Sunday, December 24, 2006

Psalm 6 revisited

I just uncovered a scansion of Psalm 6 by John Hobbins along with several other articles on Hebrew poetry.

I have compared this structure as described with Fokkelman's. It is still too early for me to confirm or deny syllable counts but the comparison helped remove a few errors and extra words from my own first cuts. See here for Fokkelman's version using my word by word structuring; and here for Hobbins using his line by line structuring (much more compact).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


You know of course that my translations are raw - not pious or poetic yet - but raw. Repeat: talk to me about corrections if you can see any. Sometimes the most familiar psalms (like 51) are the hardest to translate. I am looking for a way to reread the ones I have done so far to see what I can remember and learn from. It's still a foreign tongue to this 3 year old.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Psalm 89 is a serious lament to God. The last verse is the doxology for the third part of the Psalter - It fits as an end to this psalm, but it is not a part of the poem. The poem itself ends with the possible allusion to Genesis 3:15, but certainly with a continuing reminder to God that there are promises to be fulfilled.

The poem's structure begins with a concentric first stanza around the pair of verbs: establish and build up. Several words contribute further (coloured in green) here. I have drawn lines to show the structure as well as marking it with colour.

The second stanza - if indeed it is a stanza, is marked by 'the congregation' as opening and closing brackets. The rhetorical question - who is like the LORD is in the centre of that circle with a coda following.

The third section (top of column 2) recalls Psalm 46. In the centre, Sabbath is allowed for the waves of the seas (bless Christopher Smart - Jubilate Agno).

The fourth section has 'lifted up' and 'righteousness' marking the inclusio.
This motif is carried into the third column where the 'lifted up' verb is repeated three times, reinforced by the additional word - horn. Note also the refer-back to the sea and how even the seas are subject to the anointed.

The next long column is bound with the words 'forever', 'seed', and 'throne' - the section spilled over into column 5 ending with the Selah just before the change in mood - so I moved the verses into a single column to see better the concentric structures.

Column 5 balances the power of the verbs at the top of column 2 and the power implied by the covenant promises - as noted in the white on black colours. Here there is no need to 'explain' God's displeasure. There is a 14-fold repetition of the complaint.

Re the final column, where is the concept of 'the anointed bearing on his breast the multitude of peoples' coming from in the poet's mind? It is a primal human experience: the care for others. As Bruggeman points out in his book, Israel's Praise, the Psalms are world-making and the King though the patron of the cult, is also subject to the cost of the tender loving kindness of God: his people and all the others are on his breast. A father with a disabled child who refuses to learn independence and choose the good will know a similar responsibility that weighs heavily on the breast.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Psalm 150

Nothing like getting to the end before the journey is done. Psalm 150 is one I have sung many times but never before observed its simple structure: praise of the LORD who is God and praise with the means at our command. Conceptually at least, the whole is in two parts - 1. who 2. how and with a wrapper: Praise the Lord. I have republished all the images with no reduction of jpg size - so they are large, some of them. Yesterday I lost a day - but I was not alone; two of my staff also thought today was Thursday! So it is not just my involvement with learning a new language. Actually the form of the language is new but the human content is not. The poems are new and fresh but the forms of the poetry are not. Psalm 89 verse 38(39) was an issue - there is no mention of transgression, but a piling on of verbs - anaphoric almost. You have rejected us, you have cast us off, remember that we are but dust. I at first misread the verb as ZNH rather than ZNX - the first is really impolite, virtually accusing G-d as behaving like a harlot! The second is just rejection, not unfaithfulness, though the psalmist comes as close as he dare to pile on the compaint: 13 verbs in a row.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ho hum - not bored or anything, but more psalms

Psalm 100 and 67 are coloured; Psalm 89 is nearly finished, but wondering what to do with the very nasty word applied to God in verse 38 - dreamt of a tiger last night - sleeping with such - hmmm, growly. (At least it was a rare creature, not a roaring lion - ya gotta love those tiggers).

Psalms 51 and 91 are next, Psalm 119 in the wings (for ever) and Psalm 90 and 96 have to come soon and 42 - getting hart and water together again. Sooooo much depth and content here - if you don't know it, try it. Taste and see that the Lord is good (34) and dance with the ark to the holy mountain (134).