Metrical 'Old Version' (John Hopkins)
I said, I will look to my ways,
For fear I should go wrong;
I will take heed all times that I
Offend not with my tongue
As with a bit I will keep fast
My mouth with force and might,
Not once to whisper all the while
The wicked are in sight.
I held my tongue and spake no word,
But kept me close and still;
Yea, from good talk I did refrain,
But sore against my will.
My heart grew hot within my breast:
With musing, though, and doubt,
Which did increase and stir the fire,
At last these words burst out;
Lord, number out my life and days,
Which yet I have not passed,
So that I may be certified
How long my life shall last.
For thou hast pointed out my life,
In length much like a span;
My age is nothing unto thee,
So vain is every man!
Man walketh like a shade, and doth
In vain himself annoy,
In getting goods, and cannot tell
Who shall the same enjoy.
Therefore, O Lord, what wait I for?
What help do I desire?
Truly my hope is ev'n in thee,
I nothing else require.
From all the sins that I have done,
Lord, quit me out of hand,
And make me not a scorn to fools,
That nothing understand.
I was so dumb that to complain
No trouble could me move,
Because I knew it was thy work
My patience for to prove.
Lord, take from me thy scourge and plague,
I cannot them withstand;
I faint and pine away for fear
Of thy most heavy hand.
When thou for sin dost man rebuke,
He waxeth pale and wan,
As doth a cloth that moths have fret;
So vain a thing is man.
Lord, hear my suit and give good heed,
Regard my tears that fall;
I sojourn like a stranger here,
As did my fathers all.
O spare a little, give me space
My strength for to restore
Before I go away from hence,
And shall be seen no more.
1 My steps discretion's rules shall guide;
Nor error from my lips shall slide,
(Thus to myself resolv'd I said;)
Nor word, in wisdom's scale unweigh'd
2 While lawless crowds attend me nigh,
And mark me with insidious eye,
Behold me with the steady rein
Each effort of my tongue restrain.
3 Awhile my soul its purpose keeps;
A stubborn silence seals my lips:
But O! from themes of good withheld,
How oft my full-swoll'n heart rebell'd!
4 My thoughts in various tumult roll;
At length, impatient of control,
Forth from my struggling bosom brake
The kindled flame; and thus I spake:
5 Taught by thy wisdom, let me learn
How soon my fabric shall return
To earth, and in the silent tomb
Its seat of lasting rest assume.
6 O let me, heav'nly Lord, extend
My view to life's approaching end;
What are my days? (a span their line)
And what my age compared with thine?
7 Our life advancing to its close,
While scarce its earliest dawn it knows,
Swift through an empty shade we run,
And vanity and man are one:
8 With anxious pain this son of care
Toils to enrich an unknown heir,
And, eying oft his heapy store,
With vain disquiet thirsts for more.
9 Where, Lord, shall I my refuge see?
On whom repose my hope but thee?
O purge my guilt, nor let my foe
Exulting mock my heighten'd woe.
10 Convinc'd that thy paternal hand
Inflicts but what my sins demand,
I speechless sat; nor plaintive word,
Nor murmur, from my lips was heard,
11 But, O, in thy appointed hour
Withdraw thy rod; lest Nature's pow'r,
While griefs on griefs my heart assail,
Unequal to the conflict, fail.
12 O, how thy chastisements impair
The human form, however fair!
How frail the strongest frame we see,
If thou the sinner's fate decree!
13 As when the fretting moths consume
The labour of the curious loom,
The texture fails, the dyes decay,
And all its lustre fades away.
14 Such, man, thy state! then, humbled, own
That vanity and thou are one;
Thyself when in the balance weigh'd
A nothing, and thy life a shade.
15 To thee, great God, my knees I bend;
To thee my ceaseless pray'rs ascend;
O let my sorrows reach thine ears,
And mark my sighs, my groans, my tears.
16 God of my fathers! here, as they,
I walk the pilgrim of a day;
A transient guest, thy works admire,
And instant to my home retire.
17 O spare me, Lord, awhile, O spare,
And nature's ruin'd strength repair,
Ere, life's short circuit wander'd o'er,
I perish and am seen no more.