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.

[2] Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis, in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus.

Great the Lord and praisable much in the city of our God, on His holy mountain.

[3] Fundatur exsultatione universae terrae mons Sion; latera aquilonis, civitas regis magni.

It is founded with the exsultation of the whole earth, is Mount Zion; the sides of the north wind, the city of the great king.

[4] Deus in domibus ejus cognoscetur cum suscipiet eam.

God in her homes will be known when He upholds her.

[5] Quoniam ecce reges terrae congregati sunt, convenerunt in unum.

For behold the kings of the earth have been gathered, they have come together into one.

[6] Ipsi videntes, sic admirati sunt, conturbati sunt, commoti sunt.

They, seeing, so they marveled, have been disturbed, have been moved.

[7] Tremor apprehendit eos; ibi dolores ut parturientis :

Trembling seized them; there sorrows as of a birther;

[8] in spiritu vehementi conteres naves Tharsis.

in spirit violent you will crush the ships of Tharsis.

[9] Sicut audivimus, sic vidimus, in civitate Domini virtutum, in civitate Dei nostri : Deus fundavit eam in aeternum.

Just as we have heard, so have wee seen, in the city of the Lord of powers, in the city of our God; God has founded her into the eternal.

[10] Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui.

We have received, O God, Your mercy in the midst of Your temple.

[11] Secundum nomen tuum, Deus, sic et laus tua in fines terrae; justitia plena est dextera tua.

According to Your name, O God, so also Your praise unto the ends of the earth; with justice is it full, Your right hand.

[12] Laetetur mons Sion, et exsultent filiae Judae, propter judicia tua, Domine.

She will rejoice, will Mount Zion, and they will exsult, the daughters of Judah, on account of Your judgment, O Lord.

[13] Circumdate Sion, et complectimini eam; narrate in turribus ejus.

Compass Zion and embrace her; tell in her towers.

[14] Ponite corda vestra in virtute ejus, et distribuite domos ejus, ut enarretis in progenie altera.

Place your hearts in her strength and distribute her homes, that you may tell out in another generation.

[15] Quoniam hic est Deus, Deus noster in aeternum, et in saeculum saeculi; ipse reget nos in saecula.

For this is God, our God into eternity and into the age of age; He himself will rule us into ages.


v. 2 laudabilis It’s tempting just to use my favorite English opening to Confessions but I’ll hew to the Latin here.  No medieval could possibly read this psalm without thinking of Confessions.

v. 3 latera aquilonis Tough to get the grammar or sense with this phrase.  We “can’t” have an accusative in this sentence since the verb is passive (always be careful telling ancient authors what they can and can’t do), so it “must” be nominative.  If that’s right then it’s appositive somehow to Sion.  I’m going with latera as a figure of speech for house or maybe container for the North Wind.  Interestingly the Septuagint word here, pleura, while it mostly means “side” just like latus, has the root meaning of “rib.”  You could do some interesting stuff with that (Adam, body and soul, incarnation, etc.)…

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