Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
 
Psalm XC
LXVII. Lord Bacon
 
O LORD! 1 thou art our home, to whom we fly,
And so hast alwaies beene from age to age:
Before the hills did intercept the eye,
Or that the frame was vp of earthly stage,
One God thou wert, and art, and still shall bee;        5
The line of time it doth not measure thee.
 
Both death and life obey thy holy love,
And visit in their turnes as they are sent:
A thousand yeares with thee they are no more
Then yesterday, which, ere it is, is spent;        10
Or as a watch by night, that course doth keepe,
And goes and comes vnwares to them that sleep.
 
Thou carriest man away as with a tide;
Then downe swim all his thoughts that mounted high,
Much like a mocking dreame that will not bide,        15
But flies before the sight of waking eye,
Or as the grasse that cannot term obtaine
To see the summer come about againe:
 
At morning faire, it musters on the ground;
At euen, it is cut downe and laid along;        20
And though it spared were, and fauour found,
The weather should performe the mower’s wrong:
Thus hast thou hang’d our life on brittle pins,
To let vs know it will not beare our sins.
 
Thou buriest not within obliuion’s tombe        25
Our trespasses, but entrest them aright;
Ev’n those that are conceiu’d in darknesse’ wombe
To thee appeare as done by broad daylight:
As a tale told, which sometimes men attend,
And sometimes not, our life steales to an end.        30
 
The life of man is threescore yeares and ten,
Or, if that he be strong, perhaps fourescore;
Yet all things are but labour to him then,
New sorrowes still come on, pleasures no more.
Why should there be such turmoile and such strife        35
To spin in length this feeble line of life?
 
But who considers duely of thine ire?
Or doth the thoughts thereof wisely embrace?
For thou, O God, art a consuming fire:
Fraile man, how can he stand before thy face?        40
If thy displeasure thou dost not refraine,
A moment brings all back to dust againe.
 
Teach vs, O Lord, to number well our daies,
Thereby our hearts to wisdome to apply;
For that which guides man best in all his waies        45
Is meditation of mortality:
This bubble light, this vapour of our breath,
Teach vs to consecrate to howre of death.
 
Return vnto vs, Lord, and ballance now
With daies of ioy our daies of misery;        50
Help vs right soone,—our knees to thee we bow,
Depending wholly on thy clemency:
Then shall thy seruants both with heart and voice
All the daies of their life in thee reioice.
 
Begin thy worke, O Lord, in this our age,—        55
Show it vnto thy seruants that now liue;
But to our children raise it many a stage,
That all the world to thee may glory giue:
Our handy worke likewise, as fruitfull tree,
Let it, O Lord, blessed, not blasted, be.        60
 
Note 1. LXVII. Lord Bacon.—It is not generally known that the great Lord Bacon paraphrased several of the Psalms. Yet his paraphrases possess considerable merit. “The ‘fine gold’ of David is so thoroughly melted down with the ‘refined silver’ of Bacon, that the mixture shows nothing of ‘alloy,’ but a metal, greater indeed in bulk, and differing in show from either of its component elements, yet exhibiting at the same time a lustre wholly derived from the most precious of them.” There is not in the whole range of English poetry two finer or statelier stanzas than the first two of the psalm penned by Lord Bacon, inserted here. [back]
 
 
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