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Psalm 12 by King David

September 13, 1987

\o7 No one speaks the truth

anymore, the people

who did are long gone.

O God, will you help us!

Everybody lies

to everybody else!

They lie in their teeth,

they have double standards.

God cut their tongues out

and the lies out with them!

They brag about it:

"Lies make us powerful!

Lies are like weapons!

No one can stop us!"

God gives them the lie:

"I will make them stop it.

The poor are in tears,

the helpless are groaning.

They will have from me

all the help they cry for!"

There is no dross in

the promises God makes.

They are like silver

made molten and made pure,

or like potter's clay

refined the seventh time.

You have guarded us,

O God, eternal God,

from the very start.

Liars lurk everywhere!

They dig us our grave!

Translation by Francis Patrick Sullivan, from "Tragic Psalms" (The Pastoral Press, 225 Sheridan St., NW, Washington, DC 20011: $5.95; 226 pp.). This translation is the sequel to Sullivan's "Lyric Psalms: Half a Psalter" (1982), both of which he wrote at the MacDowell Colony as "dramatic" translations--translations intended for public performance. By way of comparison, the King James version of Psalm 12 opens as follows: "1 Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fall from among the children of men. 2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. 3 The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speakth proud things: 4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" 5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. 6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. 8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted."

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