Psalm 58
by Mary (Sidney) Herbert,
Countess of Pembroke

AND call ye this to utter what is just,
    You that of justice hold the sovereign throne?
And call ye this to yield, O sons of dust,
    To wronged brethren every man his own?
O no: it is your long malicious will
    Now to the world to make by practice known,
With whose oppression you the balance fill,
    Just to yourselves, indifferent else to none.

But what could they, who even in birth declined,
    From truth and right to lies and injuries?
To show the venom of their cancered mind
    The adder's image scarcely can suffice;
Nay scarce the aspic may with them contend,
    On whom the charmer all in vain applies
His skilful'st spells: ay missing of his end,
While she self-deaf and unaffected lies.

Lord, crack their teeth; Lord, crush these lions' jaws,
    So let them sink as water in the sand.
When deadly bow their aiming fury draws,
    Shiver the shaft ere past the shooter's hand.
So make them melt as the dis-housed snail
    Or as the embryo, whose vital band
Breaks ere it holds, and formless eyes do fail
    To see the sun, though brought to lightful land.

O let their brood, a brood of springing thorns,
    Be by untimely rooting overthrown,
Ere bushes waxed they push with pricking horns,
    As fruits yet green are oft by tempest blown.
The good with gladness this revenge shall see,
    And bathe his feet in blood of wicked one;
While all shall say: the just rewarded be;
    There is a God that carves to each his own.

(Wr. probably before 1599; pub. 1823)

Bernardo Cavallino. David Playing Before Saul. Detail. 1645.
Bernardo Cavallino. "David Playing
Before Saul." Detail. 1645.
Text source:
The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse. Emrys Jones, Ed.
New York: Oxford Univ Press, 1992. 469-470.

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