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Showing posts with the label #Psalms

The sort of poetry which doesn’t rhyme.

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When children are first exposed to books, they’re exposed to poetry. (What, you didn’t realize Green Eggs and Ham rhymed?) Starting with children’s books, all the way up to Shakespeare.And what’s the one thing English-speakers are all agreed upon about poetry? I’m not gonna wait for your answer: It rhymes.Except it doesn’t always.We were introduced to Walt Whitman in high school. To his stuff other than “O Captain! My Captain!”, which does rhyme; usually “Song of Myself” or “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d.” And a bunch of us objected, as do high schoolers across America: “This isn’t poetry. It doesn’t rhyme!” ’Cause we knew from Green Eggs and Ham on up: Poetry rhymes. That’s what makes it poetry.Well, no. Poetry’s about using wordplay to evoke emotion. It’s why it works so well with small children. But it doesn’t have to rhyme, or have a metrical rhythm, or any of the things we frequently find in traditional English-language poetry. True, lots of languages do rhythm and rh…

De profundis.

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The prayer known as de profundisdeɪ proʊ'fun.dis, commonly deɪ prə'fən.dɪs is also known as Psalm 130 in Jewish and Protestant bibles, and 129 in Orthodox and Catholic bibles. The Latin name comes from verse 1 in the Vulgate: De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine, “From the deep I call to you, Lord.”My translation doesn’t rhyme this time, but it’s still in iambic septemeter.Psalm 130 KWL0Song for the climb.1 I call you from the deep, oh LORD. 2 My Master, hear my voice!Your ears must pay attention to my supplications’ voice!3 If you kept track of moral faults, my Master, who could stand?4But with you there’s forgiveness. For this reason, you’re revered.5 I wait—my life waits—for the LORD; my hope is in his word.6 My life awaits my Master like a night guard waits for dawn.Like night guards wait for dawn… 7 so Israel: Wait for the LORD!For with the LORD is love, and much redemption comes with him.8 He will redeem you, Israel, from all your moral faults.Connected to the Hebrew idea …

These godless kids these days.

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Little bit of griping about the younger generation… and now it’s in the bible.Psalm 14Amárnavál belibó/“The fool said at heart” (Latin Dixit insipiens) is by David, and we number it at 14.Commentators figure it’s a lament: David, or Wisdom (i.e. the Holy Spirit) mourns the fact kids these days don’t follow God anymore. Not like “our righteous group,” Ps 14.5 the dor/“age group” (KJV “generation”) David’s in, which he deems more devout than the younger set. Back in his day people followed God, took his side, knew where their help came from, and expected God to rescue ’em yet again. In comparison, this generation is hopeless, nihilistic, cynical, faithless, and godless.Basically, the same lament every generation has about the next one. Well, with one exception: The people from this generation, who gang up with the previous generation about their peers and successors. That’s a phenomena I’ve seen quite often lately. My parents are “baby boomers,” I’m in what marketers call “generation X,…

The Almighty our defender.

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This psalm isn’t necessarily about you, y’know.Yoshév b’setérElyón/“Seated in the secret [place] of the Highest,” (Latin Qui habitat) is our 91st psalm. It’s often called the Psalm of Protection, ’cause it talks about how the LORD will protect “you.”Who’s the “you”? Actually that’d be the king. This is a messianic psalm, addressed to (and possibly written by) Israel’s king. This fact isn’t obvious; the psalm never bluntly says it. Hence loads of Christians figure they’re the “you,” apply it to themselves, and take a lot of comfort in the idea God’ll deliver us from our every foe.Problem is, God never promised us any such thing. On the contrary: Jesus promised us we’d suffer. Jn 16.33 So to claim Yoshév b’setér Elyón for ourselves is not only taking the bible out of context, but setting ourselves up for huge disappointment when it inevitably won’t come true that way.Yeah, my translation rhymes. Went with trochaic octameter.Psalm 91 KWL1 Seated in the Highest’s secret, seated in Almight…

Don’t mess with our Messiah.

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A psalm for coronation—and a warning for the nations round about.The second psalm, Lammáragšúgoyím/“For what reason rage the nations?” (Latin, Quare fremuerunt gentes) is considered a Messianic psalm ’cause it’s about Israel’s king, and one of the king’s titles is of course Messiah. And it’s considered a Messianic prophecy ’cause Jesus is Messiah, so Christians are gonna look for ways in which it gets fulfilled in the present day—kinda like the apostles did when they quoted it.Acts 4.23-28 KWL23 Once released, the apostles went to their own peopleand brought news of whatever the head priests and elders told them.24 Those who heard it unanimously lifted their voices to God and said, “Master,you who made the heavens, earth, sea, and everything in them,25 who said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our ancestor David your child,‘Why are the nations furious?—the people practice stupidity?26 The earth’s kings stand forth, and rulers gather themselves together,against the Lord and aga…

When we’re surrounded by sickness and evil.

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A psalm for whenever we feel like we’re crapped upon.A lot of the “problems” westerners go through are what we call “first-world problems”: If you’re rich and comfortable, little annoyances get exaggerated into big huge crises. Like when your phone battery dies, or the grocery store shrinks your favorite yogurt from 150 grams to 100 and raises the price a nickel, or somebody cut in line at the coffeehouse, or someone misunderstood your latest tweet and got all offended. Now your day is just ruined.Poor people just laugh at these woes as ridiculous. ’Cause they are.Parents of teenagers know what I’m talking about. I used to teach grammar, and my kids would write poetry, and sometimes they’d write really awful poems in which they’d bellyache about the “problems” in their largely problem-free lives. Rarely were they legitimate—like not having enough food, like fighting a difficult disease, like child abuse. Just a bunch of first-world problems. This or that kid was mean to ’em. Parents w…

Vengeful God, loving God.

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Sometimes we want God to kick some ass. When I translate the psalms, I make ’em rhyme because I can. Iambic octometer, anyone?Psalm 3 KWL0David’s psalm, while fleeing the presence of his son Absalom.1 My enemies—ten thousand, LORD!—have multiplied and charge at me!2 The myriads say of my life, “God’s rescue? Not for he.” Selah.3 But you, LORD, are my shield and honor, granting my authority.4 I call the LORD, who from his holy mountain answers me. Selah.5 I lay my head to sleep, and wake because the LORDhas strengthened me.6Do I fear opposition from ten thousand circling people? Nah.7 You rose and saved me, LORD my God. Face-punched my every enemy.Broke evildoers’ teeth. 8 You bless your own with rescue, LORD. Selah.Psalm 3 is Adonáime-rabu (Latin, Domine, quid multiplicati), “LORD, how are they increased,” written by King David ben Jesse in the 10th century BC, and as verse 0 points out, it was when his son Absalom attempted to overthrow him.It’s a vengeance psalm. One of many. David …

The Lord’s my shepherd.

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Most everybody’s favorite psalm.Adonái ro’i (Latin, Dominus pascit me), “the LORD’s my shepherd,” was written by King David ben Jesse in the 10th century BC. In the Hebrew bible it’s the 23rd psalm. (In the Septuagint and Vulgate it’s the 22nd.)Hebrew poetry doesn’t rhyme. But really, all it takes to make a rhyming translation is a little effort. So I did. Went with anapestic septameter. (Poetry nerds know what that means.)Psalm 23 KWL0David’s psalm.1 I am never deprived, for my shepherd’s the LORD. 2 In his pastures of grass do I rest.I am guided by him to the waters so calm. 3 He provides me my life. I am blessed.I am led down the rightest of paths by his name. 4 In the valley’s dark shade, I may veer;but because you are with me, I won’t be afraid. In your stick and your staff, I take cheer.5 You arrange me a table in face of my foes. You rub fat on the wool of my head.You have made my cup overflow. 6 All my life’s days, love and goodness pursue me instead.I will always return to th…

Nobody knows what “selah” means.

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Not that it stops Christians from using it. SELAH /si'lɑ, 'seɪ.lɔ, 'si.lɔ/ v. Term occurring 71 times in Psalms and thrice in Habakkuk. Probably a musical direction, but meaning unknown.2. [excl. in popular Christian culture] Amen; or some form of blessing, greeting, or praise.There’s a friend of mine who loves to end her emails with “Selah.” Just for fun, I started ending my emails to her with “Callay”—a word from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” apparently said in celebration, but like selah we don’t precisely know its meaning, ’cause Carroll was deliberately being silly.Last month she finally asked about it: “What’s ‘callay’ mean?”“Same as ‘selah,’” I replied.She didn’t inquire further. I’m guessing she thinks she knows what selah means, so she just accepted my explanation. A lot of folks who use selah think they know its meaning. It means amen, right? It’s a declaration of support, agreement, truth, joy… something positive. It’s why they put it in all the reggae songs.We…