Metrical 'New Version' (Tate & Brady)
O Lord, the saviour and defence
Of us thy chosen race,
From age to age thou still hast been
Our sure abiding-place.
Before thou brought'st the mountains forth,
Or th'earth and world didst frame,
Thou always wert the mighty God,
And ever art the same.
Thou turnest man, O Lord, to dust,
Of which he first was made;
And when thou speak'st the word, Return,
'Tis instantly obey'd.
For in thy sight a thousand years
Are like a day that's past,
Or like a watch in dead of night,
Whose hours unminded waste.
Thou sweep'st us off as with a flood,
We vanish hence like dreams;
At first we grow like grass that feels
the sun's reviving beams:
But howsoever fresh and fair
Its morning beauty shows,
'Tis all cut down and wither'd quite
Before the ev'ning close.
We by thine anger are consum'd,
And by thy wrath dismay'd:
Our public crimes and secret sins
Before thy sight are laid.
Beneath thy anger's sad effects
Our drooping days we spend;
Our unregarded years break off,
Like tales that quickly end.
Our term of time is seventy years,
An age that few survive;
But if, with more than common strength,
To eighty we arrive,
Yet then our boasted strength decays,
To sorrow turned, and pain:
So soon the slender thread is cut,
And we no more remain.
The Second Part
But who thy anger's dread effects
Does, as he ought, revere?
And yet thy wrath does fall or rise,
As more or less we fear.
So teach us, Lord, th'uncertain sum
Of our short days to mind,
That to true wisdom all our hearts
May ever be inclined.
O to thy servants, Lord, return,
And speedily relent!
As we forsake our sins, do thou
Revoke our punishment.
To satisfy and cheer our souls
Thy early mercy send;
That we may all our days to come
In joy and comfort spend.
Let happy times, with large amends,
Dry up our former tears,
Or equal, at the least, the term
Of our afflicted years.
To all thy servants, Lord, let this
Thy wondrous work be known,
And to our offspring yet unborn
Thy glorious pow'r be shown.
Let thy bright rays upon us shine;
Give thou our work success:
The glorious work we have in hand
Do thou vouchsafe to bless.
PART 1 (C. M.)
Man frail, and God eternal
(A frequently used variation of the opening line is 'O God, our help in ages past', a change introduced by John Wesley.)
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Under the shadow of thy throne,
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.
Thy word commands our flesh to dust,
'Return, ye sons of men';
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.
A thousand ages, in thy sight,
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.
The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
Like flowery fields the nations stand,
Pleased with the morning light:
The flowers beneath the mower's hand
Lie withering ere 'tis night.
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
PART 2 (C. M.)
Infirmities and mortality the effects of sin
Lord, if thine eye surveys our faults,
And justice grows severe,
Thy dreadful wrath exceeds our thoughts,
And burns beyond our fear.
Thine anger turns our frame to dust;
By one offencs to thee
Adam with all his sons have lost
Life, like a vain amusement, flies,
A fable or a song;
By swift degrees our nature dies,
Nor can our joys be long.
'Tis but a few whose days amount
To threescore years and ten;
And all beyond that short account
Is sorrow, toil, and pain.
Our vitals with laborious strife
Bear up the crazy load,
And drag those poor remains of life
Along the tiresome road.
Almighty God, reveal thy love,
And not thy wrath alone;
O let our sweet experience prove
The mercies of thy throne!
Our souls would learn the heavenly art
T' improve the hours we have,
That we may act the wiser part,
And live beyond the grave.
PART 3 (C. M.)
Breathing after heaven
Return, O God of love, return;
Earth is a tiresome place:
How long shall we, thy children, mourn
Our absence from thy face?
Let heaven succeed our painful years,
Let sin and sorrow cease,
And in proportion to our tears
So make our joys increase.
Thy wonders to thy servants show,
Make thy own work complete;
Then shall our souls thy glory know,
And own thy love was great.
Then shall we shine before thy throne
In all thy beauty, Lord;
And the poor service we have done
Meet a divine reward.
Metrical version by Isaac Watts: Short Meter
The frailty and shortness of life
Lord, what a feeble piece
Is this our mortal frame?
Our life how poor a trifle 'tis
That scarce deserves the name!
Alas the brittle clay
That built our body first!
And every month and every day
'Tis mould'ring back to dust.
Our moments fly apace,
Nor will our minutes stay;
Just like a flood, our hasty days
Are sweeping us away.
Well, if our days must fly,
We'll keep their end in sight,
We'll spend them all in wisdom's way,
And let them speed their flight.
They'll waft us sooner o'er
This life's tempestuous sea;
Soon we shall reach the peaceful shore
Of blest eternity.
Metrical Paraphrase by Isaac Watts - Long Meter
Man mortal, and God eternal
Through every age, eternal God,
Thou art our rest, our safe abode;
High was thy throne ere heaven was made,
Or earth thy humble footstool laid.
Long hadst thou reigned ere time began,
Or dust was fashioned to a man;
And long thy kingdom shall endure
When earth and time shall be no more.
But man, weak man, is born to die,
Made up of guilt and vanity;
Thy dreadful sentence, Lord, was just,
"Return, ye sinners, to your dust."
A thousand of our years amount
Scarce to a day in thine account;
Like yesterday's departed light,
Or the last watch of ending night.
Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life's a dream,
An empty tale, a morning flower,
Cut down and withered in an hour.
Our age to seventy years is set;
How short the time! how frail the state!
And if to eighty we arrive,
We rather sigh and groan than live.
But O how oft thy wrath appears,
And cuts off our expected years!
Thy wrath awakes our humble dread;
We fear the power that strikes us dead.
Teach us, O Lord, how frail is man;
And kindly lengthen out our span,
Till a wise care of piety
Fit us to die, and dwell with thee.