Thursday, January 12, 2017

Belated Happy New Year - Psalms draft finished and Psalm 12

Psalms Scroll, courtesy Wikipedia
Belated Happy New Year and apologies for the delay in posting. This was due to:

  1. Delightful family visit of Elder Daughter and Grandchildren.
  2. Filthy Cold afterwards
  3. Lots of work
  4. C's birthday, for which I presented her with the first draft of my verse translations of all the Psalms.
One kind friend has offered to look through some of the translations and to try to find other priests who can do so as well. She asked me for some background on them and I explained that my goal is to have translations which are:


a. English verse in the sense that a reader of Shakespeare would understand (not necessarily the way 21st Century Poets would write at all) so most of the Psalms are pentameters with rhyming final couplets, occasionally there is more rhyming (Psalm 23 is a sonnet) though sometimes different forms and rhythms are used. But it’s clear to anyone listening or reading that is poetry and not just prose with line breaks.  There is a lot of alliteration as there is in the Hebrew. 

b. As accurate as possible in terms of the Hebrew (given a above) with any small divergences clearly marked in the printed text. Of course there are no divergences that change the meaning (I hope) but for example in Psalm 150 I have
O praise God in His [awesome] holiness
O praise Him for His might in {heavenly song / the firmament}
O praise Him for His excellent greatness
O praise Him for (the many ways He’s strong / His strength + order swapped)
meaning “I’ve added “awesome” to make it scan, changed “the firmament” into “heavenly song” and “His strength” into “the many ways He’s strong” and swapped the 2 halves of the 2nd verse around to give a consistent rhyming pattern.

c. At least somewhat indicative of the form of the original. For example all the acrostic psalms are translated as acrostic poems, and sometimes when there is heavy alliteration or a particularly striking use of repetition this is preserved in the English even though it may read slightly oddly.  And sometimes when a line is very ambiguous in Hebrew I have managed to find an English translation that keeps the ambiguities – far preferable in my view to fixing one interpretation and ruling out the others. (Tom Wright agrees BTW).

I’ve used the typography of Him/His/You/Your referring to God partly to be clear that we don’t suggest that God is male and partly because it makes the translation less ambiguous since it’s almost always clear in the Hebrew whether God is being referred to or a human being and sometimes in the English it is less clear. Otherwise I’ve worked hard to use inclusive language – I think I’ve always succeeded when referring to the Righteous/Godly but sometimes I’ve let the ungodly remain Sons/Men when they are this in the Hebrew and it would be awkward to change.


Anyway, with that preamble, here is Psalm 12


Help, LORD, for there is no-one godly left;
    those who are loyal have gone from humankind.
Everyone speaks falsely to their neighbour;
    With flattering lips, dissembling in their hearts.
May The LORD cut off all the flattering lips
    [and every] tongue that utters arrogance
those who say, “By our tongues we'll prevail;
    our lips defend us—who will master us?”
“For plundered poor and needy ones who groan,
    I'll now arise,” declares The LORD. “I'll place
Them in the safety they are longing for.”
The LORD's words are the words of silver pure,
    Smelted on earth, and seven times refined.
You, LORD, will keep the needy in Your {care /watch}
    and will forever guard us from that brood,
the wicked prowling all around [we find]:
    as vileness is raised high with humankind.


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