Translating Psalms (18)

Translating texts you already know really well in English is cheating, but the twists and turns are always interesting.  And taking issue with phrases of translators is, like, 9/10ths of the fun of translating anyway.

“Caeli enarrant” (Psalm 18)

[1] In finem. Psalmus David.

Unto the end.  A Psalm of David.

[2] Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei, et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum.

The heavens tell out the glory of God, and the firmament announces the works of His hand.

[3] Dies diei eructat verbum, et nox nocti indicat scientiam.

Day of day bellows the word, and night of night indicates the knowledge.

[4] Non sunt loquelae, neque sermones, quorum non audiantur voces eorum.

They are not utterances, nor speeches, whose voices shall not be heard.

[5] In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum, et in fines orbis terrae verba eorum.

Unto all the earth hath gone out their sound, and unto the ends of the circle of lands their words.

[6] In sole posuit tabernaculum suum; et ipse tamquam sponsus procedens de thalamo suo. Exsultavit ut gigas ad currendam viam;

In the sun hath He placed His tabernacle; and the same like a spouse proceeding down from his bedroom.  He hath rejoiced as a giant unto running the course;

[7] a summo caelo egressio ejus. Et occursus ejus usque ad summum ejus; nec est qui se abscondat a calore ejus.

from the highest heaven is his going out.  And his meeting even to his summit; nor is there one who may hide himself from his heat.

[8] Lex Domini immaculata, convertens animas; testimonium Domini fidele, sapientiam praestans parvulis.

The law of the Lord is immaculate, converting souls; the testimony of the Lord is faithful, furnishing wisdom to little ones.

[9] Justitiae Domini rectae, laetificantes corda; praeceptum Domini lucidum, illuminans oculos.

The justices of the Lord are right, gladdening hearts; the precept of the Lord is lucid, illuminating eyes.

[10] Timor Domini sanctus, permanens in saeculum saeculi; judicia Domini vera, justificata in semetipsa.

The fear of the Lord is holy, remaining into the age of age; the judgments of the Lord are true, justified in their very own selves.

[11] Desiderabilia super aurum et lapidem pretiosum multum; et dulciora super mel et favum.

Much desirable above gold and precious stone; and sweeter above honey and comb.

[12] Etenim servus tuus custodit ea; in custodiendis illis retributio multa.

And indeed Thy servant guards them; in guarding them repaying many things.

[13] Delicta quis intelligit? ab occultis meis munda me;

Faults, who understands? from my secret faults purify me;

[14] et ab alienis parce servo tuo. Si mei non fuerint dominati, tunc immaculatus ero, et emundabor a delicto maximo.

and from foreigners’ faults spare Thy servant.  If they be not lords over me, then I shall be immaculate, and I shall be washed from greatest fault.

[15] Et erunt ut complaceant eloquia oris mei, et meditatio cordis mei in conspectu tuo semper. Domine, adjutor meus, et redemptor meus.

And they shall be so that the eloquences of my mouth be pleasing, and the meditation of my heart in Thy sight always.  O Lord, my Helper, and my Redeemer.


quorum…eorum.  Normally I’m a stickler for getting every word as formally-translated as possible.  Here, I just can’t bring myself to do it.  The eorum is absurdly redundant even beyond my standards.  “Of whom their voices”…?  No thanks.

semetipsum is one of my favorite forms in Latin, the medieval hyper-redundancy.  In proper Latin, you just need the se.  For some reason they decided to strap on not one, but two intensifiers.  It’s a standard joke in my office to build the silliest English phrase possible out of these, or try to add more endings on the Latin (semetipsumquecumquamque, or what have you).  Those classicists, a laugh a minute!

I’m irritated by how long it took me to get a feel for ab alienis toward the end there, and I’m still not happy with my render.  Every other move is worse, I think.  Learn more Latin!


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