The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 46

The Linnet´s Wings with whom together we shared sweet counsel, in the house of our God in elation we walked. May death come upon them. May they go down to Sheol alive. For in their homes, in their midst, are evils. But I call to God, and the Lord rescues me. Evening and morning and noon I complain and I moan, and He hears my voice. He has ransomed my life unharmed from my battle, For many were against me – Ishmael and Jalam and the dweller in the east, who never will change and do not fear God. He reached out his hand against his allies, Profaned his own pact. His mouth was smoother than butter – and battle in his heart. His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. Cast your lot on the Lord and he will support you. He will never let the righteous stumble. And you, O God, bring them down to the pit of destruction. Men of bloodshed and deceit will not finish half their days. But I shall trust in You. Robert Alter Translation The speaker calls down God’s vengeance upon those who have corrupted the peace and harmony of His law. The speaker’s anger is emphatic: “God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old.” But amid this political condemnation, he returns to the heart of his dismay, the betrayal by a friend. The speaker wishes to keep his complaint general, but the pain of his friend’s treachery keeps erupting into his formal supplication to God: “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” The speaker appeals to God to punish the enemies of His peace and civic harmony, a political matter. However, his friend’s treachery rises both as emblem of civil discord and source of his bitter sorrow, a very personal matter. God’s law upholds the inner peace we seek. The law and our desires seek the same ends; the personal and the political cohere. The psalms express the human measure of the law; the dawning recognition of what this means emotionally. The speaker of Psalm 55 wishes to organize his complaints within a formal framework. However, his friend’s personal betrayal strikes him more forcefully than his friend’s betrayal of God and God’s community. His friend and he grew up together, they prayed together in the temple, they were one person; and now this friend exercises terror and guile against him, having broken the covenant with God but, more impor- tant, the covenant of friendship. 46