Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Psalm 8 attends John's return from holidays with three posts beginning here.

Since it is almost next on my list along with 144 which alludes to 8 directly, here is psalm 8 in my rough hues. [update - see comments: weight does not work - conflicts with shkl, I kept adorning since majestic is already structurally in use in the poem so majesty is out, switched to the traditional crown rather than surround - I avoided honor but there are good reasons to keep the honor axis. Do you think Paul had this text in mind in 2 Cor 4 or is the allusion too distant?]

For the Leader while musing
A Psalm of David
יְהוָה our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth
your splendor chanted above the heavens
by the mouth of children and nurselings

You have set strength for the sake of your foes
that you might rest enemy and vengeance

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers
moon and stars which you have established
What is humanity? for you remember it!
and the child of the dust that you visit it?

Yet you make it just lower than gods
but with weight and adorning surround it

Yet you filled it less
just a little less than God
and with glory and majesty crown it

You give it reign over the works of your hands
all you put under its feet
flock and cattle, all of them and more
beasts of the field, bird of the heavens
and fish of the sea traversing seaways

יְהוָה our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth


John Hobbins said...

Hi Bob,

I can tell by your translation that you enjoy superimposing an etymological feature of a word or root to which it related onto a specific use of said word. Thus the noun kabod becomes 'weight' on the basis of a primary sense of the verb 'be heavy' and the adjective 'heavy, weighty.'

I am, as you know, a hard-bitten linguist who does not know, for example, what the precise etymological figure behind 'hard-bitten' originally was. But I do know it is within my power to activate its etymology - real or imagined - in any given usage of the phrase, or ignore etymology altogether.

With that in mind, the question is, what was the author of Psalm 8 activating, or not? In the case of kabod, I don't think it was etymology, but the power inherent in its usage as an attribute of things like a throne (1 Sam 2:9); chariots (Isa 22:19); priestly robes (Ex 28:2), and the temple (Hag 2:3). If so, the question becomes: what noun in English can be used to speak of the "x of" a stately chair, a vintage Ford Mustang, the vestments of a bishop, and of a cathedral? "Magnificence," it seems to me, fits better than "glory," though the latter has the weight (!) of tradition on its side.

With translations like "weight," you are coining new expressions. If you wish, you can now praise the "King of Weight." However, I wonder whether it might be better to translate "abundance" if you want to bring out a shade of color in the noun which is obscured in the opaque word "glory." Or one might choose to render kabod wehadar with "magnificence and splendor" - the question also is whether the image of crowning is being projected. I think it is.

Bob MacDonald said...

John - that's a good way of expressing what we do with language - I am obeying the command given to me to 'find words' but I not too happy with adorning or surround.

With respect to weight - I am trying to set up a resonance with the NT measure of glory - an eternal weight of glory.

In this case I think the traditional crown it with glory is quite good - so maybe I should stick with it. But this needs work - so I will ponder it further... and to boot the translation conflicts with the normal usage of shekel as a measure - I might confuse God with Mammon