Mary Sidney's lyrical version of Psalm 131 . . . and coffee grounds?

Psalm 131 Domine, non est

Mary Sidney’s version:

A lofty heart, a lifted eye,

        Lord, thou dost know I never bare:

Less have I borne in things too high

        A meddling mind or climbing care.

        Look how the weanèd babe doth fare:

Oh, did I not? Yes, so did I:

         None more for quiet might compare

Ev’n with the babe that weaned doth lie.

         Hear then and learn, O Jacob’s race,

         Such endless trust on God to place.


King James version:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.


An English translation of an Aramaic version:

Lord Jehovah, my heart is not lifted up neither are my eyes lifted up, neither have I walked in a pretense of things greater than I.

But my soul is humbled like one weaned of his mother, and my soul is like one weaned of me.

But let Israel hope in Lord Jehovah from now and unto eternity.


In their fine introduction to the The Sidney Psalter, The Psalms of Sir Philip and Mary Sidney, first published by Oxford University Press in 2009, the editors Hannibal Hamlin, Michael G. Brennan, Margaret P. Hannay, and Noel J. Kinnamon acknowledge that the translated psalms begun by Sir Philip Sidney (psalms 1-43) and completed by his sister, Mary Sidney (psalms 44-150) not only glorify the biblical works but are some of the most accomplished lyric poems of the English Renaissance. John Donne described the Sidney psalms as the “highest matter in the noblest form” and they were acknowledged in their own time as masterpieces, examples of the lyric potential of English poetry. Read the introduction in this wonderful book for more information about the biblical psalms, the Sidneys, the collaborative aspects of the psalms, the forms, the extraordinary variety, the content and more. (Buy the book at Amazon books, or order it from your local bookstore.)

You can read an interesting short article by Margaret Hannay titled “Mary Sidney, A Poet and Psalmist of Shakespeare’s Time” at this link: for more information about Mary Sidney and the psalms. (This is on the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus, Christian Feminism Today website.)

For a look at the Hebrew text of psalm 131 and to read commentary by Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal in an article titled “Psalm 131 – Tranquility” select this link: (This is on the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies website.)

And about the coffee grounds: I was intrigued to read in the “Note on the Text” on page xxxii of The Sidney Psalter that eighteen manuscripts of the Sidney Psalms survive and that one of the most important ones is a 17th century copy by a Samuel Woodford of Mary Sidney’s own copy, which shows Mary’s practice of revising her own psalms as well as her brother’s. What really got my attention was the fact that Mr. Woodford rescued this copy from his brother, who was using it to hold ground coffee!