I hit a milestone this week, of sorts. I finished my 15th psalm a few days ago, meaning I am a tenth of the way through the 150 psalms in Psalms.
This is how I spent my last two weeks:
O LORD, Jehovah, how majestic
is your name in all the earth!
Your glory's seen from east to west, it
fills the realms of heaven's girth.
— excerpt of Psalm 8
I used to say — even as recent as two weeks ago — that I didn't read ahead before I wrote. No more! If I hadn't read this psalm before I wrote it, I wouldn't have known that the last verse was the exact same as the first verse. So, a little planning needed to be implemented before starting this one.
I will thank you, Jehovah, with all of my heart;
I will tell of the wonders you do.
I'll be glad and exclaim and exult in your name;
O Most High, sing my praises to you.
— excerpt of Psalm 9
This psalm, Psalm 9, was twenty verses long, which doubles the average length of the psalms to this point. The NIV says, To the tune of "The Death of the Son." I'm not sure how that song goes, but hopefully, this is not too far off.
LORD, why are you so far away in my crisis?
During my troubled times, why do you hide?
The wicked man hunts down the weak in his pride,
entraps them in schemes that he plots and devises.
— excerpt of Psalm 10
As I was writing this one, I was thinking that I had written in this meter before. But it turns out that Psalm 1, Psalm 4 and Psalm 5 were all sort of in this same style, but not this exact meter.
In the LORD do I trust. How can you say to me:
Fly away like a bird to the mountains and flee!
Look, the wicked bend bows till their bowstrings are taut,
then fit arrows to fly from the shadows when shot,
— excerpt of Psalm 11
This poem along with the next two were all finished on the same day, during a particularly productive writing day for me. Last Saturday, I finished with Psalm 10. On Sunday, I finished Psalm 11, then wrote Psalm 12 and Psalm 13.
Help, O LORD, for the godly are few, just a smatter!
And the faithful have vanished from earth!
Neighbors lie to each other with lips meant to flatter;
double-hearted, their words have no worth.
— excerpt of Psalm 12
I am writing these poems in Psalms much more quickly than I wrote the poems for Job, or so it seems. The reason for that, I think, are that there are generally so fewer verses in these early psalms. It was only in April of this year that I started recording the dates when poems were finished — wish I would have started that practice years ago!
How long, LORD Jehovah? How long will it be?
Forever will your face be turning from me?
How long must I wrestle each day with my soul?
How long will my enemies wield their control?
— excerpt of Psalm 13
When I was writing from Job last year, I only had to rotate between six different metered lines, one for each of the six characters in the story. For this project, this is the 13th poem and the 13th different meter used.
The foolish will say in their heart,
There is no God under the sun.
They're evil and vile, depraved in their guile;
there's none that are good, no not one.
— excerpt of Psalm 14
Make that the 14th different meter used.
A psalm of David.
LORD, who may come into your tent and abide?
And who dwells and worships on your mountainside?
The one who walks blameless, who's righteous and kind,
the one who speaks truth from his heart and his mind,
the one who refuses to gossip on end,
harms neither his neighbor nor censures his friend,
despises the wicked and those cavalier,
but honors the faithful who show the LORD fear,
remembers his promise though all has been lost,
loans money to others with no further cost,
refuses the bribes to lay waste to the poor.
Whoever does these will be ever secure.
I really like the way this one turned out. I was a little miffed as to how to proceed when I initially encountered it in the Bible, but I gradually saw that it truly had a beginning (the questions), a middle (consisting of a single run-on sentence), and an ending (the answer).
This is where I celebrated (to myself) the fact that I was a tenth of the way through Psalms and was planning to end this post with this poem. But, I finished the next one a few days later. Going to bed on Friday night, I hated it. Saturday morning, after a few changes, it wasn't so bad, after all. I've made a few more changes mid-post, and now I rather like it.
I would have preferred to have had lines of alternating 12 and 9 syllables instead 12 syllables throughout. But, nine beats per line would not have been enough room to complete some of the sentiment of David.
Only after I was nearly done, struggling with some the wording and reading some commentaries, did I stumble across this being The Golden Psalm. It was then, that I discovered that Paul quoted from this psalm a couple of times in Acts 2:25-31 and also in Acts 13:35. You can read about it here and here.
A Miktam of David. The Golden Psalm.
Keep me safe, o my God, in your refuge, alone.
O my soul, you have said to the LORD, You're my LORD;
and apart from you there is no good on my own.
As for saints on this earth, they're my heroes, adored,
but their sorrows will grow with more gods that they seek;
I'll refuse their libations of warm blood that drips.
Of their objects of worship will I never speak,
nor will names of their gods ever pass through my lips.
You alone are my portion and cup of my hand;
you maintain, LORD, and guard whatsoever is mine.
And the lines that have fallen in this pleasant land —
I, indeed, have a wonderful heirloom, divine.
I will bless LORD Jehovah, my counsel and guide;
as my heart and my conscience instruct me at night.
I have set the LORD always before me, beside;
and I cannot be moved as he stands on my right.
Its no wonder my heart's glad and tongue's overjoyed;
as my body will also rest safely in bliss,
because you won't abandon my soul to the Void,
nor allow any faithful to see the Abyss.
You have shown me the way of life, day after day;
just to know you’re beside me has made my heart soar;
in your presence there’s fullness of joy come what may;
at your right hand are pleasures for me evermore.
A few months ago, I was writing fairly furiously. I was cranking out a new poem every few days to a few weeks. Then I got bogged down on a poem I was writing and just stopped.
I joined an online community to share some of my poetry. First, I dug out and submitted some older secular poetry I'd written YEARS ago. And they loved those. Some of my poems got thousands of views, dozens of "likes" and many nice comments.
Then, I started weaving in the poetry I am writing now, i.e. the Job poems. The thousands of views dropped to barely a hundred, the "likes" dwindled as did the comments. I was even kicked out of one the forums because the moderator didn't like me "proselytizing" my "Abraham" poems.
So, I abruptly stopped that. I'd been spinning my wheels for about a month and a half now with nothing to show for it.
After a few days of soul-searching (read: sulking), I got the urge to write again. Ever since I wrote the 40 poems from Job last year, I've been thinking ahead to the Psalms.
As a teenager, I wrote a handful of poetry from Psalms, but gave it up. Partly, because they were so bad, but mostly because it was so daunting. Everyone knows there are 150 Psalms. 150! Plus, its already been done before. Several poets through the years have set the Psalms to rhyme.
How blest is the man who refuses to walk
in the counsel of evil to guide him,
nor chooses to stand with the sinners beside him,
nor sit with the scoffers who mock.
I wrote Psalm 1 a couple of weeks ago. It was like nothing I'd ever written before. The first lines of every verse contain 11 syllables, followed by 10, 12 and 8 syllables, respectively.
Why do nations rebel and conspire,
why do people have futile things planned?
Earthly kings, in their battle attire,
have united and taken their stand.
Three days later, I finished Psalm 2. I was freed from the constraints of writing in one of the six styles within my Job project, where every speaker had his own rhythm.
How many are my foes, LORD!
How great that number grows, LORD!
So many, with my back against the wall.
They say, with jubilation,
There will be no salvation,
there is no help from God for him at all.
At first, I was caught up with trying come up catchy titles like I did for Job. But after the fifth poem was written, and the next day I was still struggling with the title, I dropped the titles and stripped all of that clutter away.
Answer when I seek your face,
O God of hope and righteousness;
give relief to my distress,
please hear my prayer and grant me grace.
The fact that I no longer had to title my poems was a wonderful feeling! I could simply look at a Psalm, find the pattern, and write!
Oh listen to my words, LORD; consider how I groan.
Examine, now, my sighing.
Give ear to my voice crying;
you are my King, my God, and I pray to you alone.
So, in the course of a little more than two weeks now, the Lord's allowed me the ability to write these seven poems. It helps that they've been rather short, so far.
Lord, do not rebuke me in anger,
nor discipline me when enraged.
show grace as I languish in torment and anguish;
my pain, LORD, cannot be assuaged.
I really like the way Psalm 6 turned out as well as the next one.
But, I'm not sure why upender is NOT a word! There are large pieces of equipment that have upender in their name, but yet it isn't in the dictionary?
As I mentioned concerning my Job poetry, I usually don't look ahead or read the entire chapter before I start. I concentrate on the first verse or two to determine the rhyming scheme, then am always happily blown away when the rest of the chapter conforms to that pattern.
In this instance, however, when I was checking to see how long the chapter was, my eyes fell on the word "hollow" in verse 15, and glancing at the previous verse I saw a series of events and thought of the word "follow". So, I had that in mind when I started writing the poem. And, what do you know? The Lord worked it all out for me!
A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite.
O LORD, and my God, it is you I rely on;
oh, save me from those who pursue me with hate.
They'll rip out my soul with the strength of a lion;
they'll tear me apart — there's no help for my fate.
O LORD, and my God, if I'm truly that sordid,
if my hands are guilty of breaking the laws,
if peace had been given yet evil rewarded,
if I robbed my foe without reason or cause,
let me, by my foes, be pursued and then taken,
my life and my honor both trampled to dust.
In anger, stand up to my foes, LORD, awaken!
For you have decreed what is truthful and just.
Let people surround you from every known nation,
as you take your seat on your throne in the sky.
The LORD judges nations; give me vindication,
for I am an innocent man, O Most High.
I pray that the reign of the wicked be ended,
establish the righteous and make them secure.
O God, you are righteous and know what all men did,
by testing which hearts and whose minds remain pure.
Protector, my God, you're my shield and defender,
the one who delivers the upright of heart.
My judge and my jury, judicious upender;
your wrath for the wicked you daily impart.
If man won't repent, then God's sword will be sharpened,
he bends down and readies his bow in his grip.
Prepares for himself the most deadly of weapons,
ordains for each arrow a fiery tip.
When evil conceives, only trouble will follow
for lies and deceit will result from that birth.
By digging a pit and by making it hollow,
he falls in his hole that he's dug in the earth.
The troubles he causes return on him solely,
the violence he's planned, on his head, will be poured.
I'll give the LORD thanks for he's righteous and holy,
and sing out my praise to the name of the LORD.