy tops of the mountains, and deeper than the gulfs of the wide ocean. From hence mankind draw life and breath, nor do even the brutes escape Thy care. Hence all the good things of life are furnished to us as long as the mind lies concealed, being confined in its corporeal prison. As a bird covers its young under its wings, so we escape all evils by the hope of Thy protection. But when my banished soul, set free by death, shall regain its Father’s threshold and starry house, from hence poverty and sorrows are banished. None but shall receive better than their wishes, everywhere pleasure, everywhere unmixed joy, a river runs delights with a copious stream. There life flows out from a perennial fountain, life never again to be cut down by the hand of cruel fate. From hence the mists of our understanding evanish, which at present keep our minds under darkness, and a bright ray, shed from Thy face, cherisheth us with the light of pure knowledge. In the meantime cherish with the blessings of Thy bounty those who know thee and thy deeds, and cause those who love the truth with a pure heart to reap the benefits of Thy righteousness. Let not the wicked rabble proudly trample upon me with a cruel foot, or drive me from my habitations. May those who rejoice in wickedness so tumble down by their own wickedness that just ruin may forever bear them down when fallen.
Let not spiteful envy consume thee, if thou shalt see the wicked prosperous, nor envy their riches, more fleeting than the east winds. For their shadowy felicity instantly is gone, even as the grass, cut down by the sickle, withers with dry leaves. But do thou pursue right means with dependence upon God, and He will grant that thou mayst long inhabit the earth, and will feed thee. Let your delight be in Him, in Him your only pleasure: He will cherish thee continually, and give thee to obtain thy desire. Entrust thy life, estate, and honour to His sole pleasure, He will make all things come to pass according to the desire of thy heart. He will cause that thy righteousness be as a beam of the glorious morning, and that thy virtue be more manifest than the meridian light. Bear patiently what adverse fortune hath brought, nor, swollen with rage, behold with distorted eye the prosperous circumstances of wicked men. Restrain your anger, let baneful wrath be gone lest, perhaps, contention push thee on to abominable wickedness. The wicked are dispersed more speedily than the light smoke, but the meek shalt possess his lands and leave them to his latest posterity. Wait a little, and nowhere shalt thou see the wicked man. Behold his dwellings, thou wilt scarce discover the vestige of their once-proud lord. Modest goodness shall pass a joyful old age in peace, and leave his paternal inheritance to be possessed by his heirs. The wicked secretly knits a net and lays snares for the good and, gnashing with spiteful tooth, grins with vexation and rage. God perceives these things from on high, and laughs at their vain threats because He foresees destruction threatening his guilty head. The wicked man will both draw the sword and bend his bow, that he may destroy the poor and wound the innocent with his wicked arrows. But the drawn sword shall go back into the bowels of its owner, his deadly bow shall be broken, and his arrows whetted in vain. Plain household furniture and a small estate honestly acquired is better than the disdainful wealth of the rich, plundered by violence. The righteous Judge will scatter what things are unjustly got, and break the power of the wicked, but will defend the righteous with His own right hand. God maintains the innocent and defends their estate, He provides that their inheritance may be lasting, even to endless ages. Whether black pestilence or warlike fury shall disturb the world, nothing shall ever be wanting to the innocent man, nor shall he suffer sickly famine. But on the other hand, the wicked enemy of God suddenly perishes altogether, even as the grease of a fat sacrifice evanisheth into light smoke. The unjust gives nothing away, and always lends upon usury, but there remains to the bountiful man, out of his poor lot, something which he can give to the indigent. The friends of the righteous shall leave their possessions to their children, but the seed of their enemies, plucked up by the roots, shall perish. God both loves the just and directs his steps. He upholds him, when ready to fall, with His right hand, and with His right hand lifts him up when fallen. I have been a child, and now I am old, yet I do not remember to see the pious destitute of help, or his children asking an alms. The righteous man, having pity on the poor, gives in lend again and again, nevertheless abundant wealth is not wanting to his late offspring. Eschew abominable wickedness, pursue things honest, and thy offspring shall inhabit the earth as long as the son pours forth the glorious day. God loveth equity, nor doth He ever abandon the good, but the seed of the ungodly man shall perish utterly from the root. The just man shall possess fertile acres of land, and shall manure them, together with his children, till the last end of the world shall approach. Judicious talk and righteousness is always in the mouth of good men, and the law of God, written in their heart, directs their steps that their feet slide not. The wicked watcheth the pious that he may slay him, but God perceives him and defends him from false accusations when before the judge. Place thy hope in God, follow after the laws of God, and He will grant that thou, remaining alive, rich and powerful, mayst see the death of thine enemies. I have seen the wicked, powerful and swollen with intolerable pride, begin to flourish like a laurel tree hard by a pleasant river. Immediately I look, and lo there is nowhere even so much as the appearance of their fleeting glory, nowhere do vestiges remain of their power, once grievous to all. Behold both the manner and course of life of the just and upright man, and thou shalt see him spend a joyful old age in great peace. But the party ever ready to do hurt shall utterly perish, and an end worthy of their wicked deeds shall close their life. The just places all confidence of safety in God, Who supports the righteous with strength when adverse fortune thunders. The Lord brings help to him who is seeking it, and in danger delivers from the wicked the man who has committed himself and his safety to Him.
Preserver of the world, do not reprove me in the scorching flame of Thy fury, nor by wrath proceed to punish me, deserving punishments however grievous. The arrows of thy right hand, deeply fixed in my marrow, stick fast. On the one hand, the power of Thy wrath, and on the other the impulse of a guilty mind, so struck me with fear that there is no part of my body but languishes with deadly wounds, so that, the joints of my limbs being loosened, my bones have imbibed the poison of my wickedness; of my wickedness, I say, which, swallowing me up, hath hurled me over the head, as it were, in a deep gulf, which like a huge rock weighs me down, striving to get above water again. The fear of my old wound hath become fresh, and spews out vile matter. I, afflicted, humbled and unclean with mourning and nastiness, am born down with the greatest misfortunes, and an ulcer, shut up in my secret breast, burns, nor is any part of my body, free of pain, at ease. I am so weak and so continually dispirited that my heart, unequal to my misfortunes, both howls and roars with a doleful cry. O ruler of the world, neither the desires of my soul nor my sighs are hid from Thee. My troubled heart, afraid and trembling, panteth; my limbs, destitute of strength, pine away with languid numbness; the sight of mine eyes, drawing on the night, waxeth dim. My neighbours, my friends, and those whom sameness of blood had brought nearer to me, stood aloof, scarce enduring to see the vileness of my wounds. But the band always bent on my destruction and plotting wicked violence constantly spread deceitful nets, and contrive wicked frauds. I, in the mean time, as one deaf and dumb, stood motionless in silence like one without a tongue and stupid, who knew not how to refute accusations. In Thee is all my hope placed. O powerful Governor of the universe, graciously favour me, lest I become a sport to my proud enemy, who insolently exults over my misfortunes, who triumphs with frolicksome mirth if my feet should stagger with a slippery fall. I am ready to suffer stripes, the bloody skin of my body, torn by the large furrows of the whips, is always swollen with the mark of the wounds. I, who am wicked, confess I deserve them, alas! I deserve them: being guilty, I suffer punishments due by right. But in the mean time my cruel enemy waxeth strong, and the faction gathers strength. They live merrily and flourish, and they injure me with out cause. They repay evil for good, they continually heap false accusations upon me because I follow the things that are right. Do not Thou depart farther, nor forsake me in the greatest dangers. Do Thou, the only author of my safety, make haste, lend me Thy saving hand.
When the cruel enemy, merry at my misfortune, had provoked me with reproaches, I determined with myself to refrain from bitter words and wranglings. I shut the bars of my tongue with a bridle, I obstinately kept silence, and, lest my mouth should rashly utter anything amiss, I shut up the passage even to good words. But my grief, hindered to get vent, like fire, burnt more vehemently within. At length passion broke the reigns of this obstinate stubbornness, and I besought the Lord in these words: “Shew me the measure of my life which is to come. When shall I escape free from this loathsome prison of trouble. Thou, powerful and blessed in Thyself, livest ages terminated by no end, but what time we live is almost nothing, and almost shorter than nothing, like the fleeting phantasm and image which a glass mirrour reflects, and this same nothing of time is painfully spent in unprofitable vanity and in anxious labours. Lust torments, joy swells, hope raises, and fear depresses the mind. We are making a bustle to no purpose, we are heaping up riches to unknown heirs. Whither therefore shall I turn me? Who will bring help to me in distress? Who will deliver me out of these evils? All my hope is in Thee: take away my heinous sins, the fountain of my misery, and suffer me not to be a reproach and sport to the foolish and wicked. When the tongue of my forward enemy rated me with shameful taunts, I was dumb, viz. knowing that these punishments are the avengers of Thy wrath. Guardian and Father of the human race, remove for a little Thy strokes, for both my strength leaves me, nor is my life able always to suffer new stripes. When Thou pursuest the crimes of a person with punishments, immediately his vigour and beauty consumes away, after the manner of a garment eaten with moths. O man is a frail and fleeting thing! Gracious Father, give ear to my prayers, nor. For as a stranger I inhabit this earth. Neither I nor my fathers have here any certain abode, but, anxious every day and hour, we go through the vexatious troubles of our short life. Wherefore withhold for a little Thy severe hand, that I may recover my flagged spirits before that the gate of death, from whence there is no return, hath let me pass through.”
When fear, and threats, and cruel death, stretching forth its greedy hand, roared all about me, the hope of heavenly aid, though late, did notwithstanding mitigate my fearful anxiety. The Lord perceived and brought me out, when sticking in the clay-bottom of a miry pool, and having set me upon the firm top of a rock, pointed out an easy path in which I might go. He hath inspired my breast with new spirit and furnished new matter of his praise, which I should sing upon the sweetly vocal strings, and in soft-sounding numbers. Let those who ascribe all events to the irresistible necessity of fate or to uncertain chance behold these things, and, trembling, commit themselves to the protection of the Lord, Who reigns in the starry heaven. Happy he who looketh to the Lord with a firm hope and trust, whom the pomp of swollen pride, by its vain allurements, does not draw to itself, nor deceive with the false appearance of good. Holy Father, how many and how wonderful pledges of Thy care are afforded to us, which neither our mind, by reason of its dull sight, can perceive, nor our tongue rehearse, by reason of their number ! Thou privately pluckst my ear, and putst me in mind that neither a sum of money can remove, nor the blood of an innocent beast wash out, nor a sacrifice consumed in the fire expiate, the guilt of wickedness. Then said I, “I come, command what seemeth good. Here am I, holy Father, ready to execute Thy orders, even as the oracles of the never-perishing volume, written on faithful tables, do declare them. Hither my mind, hither my inclination is bent, that I may conform to Thy precepts what I do, what I speak, and what I silently meditate with myself. For the Law is wholly engraven upon my heart. I Thy herald carry the fame of Thy righteousness far and wide among the nations, neither is there rest to my lips nor my tongue, that Thy righteousness (thou Thyself seest) may be made known to all the earth. Nor have I concealed that Thou art just to punish sin, and a keeper of Thy promise, and liberal of help to the distressed. Thy goodness and Thy truth is made manifest to all nations, I being the informer. Wherefore let Thy goodness and faithfulness of Thy promise, which knoweth not to deceive, defend me, and do Thou, Father of the universe, protect me with Thy right hand, when beset with innumerable evils. Punishments which outnumber the hairs of my head bear me down on every side, which it is not easy to discern by the sight of the eye, my mind, overwhelmed with innumerable tides of cares, is become stupid. But be Thou, holy Creator of the world, present bringing safety. Do Thou bring assistance quickly and withdraw me, while depressed with the greatest misfortunes, that the wicked may be ashamed of their mischievous design. May those who lay snares for my destruction suffer the shameful grief of infamy, and let those who rejoice at my misfortunes relate the disgraceful end of their design. Let them receive this fruit of their wickedness, that they may fall into the snare which they had laid for me, and may he who laughs at my tears and takes delight in my misfortunes, being disappointed, grieve and blush. May the hope of Thy aid encourage those who entrust themselves wholly to Thy protection, and let them ever strive to magnify the amiable name of the Lord with threefold honours. Although I am hopeless, poor, and indigent, yet my guardian, the ever-mindful Creator of the universe, watcheth over me. May thou, the protection and undoubted safety of my life, be present, nor torment me with a fearful delay.”
Happy the man who, pitying the poor, lends him help in his hard circumstances, neither with insolent disdain looks down upon him when humbled and depressed with misfortunes. God will raise up and comfort him whom thou thinkest ruined and altogether despised. The Lord will defend him with faithful care and deliver him out of dangers, and will give him in safety to enjoy the blessings of a happy life among the living. When pain shall have laid his limbs prostrate upon a bed, He will both bring help and make his couch, and He will wholly turn all his sickness into pleasant joy. When the violence of an acute pain did afflict me, I asked help of Thee, o God. “Heal my grieved soul,” said I, “from the shameful wound if its own iniquity. My enemy imprecates dreadful things and, rejoicing at my misfortunes, curses me. He saith, ‘When shall he die, and one night bury his name with his body?’ If by chance one of these comes to see me, troubled with diseases both of mind and body, he feigns grief in his countenance, but draws his sighs from a joyful heart. Having gone abroad, immediately he spews forth the venom concealed in his breast. The wicked conspiracy secretly whispers against me, they privately contrive cruel things, they lay all their designs for my ruin. They thus boast with themselves: ‘Now the dreadful violence of his distemper, assuredly sent down from heaven, ties him fast. He is held prostrate, he lies fixed to his couch, dragging out his last night.’ Moreover also my companion, conjunct with me both in table and lodging, and to whom I could most trust, betaking himself to my enemies, hath cruelly lift up his heel against me. But do Thou, the author and guardian of my safety, graciously look upon me. Lend me Thy saving hand when cast down, that I may make suitable retaliation upon my enemies. This shall be a most certain pledge to me of Thy favour and constancy in defending me, in that my cruel enemy, who is happy at my misfortunes, doth not exult. My body hath recovered its strength, my mind hath preserved its innocence, Thou stretching forth Thy right hand, Who hadst received me, always to be defended, into Thy protection. Let the world acknowledge and worship the only God, Whom the tribe of Isaac adore, and praise Him alone as long as the light and darkness divide the changes of the seasons.”
Go to Psalm LXII