“Psalm 15”

Sovereign Lord, our Lord, who may live with you?
And who will you allow within your house,
To come into your holy presence there
And stand before your glory and your face?

A person who has lived a blameless life
And never wandered from the righteous path,
Whose heart is full of truth and overflows
To speak no lie against his neighbor’s good,
Who holds those who love God in high esteem
But scorns the vile, who disregard God’s law,
With grave contempt born from his highest love,
Who makes no promise he will fail to keep,
Who seeks no profit in his neighbor’s pain
But gives and lends his money without cost,
Who judges justly and impartially,
Finding in favor of the innocent
And never looking at an offered bribe—

If anyone is righteous, he shall stand
And enter in God’s presence in his house,
Where nothing shall disturb his trusting rest.

The Anchorite by Teodor Axentowicz

This poem is the fifteenth 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 13, in November of last year, but didn’t finish it until earlier this month.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback 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), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. The Kindle edition of my book is on sale this weekend. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

A Year In Verse Birthday Sale

A Year in Verse coverTomorrow, February 24, is my birthday. While I plan to post a poem, it is not (as it has been in some years) written or chosen specifically for this occasion, even though this is a “round-number birthday.” On the other hand, I am marking the occasion by offering the Kindle format of A Year in Verse, my (first and so far only) collection of my poetry, at a discount this weekend. Continue reading

“Sublimation”

“Go, hang these just-washed sheets out on the line.
Though last night’s snowdrifts rise above your knees,
The creek out back is silent, frozen solid,
And underneath the morning’s brilliant blue
The lazy, bitter breeze will burn your cheek,
The sun shines bright, so ere the evening falls
These cloths, though sopping now, will be as dry
As Sinai’s sandy, scorching wilderness.”

In the same way, if God will smile on me
With the bright sunshine of his countenance,
Though I feel sin and failures weigh me down
Like leaden chains, or thick and soaking wool,
They’ll lift from me, and pass away like dew,
As light as down, and all shall work his praise.

March by Isaac Levitan
The opening phrases of this poem came to me last month when I suddenly found myself thinking about sublimation by which water and ice pass away on sunny days even in winter’s bitter cold, and also about the spiritual, psychological, or alchemical sense of the term. And I found the alternate voice I found for the first lines interesting, and was minded to continue. I finished the poem earlier this week.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback 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), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 14”

The wicked person, in his senseless folly,
Says, to calm himself, there is no God.
And all are, like this, full of wicked deeds,
Their minds unfit and bent by love of sin;
There is not one who knows and does the right. Continue reading

“Veni, O Clavis David”

O heir of David, you who hold his key
Upon your royal shoulder, and who rule
As with his scepter over all God’s house,
We know that none can stand against your will:
If there is any door that you wish shut,
You shut it, and it then stands shut forever,
And there is no gate, however barred,
That can be anything but open wide
When you so will and bid them lift their heads.
Come, O Lord, unto the prison’s darkness,
Where men long languish under death’s despair,
And loose their chains and lead them into life
And unto heaven’s perfect liberty.

This is a verse expansion or meditation on the fourth of the O Antiphons; the first and second poems in this project appeared two weeks ago and last week respectively, and the third on Wednesday. I hope to have the fifth tomorrow and the last two next week.

Blick aus dem Entrée by Henrik Nordenberg Continue reading

“Psalm 13”

How long, O Sovereign Lord, will you forget?
How long will you still hide your face from me?
How long will you still leave me here in grief
To vainly wrestle with my anxious thoughts?
How long will you give victory to my foes?

Look on me with your favor, Lord my God;
Restore my life, and fill my eyes with light,
Or I shall sleep forevermore in death,
And all my enemies shall sing their boast
That they have felled and overpowered me,
And shout in joyful triumph at my death.

But I trust in your love, which never fails;
My heart delights and ever sings for joy
To know your faithful saving work, O God.
In grace you, Lord, have been so good to me
That I shall always sing to you in praise.

The Widow's Prayer by Frederic Leighton
This poem is the thirteenth 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 12, in late September, and finished it in mid-October.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback 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), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“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.