Sunday, October 14, 2007

Translating Psalm 51

Update: new image - more circles. Several Bloggers are discussing translation (Peter Kirk) and teaching (Henry Neufeld) and psalm 51 (Update see also John Hobbins' later post here and my personal thoughts here). Psalm 51 is a psalm I am sure we all are very familiar with. These discussions speak of dynamic equivalence, literal, literary, and translations as lies as expressed in a comment on Doug's post, the slip and slide of Scripture. Here is my attempt at English. The words in bold outline the circles of the first half. The italics point to the keywords of the second half. The underlines mark the items circled by the repeated words of the first half and their reflection in the second half. In final copy even these reminders of the Hebrew word repetitions and synonyms have to be removed. But what we see in the inner thought is a move from the horror of the self-recognition of crime (I like John's word here but it demands criminals in the second part), to the recognition that God will accept the self-offering of the criminal. So the completion with cultic imagery is not an afterthought in the poem.

David's sin is blotted out by its being recounted in the great congregation. As it is written, the smoke of their torture goes up before the Lord and his saints for ever. Whoever says criminals cannot be saved does not know the power of God to effect his pleasure in the sacrifice.

I followed my preliminary prosodic structure in completing and refining this translation. I would welcome further criticisms and corrections.
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A psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came to him because he had come to Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
in your loving kindness.
In the multitude of your tender mercies,
blot out my crime.
Fully wash me from my guilt,
and from my sin purify me.
For I know my crime,
and my sin is continually in my face.

Against you, you only, I have sinned;
this evil in your sight I have done.
So you are right to speak,
you are clear to judge.

Indeed in guilt I was brought forth,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
Indeed, you take pleasure delight in the inner parts,
and in hidden wisdom you make me know.
You will offer me with hyssop and I will be pure;
you will wash me and I will be white as snow.
Make me to hear rejoicing and mirth,
rejoice the bones you have crushed.
Hide your face from my sin,
and all my guilt, blot out.

A clean heart create in me, O God,
and a right spirit, renew within me.
Do not cast me from your presence,
and your holy spirit do not remove from me.
Return to me the joy of your salvation,
in a willing spirit, support me.
I will teach criminals your ways,
and sinners to you will be turned.

Deliver me from the guilt of shed blood O God,
my God of my salvation;
my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
Lord, my lips you will open,
and my mouth will make evident your praise.
For you do not delight in sacrifice or else I would make it,
burnt offering you will not accept.

The offerings of God are a broken spirit,
a heart broken and crushed O God, you will not despise.
Do good in your acceptance of Zion;
build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in sacrifices of righteousness,
burnt offering and whole offering;
then they will offer young bulls on your altar.

1 comment:

Henry Neufeld said...

Glad you got to work on this Bob. As I was writing my post and especially as I was commenting on scripture as worship i.e. in the liturgy, I thought about the first post I read on your blog when you expressed your shock that a service left out the Psalm. I guess laziness set in and I didn't go find that post.

I don't comment all that often, but I do quite regularly read your blog and your translations/notes.