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Book Review

Derek Webster

Troubled Joy

Lincolnshire Psalms

ISBN 0 9526230 3 X

Kenelm Press, Cleethorpes, 2003, 6.20

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed May 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2005


This is a wonderful resource, a re-working of the Psalms, which is not simply another translation but something much more profound.  Derek Webster is a priest and an academic who has already published a number of books on spirituality and this book of psalms flows naturally out of his earlier publications. Webster has steeped himself in the mood, the feel, the theology and the thrust of each Biblical psalm and then written something entirely new and original but informed by that process.  So for example Psalm 22 begins,

Death menaces but you flee from me.  I am alone.

Only red-tight hurt inhabits darkness.  I am abandoned.

Prayers fall, unheard.

Gnawing nights stifle crying.

There is no answer - blank flawed silence.

Or again Psalm 67,

Grain trembling in summer storms,

Hair-grass bending in the rain,

Opportunistic poppies, bird-foot trefoil:

All speak of joy, a holy presence,

For you renew the world.

In these two examples we see both the trouble and the joy of the title, itself a reflection on the underlying themes that dominate the psalms and Webster's Psalm 67 serves as a good example of why these are Lincolnshire psalms.  The barren mountains and olive groves of Israel give way here to the gentler landscape of eastern England and to the scenes and scents of wold and vale and the chill North Sea.


These psalms are beautifully written, moving and profound, the product of a rich life of prayer and reflection and full of wisdom.  Take as a final example his refrain in Psalm 42,

Though the darkness is deep,

My desire is deeper.  Should love wither,

Life snap and spirits spiral

To self-delusion, I will not let you go.

Gordon Sleight

Vicar of Nettleham , Diocese of Lincoln


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