Psalm 58

By Isaac Watts 1674–1748 Isaac Watts

Warning to Magistrates

Judges, who rule the world by laws,
Will ye despise the righteous cause,
   When th’injur’d poor before you stands?
Dare ye condemn the righteous poor,
And let rich sinners ’scape secure,
   While gold and greatness bribe your hands?

Have ye forgot or never knew
That God will judge the judges too?
   High in the Heavens his justice reigns;
Yet you invade the rights of God,
And send your bold decrees abroad
   To bind the conscience in your chains.

A poisoned arrow is your tongue,
The arrow sharp, the poison strong,
   And death attends where e’er it wounds:
You hear no counsels, cries or tears;
So the deaf adder stops her ears
   Against the power of charming sounds.

Break out their teeth, eternal God,
Those teeth of lions dyed in blood;
   And crush the serpents in the dust:
As empty chaff, when whirlwinds rise,
Before the sweeping tempest flies,
   So let their hopes and names be lost.

Th’Almighty thunders from the sky,
Their grandeur melts, their titles die,
   As hills of snow dissolve and run,
Or snails that perish in their slime,
Or births that come before their time,
   Vain births, that never see the sun.

Thus shall the vengeance of the Lord
Safety and joy to saints afford;
   And all that hear shall join and say,
“Sure there’s a God that rules on high,
“A God that hears his children cry,
   “And will their sufferings well repay.”

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Poet Isaac Watts 1674–1748

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects Religion, God & the Divine, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Isaac  Watts

Biography

Isaac Watts was a scion of seventeenth-century Independent Dissent, a religious culture distinguished by its attention to local congregational authority, the education of preachers and people, and the cultivation of individual piety. The politics, pedagogy, and piety of Independency are all in evidence in Watts's early life and throughout his long career. He was at once a churchman, an educator, and an important minor poet. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, God & the Divine, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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