Translating Psalms (50)

Here we go.  If you don’t know this one by heart, get to studying.  This is our psalm every Friday, but most especially this holiest Friday of the year.  No translation I give is going to do this thing justice but here’s my best shot this year.

“Miserere” (Psalm 50)

[1] In finem. Psalmus David,

Unto the end.  A Psalm of David, Continue reading Translating Psalms (50)

Translating Psalms (49)

Here’s the lesson Saul never learned and that David figures out in the next psalm: keep the covenant, then offer sacrifices like God tells you.  Sacrifices aren’t an excuse to break the covenant.

“Deus deorum” (Psalm 49)

[1] Psalmus Asaph. Deus deorum, Dominus, locutus est, et vocavit terram a solis ortu usque ad occasum.

A Psalm of Asaph.  God of gods, Lord, He has spoken, and He has called the earth from the rising of the sun even to the setting. Continue reading Translating Psalms (49)

Translating Psalms (47)

Someone who knew a thing or two about grace and happiness used this Psalm to open up his famous autobiography.  He liked this psalm so much he also used part of the first line as the title of another mildly famous book.  Memorize this psalm by reciting it every day, then go back and read his books.  You’ll be happier and you’ll understand both him and this psalm a lot better.

“Magnus Dominus” (Psalm 47)

[1] Psalmus cantici. Filiis Core, secunda sabbati.

A Psalm of a canticle.  For the sons of Korah, second of the Sabbath. Continue reading Translating Psalms (47)

Translating Psalms (46)

Psallo, psallere is an interesting verb for an English speaker to work with, and doubly-so for a Catholic.  Originally it means to play music on a stringed instrument, borrowed directly from the Greek.  Greek especially is full of these weirdly specific action verbs, and Latin inherits more than a few.  We don’t have anything like these in English, where the instrument gets its own verb (to piano, to guitar, etc.) or the sport gets its own verb (to football, to baseball, to cricket, etc.).  For my translation purposes that poses a problem, since I try for as much formal correspondence as possible and hate multiplying words.  The best we can do for the imperative is “play!” but that is awfully vague in English.  You could try a monster like “instrumentalize!” or you could supply some extra words to make the sense plain.  Annoying.

So that’s the first annoyance.  The history of the Church does a funny thing to this verb, however.  We call these liturgical songs “psalms” originally because they are psallere-d on a psalterium; i.e., they are named for the instrument used to play them.  But thanks to monasticism and the historical practice of the Divine Office, these “guitar recordings” come to be chanted; i.e., sung without instrumental accompaniment.  As a result the later use of the verb psallere–say, what St. Anselm would have meant by it–is just very simply to sing or chant a psalm.  And in that sense, the most intuitive way for me to translate psallite is with the much clearer–but historically incorrect–“sing!”

“Omnes gentes plaudite” (Psalm 46)

[1] In finem, pro filiis Core. Psalmus.

Unto the end, for the sons of Korah.  A Psalm. Continue reading Translating Psalms (46)

Translating Psalms (44)

Here’s a lovely one with a heavy Messianic theme early that makes the pronouns unclear throughout.  I will probably run a four senses interpretation of this psalm for my side bar when I have a free day/weekend; mystical sense here is strong.  The shift from the king to the queen brings in both Mary and Church.  A psalm to study and contemplate, for sure.

“Eructavit cor meum” (Psalm 44)

[1] In finem, pro iis qui commutabuntur. Filiis Core, ad intellectum. Canticum pro dilecto.

Unto the end, for those who will be exchanged.  To the sons of Korah, unto understanding.  A canticle for the beloved. Continue reading Translating Psalms (44)

Translating Psalms (42)

An ultimate shibboleth psalm.  If you know this one instantly, I know what kind of Holy Mass you attend on Sundays.

(It’s the beginning of the traditional Latin mass)

“Judica me, Deus” (Psalm 42)

[1] Psalmus David. Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta, ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.

A Psalm of David.  Judge me, O God, and discern my cause among a people not holy; from the man unjust and deceitful, rescue me. Continue reading Translating Psalms (42)

Translating Psalms (41)

Another famous one that I know by a slightly different number (42).  Verrry strong connection to the next psalm, with all the same language.  I have to imagine that some manuscript somewhere, somewhen, combined them into one psalm.

“Quemadmodum desiderat” (Psalm 41)

[1] In finem. Intellectus filiis Core.

Unto the end.  Understanding for the sons of Korah Continue reading Translating Psalms (41)