Sunday, August 19, 2007

What to See in a Psalm

In my last notes, I began to explore the container structures that John Hobbin's has pointed to and the problem of managing the complexity of presenting multiple factors in a psalm. What sorts of factors outside of structure could be represented visually for a psalm?

John in this essay cites Collins: "The line is made up different layers – grammatical structure, semantic structure, stress patterns, syllable counts, alliteration." We now routinely note that on the surface of a psalm there are parallels. The meaning intended by the parallel is often disambiguated or confirmed by chiasm, and may be obscured or elaborated by enjambment. Groups of word pairings in reverse sequence extend chiasm to concentric structure often literally encompassing a single (e.g. Psalm 67) or dual centre (at least that is what I see in Psalm 46 so far). Concentricity is potentially independent of the container structure. Both of these are very visual images for describing units of aural performance. It is likely that what we 'see' must also work for the ear.

Perhaps this can be summed up with another quotation from the above essay:
Language in general and poetry in particular display iterative, constraint-governed patterns at the levels of phonology, prosodic hierarchy, stress alignment, lexical, grammatical, and rhetorical stress, morphology, syntax, sentence intonation, discourse grammar, and grouping and closure preferences.
If we add apposition, syndetic coordination, and hypotaxis sequences, we have between 17 and 24 characteristics of a psalm that might be shown.

John posted his translation and notations with respect to Psalm 46 here. With that preamble, it is time for some questions on Psalm 46 to see if there can be a visual mapping of the superscripts, subscripts, and coded messages he has put to the left of the Hebrew.

It is easier to do than to say - so I will draw first and describe later. But if you have any ideas, do let me know. For instance, rather than letting me guess the container structure (section / strophe, etc), leave a comment. And if you have any questions or suggestions on John's translation, leave him a comment here.

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