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GEORGE BUCHANAN’S PARAPHRASES
OF BOOK III OF THE PSALMS
Though the earth deny a lodging to the waters, and the waters bury the earth with their billows, though the air thunder with glittering fires, and the dissolution of the world mix the stars, yet the goodness of almighty God shall not leave the pious destitute in straits, nor suffer minds pure from iniquity to be utterly oppressed with a tide of grief. How did my foot almost fail the step with a slippery trip, while I measure things that are immense with a small foot-rule, while in my balance I foolishly weigh the decrees of God. My breast boiled with indignation and with a zealous tide of spleen when I beheld the impious, polluted with the filth of every crime, flourish in all enjoyments. Fortune, who is envious, fickle, and treacherous to all, preserves a consistency to them with perpetual fidelity, and bringeth them firm, with lively strength, to extreme old age,. Their life exempted from uneasy troubles and cares which corrode the breasts of other mortals, and free from fatiguing labours, flows through gladness and luxury. Therefore their hearts swell big with insolent haughtiness, their spirits distend their boisterous breasts, their blind self-love gives the reins to their ungoverned violence. Their houses contain not their envied wealth, nor their mind their felicity and superfluous luxury, exceeding their wishes, and their hope fatigueth, and yet satisfieth not. They terrify inferiours with big words and the weight of overbearing power, with saucy countenance and wicked language they flatter their own iniquity. Nor is the prattling vanity of their impudent tongue content with pouring poison over all lads, their outrageous pride dareth to attack the heavens and God. These things the pious view with astonished minds and fluctuate with storm breasts. And they whisper with themselves, “When God beholds these things, can He refrain from black avenging fires?” Wealth is abundantly supplied to the bad, and their money increaseth without end: they pass the idle moments softly in secure peace, no disturbance annoying. In vain therefore doth one live with a pure breast, in vain do I keep mine hand innocent, in vain do I sustain toils, am tormented with grief, am excruciated with many evils. Again I was afraid lest I should accuse with rash presumption the counsel of God, and perhaps deem these most miserable whom He calleth His chosen pledges. While I anxiously investigate the hidden causes, and contend with all the force of obstinate wit, a profound chaos insinuateth itself and covereth the light of the mind with darkness. At last wearied with this unprofitable labour, I have recourse to Thee, gracious King of the heavenly hosts, I quietly wait, from Thy sacred recesses, what end may distinguish the former from the latter. I then quickly saw on how slippery a foot the proud did stand, how unstable the wealth which they possess, on how brittle a support depending Thou draggest them down with headlong ruin. As soon as the avenging storm of Thy wrath hath sounded, fleeting riches are vanished with their possessor, there remaineth no shadow of their envied power. Thus a dream, which mocketh the minds of men during the night, evanisheth, and what lately with vain fear terrified the breast when fast asleep, presently will excite the laughter of all through the city. Till I saw these things, grief and anxious solicitude overwhelmed my mind, or numbness bound me, hesitating, with sluggish mind like a stupid beast. But the secret power of Thy divinity in the mean time supported me, and Thou directedst my right hand. Under Thy conduct and guidance, I shine bright with glory. What does the earth, and what does the heaven present me to be worshipped but Thee? My heart is consumed away, my broken mind languisheth with desire for thee, my sickly body is withered, but Thou again confirmest my joints with lively strength, Thou suppliest plentiful riches. Those who, having forsaken Thee, from a sottish hope adore vain gods Thou overwhelmest with slaughter. Thee alone I follow, Thou remaineth the only hope of my affairs. Free from dangers by Thy protection, increased in honours, I will extol Thee with eternal praises.
Why, o Parent of the universe, forsaketh Thou us altogether, and deliverest us to the wicked enemy. Why, o Shepherd, with obstinate anger abandonest Thou Thy flock to be devoured by wolves? Remember Thy congregation which Thou hast freed from severe bondage, which Thou hadst taken to Thyself by peculiar lot as a proper inheritance. Graciously and favourably regard the hills of Sion, the seat of Thy divinity. At length arise and quash the pride of the enemies, utterly destroy the froward enemies who with wicked hands pollute Thy sanctuary. They sound with the sonorous trumpet, not to sing Thy praises, but to profane Thy feasts with bitter mockery, they fix their standards on Thy towers. Their presumptuous rage riots without controul, the crashing noise of Thy falling Temple ascends, as oaks on the lofty mountain tops, cut by the ax, murmur when they fall. With hammers and levers they demolish the carved thresholds of the Temple. The fire layeth waste the sacred recesses, they defile the sanctuary of Thy name, and by themselves they threaten in their silent breast that they will destroy all. Nor in vain: levelled by the flames, all the places dedicated to Thy worship smoke. No signs, no miracles now: no prophet soothes us, ruined, and, by a hope however slow, at least promises an end of our calamities. How long will Thou suffer the insolent enemy to mock Thy name? How long shall he aggravate his direful and impious actions with bitter railings? Why, inactive, holdest Thou back Thine hand? Exert at length Thine almighty hand. Thou formerly hath been our governour and guardian, o God, even from ancient ages. The world has seen Thee always delivering Thine own from all dangers. The wave retired at Thy command, and the water stopt its course in form of a liquid wall, the return of the sea overwhelmed the leaders who gloried in their forces. It swallowed up the tyrant himself, huger than the sea-monsters, and the carcases thrown out by the billows and dashed against the rough rocks the Ethiopian vultur devoured. Amidst sands scorched with sultry heat, clear streams flowed from the hard rock, at Thy order the river stood still with dry channel. The day is Thine, the night is Thine, Thou adornest the sun’s beam with golden rays. Thou closest the sea by the mounds of the shores, and surroundeth the earth with its billows, Thou softenest the sharp frost with summer and temperest the sultry heat with the coolness of frost. Behold, o Lord, the indignities, the affronts and the approaches of the enemies who provoke Thee with pious blasphemies and oppress us with troubles. Deliver not the life of Thy turtle [turtledove] to savages, leave not the multitude of Thy poor in eternal forgetfulness. Be mindful of Thy Covenant, for the darkness neither covereth us nor ward we off injuries by our obscurity. Consider the shame of Thy people, destitute of help and distressed with all kinds of evils, that the miserable, raised from grief, may serve Thee deservedly with praises. Arise, Thou best Governour of the world, and protect Thine own cause, be Thou mindful of what indignities foolish insolence everywhere poureth on Thy name. Their haughty words and wicked tumults suppress not in silence, and let those who neglect Thee perceive Thou takest care of human affairs.
Thee, o gracious King, will we deservedly rehearse in the songs of our country, we will celebrate Thee, Who art present to the afflicted, and we will relate Thy illustrious acts to posterity. “When the times ahll come, the determined period being completed, I will conveen,” sayeth the Lord, “Mine assembly, I will treat the impious with just punishments, the pious with just rewards. Though the foundations of the ground burst asunder and mankind be troubled with frightful threatenings, I will bind again the loosened foundations of the ground with adamantine chains. O how often have I advised the foolish to make an end of their frantic iniquity! How often have I advised the impious not foolishly to take up arms against heaven! Why provoke ye heaven with foolish voice? With what hope rage ye thus? On what protection relying does your presuming spirit raise its impious crest against the skies? The west may unite with eastern forces, the warm regions may conspire with the north: in vain shall they procure riches, sceptres, or power for anyone. The King of men alone, Who disposeth of human affairs according to His pleasure, drags this man headlong from the throne, and from the dregs of the lowest populace raiseth another to his trhone. For God now holdeth in His hand a cup of purple wine, and mixeth the flowing bowl with vengeful drug, and prepareth it as a just punishment for the bad. Out of it impiety everywhere, from the utmost spaces of the earth, shall drink, and the pure wine, consumed with thirsty throat, shall drink destruction from the muddy dregs.” But, I being His bard, all posterity shall hear of the bounty and of the power of the divinity of the God Whom the race of Isaac appeaseth with frankincense, prayers and sacrifices. I will break the weapons of swollen pride, dreaded by the righteous. Piety, overwhelmed with slaughter, shall merge and raise her head conspicuous above the skies.
The heathen nations, instead of deity, worship the god which each hath fancied for itself, but Judea knoweth and worshippeth the true God and praiseth Him with festive songs, the God that dwelleth in Sion, for Whom the temple of Jerusalem smoaks with sacred fires. There He brake the menacing bows, He brake the glittering points of the arrows, He snatched the shield from left hands and the swords from right hands, He removed the fatal wars. Thou, more powerful, breakest powerful tyrannies by Thy strength, Thou hast quashed the fierce pride of strong kings with puissant right hand. The ferocity of their menacing spirit being broken, they have been a prey, or they have shut their eyes, overpowered with an iron sleep. The valiant right hands of men have been numb, the strength of horses and the forces of chariots have languished. Thy name and divinity is to be revered: when the tide of Thine anger hath glowed, who hath dared to oppose Thee? Who will expose his wretched head to Thy fury? When the crashing of thunderbolts shook the temples of the world, that, impious tyranny being quelled with punishments, Thou mightest lead suppliant modesty out of bondage, the astonished earth was silent, unwarlike fear struck haughty minds. When mankind beheld crimes overwhelmed with the punishments of Thine avenging anger, the good extolled Thee with praises, a conscious dread depressed the wicked. Put up and pay your vows therefore to the Lord, all ye inhabitants of the holy city, bring presents to the Lord, Who is to be feared, and acknowledge God, Whom haughty kings dread, Who crusheth the fierce spirits of the wicked.
Most excellent Creator of the universe, I will invoke Thee always with my voice, Thee will I invoke with suppliant prayer, for, mild and appeased, Thou lendest an easy ear to my pitiable complaints. To Thee I fled when I was pressed down with misfortunes, to Thee I have anxiously stretched out mine hands during the solitary night, till the light returning put to flight the gloomy darkness. My mind, broken with vexing griefs, rejected the words of my faithful friends with a deaf ear, being unable to bear medicine, and my soul, directed towards Thee alone, groaned, mixing my prayers with tears. My breast resounded, shaken with mournful sobbing, the trouble of my soul racked my joints, a fever of anxieties forbade mine eyes to take sweet sleep, a lazy numbness disabled my members, grief stopped the passage of my voice. Then with a mind differently turned, I began to consider the ages of past time, and the power of God, which is present to the good, nor ever sparing of help to the miserable. The remembrance occurred to me of those praises which I sung to Thee in verse to the measures of the melodious harp, and my sickly mind, affected by various motions, inquired with itself, “Doth God, having forsaken me, now withdraw forever His hand, bounteous of help? Nor will the liberal goodness of God any more preserve its wonted course? Nor will He soothe the anxious cares of His own people by the mouths of the prophets? Will He not be placable to the wretched? Will He not stop the hasty course of His anger in goodness? ” At length, with relaxed breast, I say whither, o grief, dost thou drive me? The decrees of heaven stand fixed with adamantine chains, neither affected by uncertain chance, nor broken by force, nor obnoxious to the envious teeth of devouring time. The monuments of Thy right hand again come into my mind, o holy Father, Who hast formed the temple of heaven bespangled with stars, and the plains fertile with the springing of fruits, and so many successions of cattle and wild beasts for our uses. How often, while Thou bearest down the wicked with punishments and supportest the good with Thy safe protection, hast Thou given an example of mercy and of justice to mortals, o eternal Former of the universe! All Whose determinations and actions holiness illustrates, the huge world has nothing like or second to Thee. Thou, the only God, establishest signs of wonderful power, the world admiring, when Thou deliveredst the children of Abraham from the work-houses of the Pharian tyrant. The swollen billows saw Thee, o God, the billows saw Thee and fled with trembling place, horrour troubled the profound depths of the glassy-coloured sea. The clouds, with a hoarse noise, poured watery storms from their teeming bosom at Thy command, and a stony shower of hail rattled. The destructive crashing of the thundering heaven filled men’s ears, the blaze of the lightning terrified their eyes, and the earth, astonished, trembled with fear. The vast extent of the Red Sea, made passable under Thy conduct, covered the footsteps of so many thousands, and with returning wave shut up the passage to Pharaoh’s chariots. Moses and Aaron, under Thy protection, led the bands of Thy people in safety through the calm waters, as a shepherd leadeth home his flocks of cattle.
Hear, o Israel, and ye who worship the Parent of the universe with chaste devotion, turn your attention unto me. I will sing of wonderful but true matters, I will disclose oracles which aged antiquity doth conceal in secret darkness. The oracles formerly received from our ancient forefathers in inspired language I will transmit to late ages of posterity. The young generation shall learn from my strains the praises of God, and His wonderful actions known to our forefathers. For the Parent of the world, when He joined the race of Isaac to Himself by a holy Covenant, commanded our fathers to declare to their sons in succession, and succeeding ages to declare to later ages, both the instructions of His Laws and His mighty deeds. Namely, that, retaining former benefits in a mindful breast, they may expect counsel and assistance for governing their lives from the Lord, when frightful tumults disturb, that blind forgetfulness might not so obscure their minds as that they should commit the precepts of Thy Laws as vain to the stormy winds, nor, like their fathers, rebellious with ungrateful heart, unstable of mind and fluctuating with doubtful breast, they might revolt. Why did the children of Ephraim, instructed to pierce with arrows or unerring darts objects however distant, turn their backs almost before the trumpets sounded a charge, and, having basely thrown away their arms (o shame!) seek their safety in lurking-places? Namely, because they turned their steps away through pathless places, having forgotten His Laws and His instructions and his strct Covenant, having forgotten such great works which, their fathers formerly being witnesses, the Lord had performed in the Pharian territories when He divided the sea, the deep raising itself into an heap, and between the raised hills of standing water let forth His people safe, a cloud conducting during the serene day and a flame preceding through the dark night. He opened floods from the cleft of the solid rock, and gave brooks to sands condemned to drought. Nor, satisfied with the waters, held they their froward tongues: daring to commit a monstrous crime, they tempted God again in the pathless deserts, and, the gluttony of a voracious belly prompting them, they sought food, and they opened their mouths in such-like expressions: “Cannot He Who drew forth floods from the veins of the hard flint, and slaked our thirst with the sudden torrent, add bread? Cannot He add the dishes of a sumptuous table? Cannot He add banquets abounding in luxurious victuals?” The Almighty heard and was kindled with fierce anger, He drank up fury in His inflamed heart against Judah. And yet He gave His ungrateful people, unmindful of the salvation so often received, to eat the desired victuals. He opened wide the granaries of the aethereal heaven above the camp, then He dissolved the clouds, teeming with celestial seed, in large showers of ambrosia over their armies, and He indulged the use of celestial food to mortals. Next, the east wind being ordered to leave the regions of the air, immediately the south wind brought on its lukewarm wings showers of fowls, just as when it sweeps the heaps of dry sand and drags the dusty mantle through the parched deserts. Above the camp and above the tents with stretched canopies flocks of winged fowls resounded with tremulous wings and covered the fields in heaps with profuse slaughter. And now their hunger was removed with feasting, however their wicked lust was not yet removed, but their banquet, sought without ceasing, as yet stuck to their jaws. Behold, the avenging God is instantly present and, destruction suddenly marching far and near, the strength of the chosen youth fell everywhere. But neither did so many punishments, nor so many benefits, nor so many miracles, nature discovering its God, restrain their rebellious minds. Therefore their Father humbled their frowardness with frequent disasters and, having diminished their strength, cut the threads of their frail old age before the day. Harassed with diseases, dispersed in their wanderings, exhausted almost with all kinds of calamities, in want of everything, they scarcely at length acknowledged God. Protected through so many dangers, and snatched from evils, and rescued from the cruel enemy, they notwithstanding uttered deceitful words with flattering tongues, devout in their speech but false in their heart, nor have they kept the faith of His struck Covenant. But he, being more merciful, pardoned the guilty, remitted their offences with fatherly piety, and voluntarily quelled His just resentment, as being mindful that men are only blasts of fleeting wind, which can move the frail joints of a mortal body. O how often amidst the uncultivated sands, amidst rocks squalid with drought, have they roused the languishing wrath of the deity with their mad complaints! Measuring the divine power by their own strength, they wanted to include within contracted bounds that energy which preserveth the sea, the earth, and the orbs of heaven! For they had forgotten former benefits, the salvation they had received, and the yokes of the oppressive tyrant lately removed, and the numerous miracles which He exhibited amongst the Egyptian nations, blood being poured into the transparent books, and their tables condemned to thirst without the benefit of water. And sometimes, amidst their lofty palaces, pestilentious flies pricked with their stings stained with livid poison, and sometimes their tents were defiled with river-frogs. And now the voracious caterpillar, at other times direful locusts in a thick troop devoured the labours of men and oxen. The Lord destroyed their gardens with a shower of hail, the vines with stony hail, the pride of the woods with hail, The stout bullocks lay flat by the hail, and a fiery shower rushed on the fields loaded with corn. The wrath of God and His fury, raging with loose reins, and the torches of the furies, and a conscious dread seizing their breasts, distracted their hearts with invisible stings. Then a way was made for death: cruel death, favourable to none, over run every individual of men and beasts. It laid low their firstborn, their dearest pledges, the flower of their strength and the hope and safeguard of their declining age, where the Nile rolls itself along with its enriching water and forces back the recoiling sea with its seven-fold streans. In the mean time, as a shepherd leadeth his sheep into pastures, the Lord Himself conducted His people far from all violence and trembling fear. The sea, with its closing billows, overwhelmed their inveterate foe. But our holy fathers possessed these holy places, procured by the hand of God, whence He first excluded the heathen nations, or strowed them vanquished on the ground, and, measuring out the acres, gave them to be inhabited by the children of Abraham. Nor did they less speedily provoke God and tempt the Parent of the universe: they neglected His Covenants and, rebellious after the manner of their fathers, they turned away their steps from the right path. Just as a bow bends itself into horns upon the string being drawn, and, the right hand and string again remitted, suddenly returns spontaneously to its former figure, thus this impious nation, again free from avenging punishment, returned to itself and raised altars on all the hills, and framed for itself images of gods, and kindled up the Lord of the universe to deserved wrath. The almighty Father heard their impious vows and prayers, and despised His beloved nation, and He forsook His own altars and the tents of Shilo, the only habitation chosen for Himself out of his lands, and He abandoned the ark, the sign of His Covenant, to the enemies as a prey, a monument of His strength, whence the glory of God shone bright upon all lands. Angry with the country lately beloved by Him, He exposed some to the sword, others to the flames: the priests fell by the bloody sword, marriage songs were not sung to the festive couches, and widows lay in the unlamented graves of their beloved husbands. But when He had already satisfied His just wrath with punishments, as a soldier who has shaken off his last night’s debauch and is roused from lazy sleep, He again turned His arms against the flying enemies and, piercing their unwarlike backs with invisible wounds, threw perpetual infamy on them forever. Yet He chose not Ephraim, excelling in valiant arms, to whom He might give scepter, He chose not the children of Manasseh, but Judah, but the roofs of lofty Sion, the Temple and sanctuary founded for Himself on the solid rock, a habitation to remain for ages as long as the heaven and the stars. And David, who followed the cattle to their pastures, He took out of the sheep-folds and commanded him, placed on the throne, to feed his beloved nation and to give law to the holy land. And he governed his flock with faithful study and care, and defended them from the infesting enemy by his arms.
Deus, venerunt gentes in haereditatem tuam &c.
Meter: iambic strophes
Why, o Ruler of the world, invadeth the heathen enemy Thy heritage? With profane rites he polluteth the sanctuary dedicated to Thy name and covereth Jerusalem, demolished from the foundation, with heaps of its own ruin. The limbs of Thy worshippers, lopped off by the sword, meet the view in every field, exposed to be torn by the bills of vultures or the cruel teeth of wild beasts. Rivers of blood wash the ways like a torrent increased with showers. Nor is there anywhere a friend to gather the scattered bones, or to bury them in graves when gathered. Whether dead or surviving, we are alike a mocking-stock to our neighbours. Bounteous Father, what end may we at length hope for to thy wrath? Shall it continually rage against us like all-devouring fire? Rather turn the violence of Thy fury against so many kingdoms of impious nations, which either know not Thy name or, if they know, invoke it not, which labour to destroy the seed of the pious by arms, and their cities with fire. Forbear, o Father, to supply torches to Thy fury by calling again to mind our former crimes, but with Thy mercy prevent us, who are overwhelmed with every evil. Mildly forget our offences, o Thou anchor of our safety. Appeased, be Thou present, that the brightness of Thy glory may be conspicuous to all countries. Let the mouth of the ungodly be stopped, that ask whether this our God ceases to act. O just avenger, make us in our turn to see the ungodly exercised with punishments, who, besmeared with the blood of the godly, now insolently exult. Hear the groaners who pine away under the chains of prisons, with Thy powerful right hand free from the jaws of death those whom tyrants already destine to slaughter, and, o Thou eternal Sovereign of the universe what reproach they have brought on Thee, and what injury they have done Thine, return manifold to our neighbours. And, we the stock of Thy sheepfold, which Thou nourishest with food and defendest with Thy providence, and the posterity of our posterity shall sing Thy praises to all ages.
O Shepherd of the offspring of Heber, Who gently rulest the race of Isaac like a flock, Who between the two cherubims prescribeth wholesome laws to Thy people, do Thou, good and favourable, give Thy chosen nation to be able to see the light of Thy glory. Give them to be able to know the force of Thy power, and quickly stretch forth Thy right hand to the weary. If Thou shalt behold us with a favourable eye, immediately all other things shall succeed prosperously. O King, powerful in arms, what measure wilt Thou appoint to Thy wrath? When shalt Thou receive our humble prayers? Thou bedewest our messes with tears, Thou minglest our cups with continual tears. Our neighbours quarrel about our spoils and aggravate our evils by mockery. O King powerful in arms, Whom heavenly hosts obey, give us to see Thy face. If Thou shalt behold us with a favourable eye, immediately all other things shall succeed prosperously. Thou hast transplanted a vine from the Egyptian ditch, Thou hadst expelled the seeds of wicked nations, that thou might plant it the more purely in a pure soil. Already its root had put forth tender fibres on all sides. Already with tremulous shade it had covered the mountains, it had spread forth its boughs equal to the cedars, its taper branches touched the seas, the shoots of its tender twig the Euphrates. Why leavest Thou this vine, lately stripped of its wonted hedges, a prey to straggling strangers? Why doth the savage boar trample it, why do the fowls pluck it, all kinds of wild beasts devour it? O King powerful in arms, I beseech Thee, now return at length and look down from Thy starry throne and, appeased, look upon Thy vine, which Thou hadst planted for Thyself with Thine own right hand. At least mildly regard this little branch, to which Thou hadst procured strength by assiduous culture, that the bright glory of Thy name may be known to the people of all lands. There the flame devours the boughs of the vine, here torn off they groan, here, cut with cruel axes, they resound, all things go to destruction. The just vengeance of Thine anger pursueth us. Indulgent Father, now raise by Thine help, now establish by Thy protection this little branch, on which, with fatherly affection, Thou hadst formerly heaped strength, and wealth, and honour. Holy Father, restore life to Thine own, over whom death always hovereth with greedy jaws. As for us, we will ever accompany Thee our leader, we will celebrate Thee present to the miserable. O King powerful in arms, Whom the heavenly hosts obey, give us to see Thy face. If Thou shalt behold us with a favourable eye, immediately all other things shall succeed prosperously.
Exult ye in our God, put up auspicious addresses to the assertor of our salvation. Praise the God of Israel, singing hymns to the sweet measures of the tymbrel. Neither let the harp nor the genial psaltery cease, sound with the trumpet on the stated festivals. Gladly celebrate this day, brining the appointed sacrifices. For so it was decreed by our fathers, so the holy Law, so the stipulations of the holy Covenant made with our ancestors command. This is that day, a witness to succeeding ages of the Egyptian tyranny, when the family of Heber wandered as a sojourner in the Pelusian territories, and astonished heard the sound of a language unknown, and, in their turn, opened their mouth in vain in words also unknown. And when the servile burden bended down their shoulders and the earthen pot wearied their hands, “I,” saith our best Father, “shook the pots from our ands and lightened your shoulders of the clay, and I brought help to thee demanding it when in need, and, concealed in a thick cloud, I thundred. Having borne thy chidings, I made trial of thee near Meribal. And now give ear, o nation chosen by Me, and what I propose receive: if thou deliver not my sayings as vain to the inconstant winds, nor worship another god, nor, prostrate on the ground as a suppliant, adore new deities, but choose Me alone to be a God unto thee, who having broken the fetter of the Egyptian tyrant, rendered thee thine own master, ask only, thou shalt get more than thy hope, better than what is sought, thou shalt obtain greater things than thy wishes. These sayings My people neither conveyed into their ears, nor rightly obeyed Mine admonitions. Therefore I left them to themselves, and, having slackned the bridle, loosed their wild lust. O that they had rather heard My admonitions! O that they had trodden the streight path under my conduct! For I should soon have delivered to them their enemies humble and subdued, and should have turned My right hand against the heathen nations, which hate righteousness, and in a suppliant manner, with false countenances and speeches, they should have courted the favour of the children of Israel, of the Israelites forever happy, to whom the nutritive field should have poured forth abundantly bounteous plenty of fruits, and honey should have flowed from the entrails of the hard rock, through fields not knowing culture.”
The sovereignty of awful kings is over their proper flocks, the sovereignty of Jehovah is over kings themselves, Who with a severe balance will examine the iniquity of judges. “Will ye always with deceitful scale cherish the fraudulent and the impious faith?” saith he, “and shall the poor and the orphan fear your judgment-seat as mariners fear a rock? Why regard ye not the afflicted fatherless? Why give ye not ear to the complaints of the needy? Why vindicate ye not the poor from the haughty mockery of the powerful? We admonish in vain, blindness covereth their eyes, and error their minds, that they cannot see that the cement of the universe is broken when justice perishes. I have called you gods, I have made you lords of death and of life, I have given you with scepter-bearing hand to protect peace and to suppress deadly war by arms. But death, the just avenger of iniquitous pride, shall strip you of your honours, and, with the obscure commonalty, shall carry off purpled tyrants by a similar fate.” Arise, o God, Who dispensest kingdoms to all according to Thy pleasure, take the reins of the laws in Thy hand, that Thou mayest rule the world with impartial sway.
Be not Thou silent, delay not, best Father, nor with hard ears despise Thou the prayers of Thine own. Lo the enemies rage around, and, prepared to confound all things in savage tumult, they raise their crests. Assemblies privately meet and threaten the people which Thou hadst undertaken peculiarly to protect. “Come,” say they, “make haste, cut down all the wood, let us destroy the offspring of Isaac from the foundation.” Lo a band devoted to wickedness meet all together to abolish Thy institutions and covenants. Lo the Nabathean joined with palm-bearing Edom, the offspring of Moab, the Hagareans and Gabel, and with the Philistines and Tyrians, Amalek and Ammon, and the Syrian joins his camp to the posterity of Lot. But do Thou strow them vanquished on the ground, as the slaughtered Median youth covered the ways by Thy vengeance, as the haughty Sisera fell, and the soldier of Jaban, when they stained the turbid waters of Kifon with their blood. The troops lay everywhere unlamented as dung for the fields. Nor did flight deliver the leaders Oreb and Zeeb, nor did darkness rescue Zebah and Zalmunna from the scythe of death. They feared not to say in their heart and proud wish that they should be lords of Thy sanctuary. But do thou, holy Parent, toss them round, just as a wheel rolls down a declivity, as stubble is tossed about by the wind, as flame wasteth the branches of the dry wood, crashing along the lofty tops of the mountains,, So persecute them, astonished and agast, with Thy storm, so scatter them with the whirlwind of Thy fury. May anguish so consume their minds, shame colour their faces, that they may prove Thy divinity by their distresses. So humble their pride with ignominy, may losses and timidity so exercise them continually, terrified, that they may acknowledge Thee to be the only Lord and Sovereign of the universe, wherever the fire-bearing axle encompasseth the earth.
O King powerful in arms, Who dividest the doubtful issues of wars according to Thy pleasure, shall I then gladly behold the thresholds of Thy Temple? Now my heart beats with gladness, now my mind, intoxicated with such excessive blessings, languisheth, my members, about to visit more nearly the Temple of the living God, leap for joy. Here the sparrow findeth a shelter, here that bird which is the messenger of spring buildeth her nest. How joyfully shall I behold you, o ye courts of the King powerful in war! Happy he, who, remaining continually in Thy house, celebrateth Thee, thrice happy and more are they who have placed their hope entirely in Thee. Happy they who hasten with pious study to bring sacrifices to Thy Temple: amidst parched vallies they shall drink from the liquid brooks of a pleasant fountain. Nor shall there be wanting a flood of rain-water to fill the hollow ditches, while troop pressing on troop hasteneth to kill the victims according to the rites of our fathers. O King powerful in arms, show Thou Thyself gracious to Thy king, to whom Thou hast indulged the honourable grace of the head; being good, deny not Thou Thine ear, hard to Thy suppliant. Thou art our shield, our hope and protection in difficulties. The continuance of one day near Thy sanctuary is to me as a thousand ages. May I rather be a door-keeper in Thy Temple, o holy Father, than live far from Jerusalem among the wicked, bright with many honours. Thou art our sun, Thou art our shield, Thou our Lord. Thou givest to Thine own to shine with conspicuous glory, nor shuttest Thou ever Thy bounteous hand to a man innocent of crimes. O King powerful in arms, in Whose power are issues of wars, and, when swords are laid aside, the arts of peace, o twice and thrice happy they who worship Thee with a well-grounded hope.
The seas rage not always, troubled with swelling storms, nor is the earth, rough with chilling frost, always hard: the winds cease in their turn, the sea is smoothed, and the milder air calleth forth the benumbed herbs to flourish. Neither, o God, dost Thou, severe and indulging anger, always turn away Thine ear from the sorrowful, and sometimes Thou of Thine own accord embraceth Thy people with favour, and, the bonds of slavery loosed, under Thy conduct they returned to their paternal altars. Having forgotten their wickednesses and the violated Covenant, Thou calmedst Thy wrath and coveredst their crimes with paternal care. And therefore, o our Parent and the only hope of our safety, do Thou, appeased and favourable, look upon us and assume a gracious disposition, nor let the implacable vengeance of Thy perpetual wrath rage even against our late posterity. Regard us more favourable only, and whatever of our miserable life still remains, by Thy favour, shall receive new vigour, and the cloud of sadness being then driven away, joys shall cheer the glad countenances of Thy people. Gracious Father, embrace the weary with Thy goodness, and now shew the fruit of Thy long hoped-for salvation. I wait a long while, till the Lord, striking my breast with secret motion, give glad tokens of what is to come to pass. And He, placable, having laid aside His wrath, will give, not in an ambiguous manner, auspicious signs; He will give all things prosperous to the pious, and glory, the renewer of the gold age, shall possess lands formerly uncultivated. Behold goodness, behold welcome truth shall meet together. The earth shall practice truth, and holy Astraea, having left heaven, shall inhabit the earth. Benign plenty, the companion of Astraea, shall shower down from heaven, and shall beautify the glad fields with fruits. And wherever the Lord shall bear His steps, righteousness and holiness shall go before Him, and strife, violence, and cunning shall forsake the earth, afflicted now for so many ages.
O God, graciously give ear to Thy supplicant. Consult the safety of one forlorn, and poor, and not always a maintainer of anger. Save Thy servant, o God, to whom Thou art the only hope of safety, safe him, invoking Thee continually from the rising of the sun to its setting. Banish the clouds from the mind of Thy servant, who dependeth on Thee. Father of courteous mercy, ready to spare him who invoketh Thee, intent, hear Thou Thy suppliant. For we call upon Thee in our difficulties, because Thou graciously bringest assistance to these who invoke Thee. None of the gods is equal to Thee, none of them second, none of them exerts his power in such shining miracles. Creator of the universe, nations from the uttermost parts of the world shall flock unto Thee, and with bended knee shall honour Thee with praises. Thou alone, neither confined within bound of age nor of power, o God of gods, performest actions to be admired by all nations. Make me to walk in the path of Thy laws, compose the troubled billows of my breast that my mind, undisturbed, may worship Thee, that my spirit, freed from the contagion of the body, may celebrate Thy glory while my life and voice shall suffice. I live by thy mercy, pulled from the jaws of death, when the insolent enemy raged from a confidence of their own strength. When violence, regardless of the deity, hung over me, Thou, o God, art mild and placable, and faithful to perform Thy promises. Do Thou, gracious and good, look upon Thy servant Who dependeth on Thee, bring assistance, and deliver Thy domestic servant from dangers. Let mine enemies perceive Thy favour towards me, let discolouring shame change their countenances when they shall have seen Thee the defender of my safety.
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion above the other cities of the race of Abraham; of Zion, which, founded on the holy eminences of mountains, overlooketh them. O Zion to be celebrated in future ages, the blessed mother of cities! Shall Babylon dare to compare itself unto Thee, shall Memphis, Babylon, that shall come under the yoke of God, Memphis that shall bow the knee to God? Though both the famous Palestine and Tyre boast of the strength of their men, they are nothing to Zion, teeming with valiant men, safe in the favour of the deity. When the human race shall flock together to give in their names, the Lord being censor,where is the man who shall not pretend to be a citizen of Zion? Who shall not sue to be registered a husbandman of Zion? Then the voice of songs shall sing of Zion, then the voice of the harp and of the flute shall sing of Zion, an dif my voice can express anything worth hearing, my voice shall sing the praise of Zion, or, if my mind can invent anything worth singing, my mind shall apply itself to Zion.
By day I call upon Thee, by night I call upon Thee, Thou sole hope of my salvation, Thou pillar and safeguard of my life. Gracious Father, turn not away Thy favourable countenance from me when praying, nor with unflexible mind reject my humble prayers. My mind, stupified with troubles, is unfit for action, my languid life, spent with grief, looketh out for the funeral torches. Vigour hath forsaken my members, death threatneth me with his sable claws, my only care now is concerning my grave. Bodies under the heap of the sepulchre, which an unexpected death hath taken away with sudden stroke, are not more pale: which deep forgetfulness hideth under perpetual darkness, Thou withdrawing Thy saving hand. Thou almost plungest me into the pool of waters of oblivion, like one shut up in prison and buried in thick darkness. Thou continually posesest and squeezest me when prostrate, and Thou heapest all the floods of Thy wrath on me when cast down. My companions, whom I hoped would be a harbour to my distressed vessel, fly and dread me as a rock. And I like fixed to my bed, as if bound with a fetter. My languid eyes, overcome with evils, have failed me. In the mean time, stretching forth my wearied hands to heaven, I call upon Thee when day approacheth, I call upon Thee when day flieth away. Is it that Thou waitest to show Thy power to me, taken away by a cruel death, by calling me to life? Shall they whom the greedy earth incloseth in its chill bosom open in Thy praises their revived lips? Shall Thy goodness be sung under the cave of the grave, or will the dumb sepulchres publish Thy faithfulness? Will close silence display Thy righteousness? Will night and darkness declare Thy power? But I, holy Father, in a suppliant manner invoke Thy majesty, nor is there an hour or place unemployed by my prayers. Holy Father, why withdrawest Thou mine aid from my afflicted soul? Why with deaf ear rejectest Thou my sorrowful petition? Grief and anxious labour consume me from my first years, pannic fears distract me with a trembling heart. Thy fury tormenteth me, Thy terror oppresseth me on every side, as a flood of water in winter, which overfloweth the sown fields. Afflicted and indignant I lie, forsaken by my dear friends, nor have those of my acquaintance bewailed over my calamities.
Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo &c.
Meter: dactylic hexameters
Thou shalt always be my song, almighty Father of the universe, and Thy goodness, and the unchangeable faithfulness of the promise shall be known to future people by my verses while the stars shall revolve round the silent world. Yea, sooner can I believe that the stars should hide themselves, the world having fallen into its ancient chaos, than I can believe that the stipulations of that holy Covenant shall be void, formerly made with thy David, in these words, that while the sea, while the earth, while the stars of heaven should endure, a race of the stock of David should remain to ages, and that the seat of their kingdom should remain stable to future times. Thee, o Father, heavenly assemblies, Thee ages of good men justly celebrate, Who performest mighty deeds while the world admires, and keepest inviolable the Law of Thy established Covenant. Whom shall the earth, whom shall the heaven compare unto Thee, o almighty Father, whom all the assembly of the starry heaven and tyrants, thunderstruck, with humbled mind, dread? O Thou Potentate of arms and of war, whithersoever Thou movest, welcome faithfulness shineth around Thee with a clear light. Thou quellest the fury of the raging sea, and humbles the billows of its outrageous water when swollen to the stars. Thou prostratest, with deadly wound, lofty Pharos and whosoever opposeth his wretched head to Thine arms. Thou art the Maker of the earth and of heaven, whatever things the surface of the revolving world encompasseth in its vast embrace acknowledge Thee for their Author. The north wind and the south wind obeyeth Thee, both Tabor, which hideth the setting sun with its top, and Hermon, which blusheth, warmed with eastern rays, exult for joy. Thou, by the strength of Thy powerful right hand, spreadeth bright miracles throughout the immense world. Before Thy throne justice and equity attend upon Thee. Goodness and sincere faithfulness in observing a promise, incapable of being moved, stand before Thine eyes. O thrice and four times happy they whom Thou callest to Thy sacred solemnities by the sound of festive trumpets, whom Thou brightenest with the light of Thy sacred countenance, and preserveth chearful under the shadow of Thy name. To them, raised by Thy goodness above the skies, Thou givest power, reputation, empire. Thou, amidst pressing dangers, givest them a king as a shield against the heathen troops. Thou hast inspired thy beloved bard with Thy secret presence, that he might transmit these oracles to future ages. “I have chosen for myself from the mean commonalty, and have set on my throne a king, to protect with his arms the children of Isaac, and to administer laws to My people, and have sprinkled the temples of David with my holy oil. To him I will give courage and strength, and, being present, will ever protect him, that neither wickedness privily, nor force openly bring ruin upon him. He shall lay prostrate the enemies, he shall lay prostrate the profane troops, no opinion shall turn My mind. And, being gracious, I will bring him assistance, and, under the auspice of My name, his glory shall raise itself above the pole of the heaven. He shall give laws to the lands which, on this side, the sea, fruitful in the Sidonian murex, incloseth with its rapid gulf, and which, on that side, the palm-bearing Euphrates incloseth. He, suppliant, shall invoke Me his Father to prosper his vows, he shall say, ‘Thou art my God and my alone protection, the only certain safeguard of my salvation.’ I, on the other hand, will distinguish him with peculiar honour, and will give him the management of things above other kings, whosoever give laws to nations throughout the immense world. Neither for ages shall My favour remove for him, nor shall the stipulations of the eternal Covenant, sworn to him, be broken. I will also give him offspring, and late descendents of offspring to all ages, and the unchangeable sceptre of a stable kingdom, while the sun shall divide the light of day from the obscure shades of night. But if his posterity, unmindful, profane My holy covenants and despise my Law, and refuse to go the way commanded, I will check them, tamed with punishments and hard labour, and I will even chastise the rebellious with strokes. Yet I will neither deprive the king of My perpetual goodness, nor break My covenants, nor shall an age of time to come alter what I have once uttered with My mouth. For once I promised by an holy Covenant, swearing by Myself, that no day shall prove Me unmindful of the Covenant entered into with David. His offspring, while the world shall roll ages forward, shall have the management of a paternal sceptre. Be witness for me, o sun, that these covenants, and, thou conscious moon, be witness, a scepter of equal duration with which luminaries Judea shall hold. But now, holy Father, inflamed with swollen wrath, Thou castest off thy chosen king, Thou neglectest the ratified stipulations of Thy Covenant, and throwest on the ground the sacred crown torn from his head, and exposest it for the profane nations to trample on. The towns, their walls being thrown down, lie exposes to the enemy, if an castle remain, Thou shakest it with chilling fear. We are a prey to all the nations, our neighbours both ravage and bear away, and insult over our distresses, and with reproachful words deride us, wretched. In the meantime Thou confirmest the right hand of the enemy with strength, Thou seasonest his breast with chearful joy, and Thou makest our swords blunt for wounds, nor refresheth Thou us when vanquished in the cruel conflict of war. Now the grace and brightness of the kingdom, now its majesty bordering on heaven, is turned into darkness, and the glory of the lofty throne lieth prostrate. Thou cuttest the unfinished threads of our short youth before the time, the latter part of our wretched life groweth old in sadness, in filthiness and ignominy. What end wilt Thou give to our afflictions? Wilt Thou, never appeased, with a reconciled countenance look upon the slaughter of Thine own people? Shall Thy wrath always rage like a furious flame? Being mindful, consider Thou with Thyself how speedily the time of our life passeth away. Canst Thou then have created the race of mankind in vain, to spend, exercised with a perpetual tumult of cares, the time of their short life till unrelenting death shall have shut them up, spent with grief and diseases or with old age, in the gloomy cave of the sepulchre. Alas! where is Thine ancient goodness, where Thy former faithfulness, where those covenants formerly made by Thee with David in express words? See with what reproaches the ungodly people, insulting, afflict Thy servants, how many revilings I bear shut up in my silent bosom while the profane croud, while innumerable nations around, pour forth railings and wantonly with bitter words bid us hope for the coming of Thine Anointed. But Thou, o gracious Creator of the universe, shalt be exalted as being true, through everlasting ages.
Go to Psalm XC