I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.@Psalm 37:35–36

Author un­known. The ear­li­est ver­sion of this text we have seen is in Se­lect Por­tions of Psalms, from Var­ious Trans­la­tions, by John Kemp­thorne (with some stan­zas omit­ted) (Lon­don: J. Hatch­ard, 1810), page 70.

So­ho Jo­seph Barn­by, 1881 (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
Joseph Barnby
(1838–1896)

Soon with resistless arm shall death
Assert its sovereign claim,
And summon man to yield his breath
To Him whence first it came.

Like crowded forest trees we stand,
And some are marked to fall:
The axe will smite at God’s command,
And soon shall smite us all.

Green as the bay tree, ever green,
With its new foliage on,
The gay, the thoughtless, I have seen;
I passed—and they were gone.

No present health can health ensure
For yet an hour to come,
No human power our life secure
And save us from the tomb.

Lord! may we mark the awful truth,
Revealed in sacred page—
A worm is in the bud of youth,
And at the root of age.

Lord! teach me henceforth so to live,
And number all my days,
That in Thy strength I now may strive
To walk in wisdom’s ways.

And since the fatal shafts of death
Are flying all around,
Prepare us to resign our breath,
Nor dread the threatened wound.