Translating Psalms (39)

“Exspectans exspectavi” (Psalm 39)

[1] In finem. Psalmus ipsi David.

Unto the end.  A Psalm to David himself.

[2] Exspectans exspectavi Dominum, et intendit mihi.

Awaiting I awaited the Lord and He has reached out to me.

[3] Et exaudivit preces meas, et eduxit me de lacu miseriae et de luto faecis. Et statuit super petram pedes meos, et direxit gressus meos.

And He has heard my prayers and has led me from the lake of misery and from the mud of lees.  And He has stood upon the rock my feet and directed my steps.

[4] Et immisit in os meum canticum novum, carmen Deo nostro. Videbunt multi, et timebunt, et sperabunt in Domino.

And He has sent into my mouth a new canticle, a song to our God.  They will see, the many, and fear and hope in the Lord.

[5] Beatus vir cujus est nomen Domini spes ejus, et non respexit in vanitates et insanias falsas.

Blessed the man of whom the name of the Lord is his hope and has not looked back into vanities and false follies.

[6] Multa fecisti tu, Domine Deus meus, mirabilia tua; et cogitationibus tuis non est qui similis sit tibi. Annuntiavi et locutus sum, multiplicati sunt super numerum.

Many things have You made, You, O Lord my God, many Your marvels; and in Your thoughts there is none who be similar to You.  I have announced and spoken; they have been multiplied beyond number.

[7] Sacrificium et oblationem noluisti; aures autem perfecisti mihi. Holocaustum et pro peccato non postulasti;

Sacrifice and oblation You have not wished; but ears You have finished for me.  Holocaust and for sin You have not claimed;

[8] tunc dixi : Ecce venio. In capite libri scriptum est de me,

then I said, “Behold I come.”  In the head of the book it is written of me,

[9] ut facerem voluntatem tuam. Deus meus, volui, et legem tuam in medio cordis mei.

so that I should do Your will.  O My God I have wished, and Your law in the midst of my heart.

[10] Annuntiavi justitiam tuam in ecclesia magna, ecce labia mea non prohibebo; Domine, tu scisti.

I have announced Your justice in the great assembly; behold my lips I have not restrained; O Lord, You have known.

[11] Justitiam tuam non abscondi in corde meo; veritatem tuam et salutare tuum dixi; non abscondi misericordiam tuam et veritatem tuam a concilio multo.

Your justice I have not hidden in my heart; Your truth and Your saving I have spoken; I have not hidden Your mercy and Your truth from the council of many.

[12] Tu autem, Domine, ne longe facias miserationes tuas a me; misericordia tua et veritas tua semper susceperunt me.

But You, O Lord, lest afar You do Your mercies from me; Your mercies and Your truth ever have upheld me.

[13] Quoniam circumdederunt me mala quorum non est numerus; comprehenderunt me iniquitates meae, et non potui ut viderem. Multiplicatae sunt super capillos capitis mei, et cor meum dereliquit me.

For they have compassed me, evils of which there is no number; they have seized me, my injustices, and I have not been strong that I may see.  They have been multiplied over the hairs of my head and my heart has abandoned me.

[14] Complaceat tibi, Domine, ut eruas me; Domine, ad adjuvandum me respice.

Let it be pleasing to You, O Lord, that You rescue me; O Lord, unto assisting me have regard.

[15] Confundantur et revereantur simul, qui quaerunt animam meam, ut auferant eam; convertantur retrorsum et revereantur, qui volunt mihi mala.

Let them be confounded and afraid at once, who seek my soul that they may carry it off; let them be turned back and afraid, who wish for me evils.

[16] Ferant confestim confusionem suam, qui dicunt mihi : Euge, euge!

Let them carry forthwith their confusion, who say to me, “Hah! Hah!”

[17] Exsultent et laetentur super te omnes quaerentes te, et dicant semper : Magnificetur Dominus, qui diligunt salutare tuum.

Let them exsult and be glad over You, all seeking You, and let them say ever, “Let him be magnified, the Lord,” those who love Your saving.

[18] Ego autem mendicus sum et pauper; Dominus sollicitus est mei. Adjutor meus et protector meus tu es; Deus meus, ne tardaveris.

But I, I am beggar and poor; the Lord is solicitous of me.  My helper and my protector You are; my God, lest You be delayed.


v. 5 cuius…eius This looks a lot like a meter-stretching decision; St. Jerome is just following the Septuagint but it doesn’t make any more grammatical sense there.  I hesitate to simplify to “whose hope is the name of the Lord” even though that’s got to be it.

v. 11 concilio multo I am trapped by my own rules here.  A “great council” would normally be concilio magno; by choosing multo St. Jerome tags the idea of many people in the council–i.e., it is great precisely by being composed of many.  I want to preserve the idea of many in the council in the English but to do it I have to render multo as multorum.  Blech.  I need a shower.

v. 14 ad adjuvandum me It’s nice to see a gerundive of purpose, not the most common of constructions in the Psalms and one of the few instances where Latin grammar is a bit complicated/exotic.  It’s not so nice to try to render it according to my rules.  In the most primitive sense it means “unto me to-be-helped,” but usually that future passive takes on the sense of obligation or necessity.  In this prepositional phrase it’s a way of expressing purpose: Look back “so that [you] may help me.”  For fans of the Divine Office, this is the construction that we render “O Lord, make haste to help me” (Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina).

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