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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Parson’s Psalm

By Joseph Green (1706–1780)

[Born in Boston, Mass., 1706. Died in England, 1780. A Parody on Mather Byles’s Stanzas written at Sea.]

IN David’s Psalms an oversight

Byles found one morning at his tea,

Alas! that he should never write

A proper song to sing at sea.

Thus ruminating on his seat,

Ambitious thoughts at length prevailed.

The bard determined to complete

The part wherein the prophet failed.

He sat awhile and stroked his Muse,

Then taking up his tuneful pen,

Wrote a few stanzas for the use

Of his seafaring brethren.

The task performed, the bard content,

Well chosen was each flowing word;

On a short voyage himself he went,

To hear it read and sung on board.

Most serious Christians do aver,

(Their credit sure we may rely on,)

In former times that after prayer,

They used to sing a song of Zion.

Our modern parson having prayed,

Unless loud fame or faith beguiles,

Sat down, took out his book and said,

“Let’s sing a psalm of Mather Byles.”

At first, when he began to read,

Their heads the assembly downward hung,

But he with boldness did proceed,

And thus he read, and thus they sung.

With vast amazement we survey

The wonders of the deep,

Where mackerel swim, and porpoise play,

And crabs and lobsters creep.

Fish of all kinds inhabit here,

And throng the dark abode.

Here haddock, hake, and flounders are,

And eels, and perch, and cod.

From raging winds and tempests free,

So smoothly as we pass,

The shining surface seems to be

A piece of Bristol glass.

But when the winds and tempests rise,

And foaming billows swell,

The vessel mounts above the skies,

And lower sinks than hell.

Our heads the tottering motion feel,

And quickly we become

Giddy as new-dropped calves, and reel

Like Indians drunk with rum.

What praises then are due that we

Thus far have safely got,

Amarescoggin tribe to see,

And tribe of Penobscot.