Translating Psalms (4)

Am I coming to terms with a stand-alone masterpiece of spiritual writing, or just trying to translate Hebrew poetry out of Latin into English?

“Cum invocarem” (Psalm 4)

  1. In finem, in carminibus. Psalmus David.
  2. Cum invocarem exaudivit me Deus justitiae meae, in tribulatione dilatasti mihi. Miserere mei, et exaudi orationem meam.
  3. Filii hominum, usquequo gravi corde? Ut quid diligitis vanitatem, et quaeritis mendacium?
  4. Et scitote quoniam mirificavit Dominus sanctum suum; Dominus exaudiet me cum clamavero ad eum.
  5. Irascimini, et nolite peccare; quae dicitis in cordibus vestris, in cubilibus vestris compungimini.
  6. Sacrificate sacrificium justitiae, et sperate in Domino. Multi dicunt: Quis ostendit nobis bona?
  7. Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine: dedisti laetitiam in corde meo.
  8. A fructu frumenti, vini, et olei sui, multiplicati sunt.
  9. In pace in idipsum dormiam, et requiescam;
  10. quoniam tu, Domine, singulariter in spe constituisti me.

Unto the end, in songs.  A Psalm of David

When I cried He heard me, the God of my justice, in tribulation You have enlarged me.  Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

O sons of men, how long with heavy heart, so that what you love is vanity, and what you seek is a lie?

And know that the Lord makes wonderful His holy one; the Lord will hear me when I cry to Him.

Be angry, and sin not; what you say in your hearts, on your beds repent.

Sacrifice a sacrifice of justice, and hope in the Lord.  Many say: Who shows us good things?

It is signed over us, the light of Your face, O Lord: You have given joy in my heart.

From their fruit of grain, wine, and oil, they have been multiplied.

In peace upon the self-same thing I will sleep, and I will rest;

for You, O Lord, singularly have established me in hope.


Sure, I could give up and unify the 2nd person/3rd person discrepancy in the second verse.  As written, you could play interesting games with the vocative.

I tried a different approach to Ut quid.  Normally it’s rendered with Ut as the question (“How,” twisted to mean “How long?”) and then the rest lines up neatly: quid is the direct object of the two verbs, and vanity and mendacity are predicates of that direct object.  Mine takes the Greek/Latin grammar more straightforwardly and slips the punctuation–a good old result clause.

in idipsum.  This is one of those super-fancy phrases that St. Augustine turns into an entire theology of divine attributes and super-abundant existence.    I think a boringly mundane translation would just be that I lie down to sleep on the self-same thing–that is, the fructus-harvest of the previous verse.  Go read St. Augustine’s commentary on Psalms for the cooler version.

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