The Cohen Brothers’ 2010 adaptation of True Grit has got to be one of my three favorite Westerns, together with James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and, of course, Tombstone. Not only does it have a bona fide appaloosa horse in it (you can’t say that about either Appaloosa, starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris, or The Appaloosa, starring Marlon Brando!), it has all the wit and sparkle audiences have come to expect from a Cohen Brothers movie, and an all-star cast (and introducing Hailee Steinfeld with a spitfire performance as Mattie).
This fan poem, based on the 37th Psalm, is in the voice of Matt Damon’s LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger pursuing the outlaw who killed Mattie’s father into Oklahoma territory, as he tries to dissuade Mattie from following the unreliable Rooster Cogburn any further into danger, after they have shared the trail just long enough to start to warm up to each other. Unfortunately, this Psalm is a bit long-winded and repetitive, so it doesn’t exactly fit the laconic LaBoeuf, but really, who can compete with a script like this one?
Do not get stirred up by this villain’s success.
It is no use envying those who do wrong.
For in the end, they, too, will go to feed worms
and their crimes will wither like grass on their graves.
Trust in the ways of God and keep up your end.
Look after your poor family and have faith.
Take pleasure in the things childhood is meant for,
now is the time to steal a kiss – or a smile.
Trust in the law and the courts to get your man,
and sooner or later justice will prevail,
someday your father’s murderer will be hung.
Be sensible and leave this job to others.
Do not throw your life away seeking revenge,
chasing a man whose luck has yet to run out.
Let go of this stubborn vendetta – go home.
Do not abandon your next of kin like this.
For a fugitive cannot run far enough,
but your father raised you well – tend his estate.
Before you know it, luck will fail his killer.
You can hunt all you like – the trail is gone cold.
But it is for widows and children like you
to inherit in peace and prosper again.
The wicked will always cheat and kill and steal,
but all the while they grind their teeth out of fear.
The lawman pities the criminal and laughs,
for he can see which way the wind is blowing.
Though he draws his pistol and unsheathes his knife
and spurs his horse to outrun his desperate fate,
though he cuts down the poor, the trusting, the weak,
and would slaughter any who moved to stop him,
his reckless killings will be his undoing,
his horse will never carry him far enough.
Better the little you have, by your own rights,
than the wasteful takings of crime and revenge.
By the gibbet or by foul play, he’ll fall out,
and either way, you’ll have your cares back at home.
Give up the chase – let your mother embrace you,
for you are the only estate she has left.
There is no shame in surviving evil times
and moving on, to mind the next year’s harvest.
For an outlaw’s luck runs short no matter what,
his own kind may well kill him before he’s caught.
The gang he’s running with will rob him themselves,
for nothing comes free among killers and thieves.
Be glad you have a family to go back to
and rest assured there’s no safe place he can hide.
You have done all you could to uphold the law
with firmness and resolve, acting in good cheer.
Though the time has come to abandon the chase,
it does you credit, to have come so far.
I remember when I was a boy, and now,
in all my years I have never seen your like;
I know that you will prosper in all you do,
for being who you are – fair-minded, stalwart,
and in all things very brave. I shake your hand.
Turn aside from this futile search while you can,
look after your mother, and keep your chin up.
For the law may be slow to take its prisoners,
but it will not forsake your cause in the end.
A child like you lives under its protection,
while the likes of him are cut off, in the wild.
Your place is with the just – you will inherit
all the cares that were your father’s and grow strong.
You may be wise beyond your years already,
but real maturity means circumspection.
Your father taught you boldness and conviction –
his teachings have been your prop against despair.
A criminal always loathes an upright man,
goes looking for an excuse to bring him down.
But should he fall, the just is not forsaken,
his ways and his works stand tall when he is judged.
Hope for the best and try to keep your hands clean,
and you will soon be able to fill his shoes;
in due course, this criminal will meet his fate.
You have seen an arrogant, ruthless outlaw
taking root like a flourishing garden weed.
But already he is on the run, hunted,
as likely dead as anywhere else – long gone.
Watch over your next of kin, trust in the law,
and remember, you have a future to live.
The man you pursued this far will not last long,
his habits will lead him to an early end.
The restitution for your loss is given,
in the balance you and yours will have your day.
And by grace, if nothing else, you will be freed
of this unlikely burden for a daughter,
and you will take your place – your fears put to rest.