Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Sidney CXLVIII

Since in my last post I presented Smart's "Psalm CXLVIII", I thought I might follow up with the corresponding poem from the Sidney Psalms. This was written by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. I've modernized some spellings. It's a bit trickier to catch the sense than in Smart's, because the structure of the sentences twists back and forth and round and the vocabulary is a bit older; but it is worth working through it, because the elaborate twists and turns of the poem make for some unexpected lovelinesses.

Psalm CXLVIII

Inhabitants of heav'nly land
As loving subjects praise your king:
You that among them highest stand,
In highest notes Jehova sing.
Sing angels all, on careful wing,
You that his heralds fly,
And you whom he doth soldiers bring
In field his force to try.

O praise him sun, the sea of light,
O praise him moon, the light of sea:
You pretty stars in robe of night,
As spangles twinkling do as they.
Thou sphere within whose bosom play,
The rest that earth emball:
You waters bank'd with starry bay,
O praise, O praise him all.

All these I say advance that name,
That doth eternal being show:
Who bidding unto form and frame,
Not being yet, they all did grow.
All formed, framed, founded so,
Till ages utmost date,
They place retain, they order know,
They keep their first estate.

When heav'n hath praised, praise earth anew:
You dragons first, her deepest guests,
Then soundless deeps, and what in you
Residing low, or moves, or rests.
You flames affrighting mortal breasts,
You clouds that stones do cast,
You feathery snows from winter's nests,
You vapours, suns apast.

You boisterous winds, whose breath fulfills
What in his word, his will sets down:
Ambitious mountains, courteous hills,
You trees that hills and mountains crown:
Both you that proud of native gown
Stand fresh and tall to see:
And you that have your more renown,
By what you bear, then be.

You beasts in woods untam'd that range,
You that with men familiar go,
You that your place by creeping change
Or airy streams with feathers row.
You stately kings, you subjects low,
You lords and judges all:
You others whose distinctions show
How sex or age may fall.

All these I say, advance that name
More high than skies, more low than ground
And since advanced by the same
You Jacob's sons stand chiefly bound:
You Jacob's sons be chief to sound
Your God Jehova's praise:
So fits them well on whom is found,
Such bliss he on you lays.

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