England's Antiphon

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From the deeps of grief and fear,

O Lord, to thee my soul repairs:

From thy heaven bow down thine ear;

Let thy mercy meet my prayers.

Oh! if thou mark'st what's done amiss, What soul so pure can see thy bliss?

But with thee sweet Mercy stands,

Sealing pardons, working fear.

Wait, my soul, wait on his hands;

Wait, mine eye; oh! wait, mine ear:

If he his eye or tongue affords,
Watch all his looks, catch all his words.

As a watchman waits for day,

And looks for light, and looks again:

When the night grows old and gray,

To be relieved he calls amain:

So look, so wait, so long, mine eyes, To see my Lord, my sun, arise.

Wait, ye saints, wait on our Lord,

For from his tongue sweet mercy flows;

Wait on his cross, wait on his word;

Upon that tree redemption grows:

He will redeem his Israel
From sin and wrath, from death and hell.

I shall now give two stanzas of his version of the 127th Psalm.

If God build not the house, and lay

The groundwork sure--whoever build,

It cannot stand one stormy day.

If God be not the city's shield,

If he be not their bars and wall,
In vain is watch-tower, men, and all.

Though then thou wak'st when others rest,

Though rising thou prevent'st the sun,

Though with lean care thou daily feast,

Thy labour's lost, and thou undone;

But God his child will feed and keep, And draw the curtains to his sleep.

Compare this with a version of the same portion by Dr. Henry King, Bishop of Chichester, who, no great poet, has written some good verse. He was about the same age as Phineas Fletcher.

Except the Lord the house sustain, The builder's labour is in vain;
Except the city he defend,
And to the dwellers safety send,
In vain are sentinels prepared,
Or arméd watchmen for the guard.

You vainly with the early light
Arise, or sit up late at night
To find support, and daily eat
Your bread with sorrow earned and sweat; When God, who his beloved keeps,
This plenty gives with quiet sleeps.

What difference do we find? That the former has the more poetic touch, the latter the greater truth. The former has just lost the one precious thing in the psalm; the latter has kept it: that care is as useless as painful, for God gives us while we sleep, and not while we labour.

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