Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke


Psalm LI :  Miserere mei, Deus

(The Psalmes of David, 1599)

O Lord, whose grace no limits comprehend,
     Sweet Lord, whose mercies stand from measure free;
To me that grace, to me that mercy send,
     And wipe, O Lord, my sins from sinful me;
     O cleanse, O wash my foule iniquity;
Cleanse still my spots, still wash away my stainings,
Till stains and spots in me leave no remainings.

For I, alas, acknowledging, do know
     My filthy fault, my faulty filthiness,
To my soul's eye incessantly doth show;
     Which done to thee, to thee I do confess,
     Just Judge, true witness; that for righteousness
Thy doom may pass, against my guilt awarded,
Thy evidence for truth may be regarded.

My mother, lo! when I began to be,
     Conceiving me, with me did sin conceive;
And, as with living heat she cherish'd me,
     Corruption did like cherishing receive;
     But lo, thy love to purest good doth cleave,
And inward truth, which, hardly else discerned,
My truant soul in thy hid school hath learned.

Then )as thy self to lepers hast assign'd)
     With hyssop, Lord, with hyssop purge me so,
And that shall cleanse the leapry of my mind;
     Make over me thy mercy's streams to flow,
     So shall my whiteness scorn the whitest snow;
To ear and heart send sounds and thoughts of gladness,
That bruised bones may leave away their sadness.

Thy ill-pleas'd eye from my misdeeds avert;
     Cancel the registers my sins contain;
Create in me a clean, pure, spotless heart;
     Inspire a spirit where love of right may reign,
     And cast me not from thee; take not again
Thy breathing grace; again thy comfort send me,
And let the guard of thy free Spirit attend me.

So I to them a guiding hand will be,
     Whose faulty feet have wandered from thy way,
And, turn'd from sin, will make return to thee,
     Whom, turn'd from thee, sin erst had turn'd astray.
     O God, God of my health, O do away
My bloody crime: so shall my tongue be raised
To praise thy truth, enough cannot be praised.

Unlock my lips, shut up with sinful shame,
     Then shall my mouth, O Lord, thy honour sing;
For bleeding fuel for thy altars flame,
     To gain thy grace what boots it me to bring?
     Burnt offerings are to thee no pleasant thing;
The sacrifice that God will holde respected
Is the heart-broken soul, the spirit dejected.

Lastly, O Lord, how so I stand, or fall,
     Leave not thy loved Sion to embrace;
But with thy favour build up Salem's wall,
     And still in peace maintain that peaceful place;
     Then shalt thou turn a well-accepted face
To sacred fires, with offer'd gifts perfumed,
Till even whole calves on altars be consumed.

[AJ Note:  Miserere mei, Deus, Have mercy on me, God]


Select Psalms in Verse. W. H. Aston, ed.
London: H. Hatchard, 1811. 112-115.

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