Sidneian Psalms Psalm 71 In Te Domini Speravi On thee my trust is grounded Mary Sidney Herbert countess of Pembroke 1599

Psalm 71 is typically regarded as David's prayer to God for deliverance from his son Absalom. The poem is also a particularly touching appeal for aid and comfort in old age, when previous strength, power, and social status have been lost.

Psalm 71 opens with an emphatic statement of trust in the Lord, and this concept recurs repeatedly throughout the entire poem. The speaker appeals to the Lord for freedom and justice, stressing his own faith in God's willingness and ability to defend him. In God alone, the poem affirms, the speaker finds stability and safety. Subtly, he suggests his present insecure position in the world. The speaker underscores his lengthy relationship with God: "Since imprison'd in my mother" (l. 19), the speaker has trusted in God. The line recalls not just the speaker's embryonic existence in his mother's womb but also the transmission of sin from mother to child, and the speaker's own inevitable participation in that inheritance.

Midway through the poem, the speaker has begun to suggest his own advanced age (l. 55) and his mistreatment at the hands of his fellow men. His mature years, he admits, have left him bereft of any other comfort or strength besides that which he finds in the Lord. Deprived of almost every worldly good, then, he pleads that the Lord not abandon him as well. Because his earthly enemies have gathered against him, he can turn to no one but the Lord. The speaker hopes that his enemies' own spite and hate will work against them, destroying them from within; since the speaker places his own hopes in the hands of God, though, he ultimately sees his age as an advantage rather than a weakness. His snowy head bears witness to his years—time in which he may demonstrate the power and might of the Lord to the ages and every other living person. He acknowledges that while he may have experienced great sorrow and woe, God's power may again revive and exalt him. The psalm ends with the speaker's promise to continue raising his voice in song and music; with that harmony, he implies, his enemies will be vanquished.

See also Herbert, Mary Sidney; Sidnean Psalms (overview).

Winter Elliott

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