Saturday, November 29, 2008

Psalm 49

A riddle? I read the NEB on this one this morning in Church - very good translation I suspect (not online). No proverb in it though - proverbially is just 'short-lived' - so I tried mashal as story or aphorism - trying to give the English the same sound whether it modifies nothing or the beasts. It didn't work for me - so I felt the tug of street language and succumbed to 'suchlike', an archaic version of 'like buddy - this is where its at'.

Think - fellow-dust-beings - Where do you / do I fit in this 'story'?

It's Advent - so I repeated a line at the beginning to reflect the Advent responsory we will sing tonight.

How shall I shape Sheol? Unseen seemed good (here) but had no lexical support that I could fathom. I could leave it untranslated, but I have not done that to date. Grave, death - both dynamic equivalents lacking aphoristic value. What is this (literally) 'place of inquiry' where there is no apparent inquiry? In the end I used grave. This poem could be read as an early statement of the second law of thermodynamics. Things fall apart. Perhaps that's why the riddle is a suitable frame. This poem has a bit of the feel of Ecclesiastes - but who is the I who is taken by God? And who is the non-coveting you who are not afraid?

For the leader
of the children of Korah
A Psalm
Hear this all peoples
listen up all you living transients
children of dust and children of humanity
high and low, rich and poor, one with another
my mouth will speak wisdom
and the musing of my heart understanding
I will bend my ear suchlike
and open my riddle on a harp

why should I fear these evil days
while the iniquity of my heels surrounds me?
those who trust in their wealth
and congratulate themselves in their great riches
none of them can ransom the ransom of a brother
nor give to God their cover-price
so precious is their self-ransom
and it ends in this age
will such live on and on and not see the pit?

for each sees the wise die
equally as a dullard and a brute perish
and their wealth is abandoned to others
as far as they are concerned
their houses are for ever
their dwellings from generation to generation
they call their dust-bowls by their names

but the precious dust doesn't think
like beasts, they cease
this their way is their folly
yet those who follow them are pleased with their mouthing
like sheep they drive to the grave
death will pasture them
and the upright will rule them in the morning
and their idol will decay grave from its dwelling
but God will ransom me from the hand of the grave
for he will take me
you will not fear when someone becomes rich
for the increase of the glory of his house
for in his death he will not take it all
his glory will not descend after him

for he surely blessed himself in his life
and they will praise you when you do well for yourself
he will go to the generation of the fathers
they will not see light again

but the precious dust doesn't think
like beasts, they cease

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