“Psalm 10”

Why, Lord, my Lord, are you so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in distress?
For wicked men, in pride, pursue the weak
And scheme until they catch them in their net;
They boast of all their great desires fulfilled
But ever want much more and “better” things.
They praise those who are like them in their greed,
And, when they think of God, revile his name,
For in their haughty arrogance of thought
They have no room to seek or follow God.

Despite the scorn they heap upon your law,
Their ways seem charmed and always prosperous.
They scoff at any foe, and sneer at danger,
For they say, “What woe can threaten me?
My life and wealth shall always be secure,
For I shall see untroubled happiness.”

But bitter poison spews out from their mouths;
They call down curses, issue monstrous threats,
And seek to drown the truth in floods of lies,
For words of evil flow up from their hearts,
And trouble comes to those beneath their tongue.

Because they stir up greed, they hunt the weak
And lie in secret ambush for the helpless,
To beat the innocent with brutal brawn.
Their only thought of God is but a sneer:
“God soon forgot my works and face and name,
And cannot call to mind what I have done;
He blinds his eyes, and I am unopposed.”

Not so! And therefore, Sovereign Lord, arise,
For neither grief nor woe escapes your eye,
Nor do you let them silently pass by.
And thus the helpless, fatherless, oppressed,
Who in disaster have no other hope,
Have trusted you and cry to you for help.
Rise up, O Lord, stretch forth your mighty hand,
And break the oppressors’ wicked, grasping army;
Lay bare and punish all their secret sins,
The crimes they hid from every mortal judge.

Lord, you alone are everlasting King,
And every prince or serf who does not bow
In fealty before your righteous throne
Shall surely perish from your scepter’s sway—
But you have ever bent your ear to hear
The longing of those broken down by woes,
The cries of those whose lives see much distress,
And ever shielded orphans and the weak.
For all whose boots oppressed them are mere men,
Creatures of earth, while you are of the heavens;
When you arise, they go down to the grave,
And you have banished even fear of them.

The Last Judgment by John Martin

This is the tenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 9 in early May, and finished it about a week ago.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.


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