Translating Psalms (62)

Here’s a disconnect between psalm and setting!  This is perhaps my favorite psalm to recite in prayer, a prayer of contemplation, a real prayer of the mystics…and yet its setting is David marching out toward the Edomites to crush them in battle.  Or at least, that’s the only time in the narrative David is in the desert of Edom.

Now, re-magine the coming battle as a supernatural one and make the setting, say, 40 days in the wilderness at the start of a certain public ministry, and all of a sudden…

“Deus Deus meus, ad te” (Psalm 62)

[1] Psalmus David, cum esset in deserto Idumaeae.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the desert of Edom.

[2] Deus, Deus meus, ad te de luce vigilo. Sitivit in te anima mea; quam multipliciter tibi caro mea!

God, my God, to You from the light do I keep vigil.  It has thirsted unto you, my soul; how multiply to You my flesh!

[3] In terra deserta, et invia, et inaquosa, sic in sancto apparui tibi, ut viderem virtutem tuam et gloriam tuam.

In a land deserted and trackless and waterless, so in the holy place have I appeared to You, that I may see Your power and Your glory.

[4] Quoniam melior est misericordia tua super vitas, labia mea laudabunt te.

Because it is better, Your mercy, above lives, my lips will praise You.

[5] Sic benedicam te in vita mea; et in nomine tuo levabo manus meas.

So will I bless You in my life and in Your name will I lift my hands.

[6] Sicut adipe et pinguedine repleatur anima mea, et labiis exsultationis laudabit os meum.

Just as with lard and fat be it filled, my soul, and with lips of exsultation will it praise, will my mouth.

[7] Si memor fui tui super stratum meum, in matutinis meditabor in te.

If I was mindful of You above my bed, in the mornings will I meditate on You.

[8] Quia fuisti adjutor meus, et in velamento alarum tuarum exsultabo.

Since You have been my helper also in the covering of Your wings will I exsult.

[9] Adhaesit anima mea post te; me suscepit dextera tua.

It has clung, my soul, after You; me it has upheld, Your right hand.

[10] Ipsi vero in vanum quaesierunt animam meam : introibunt in inferiora terrae;

But they unto the vain have sought my soul.  They will enter into the lower places of the earth;

[11] tradentur in manus gladii; partes vulpium erunt.

they will be given into the hands of the sword; portions of foxes will they be.

[12] Rex vero laetabitur in Deo; laudabuntur omnes qui jurant in eo, quia obstructum est os loquentium iniqua.

But the king will be glad in God; they will be praised, all who swear in Him, since it is obstructed, the mouth of those speaking injustices.


v. 2 multipliciter That’s “multiple-ly,” a perverse English non-adverb, not the inverse function of division.  Yes, I know my idiosyncracies can be quite strange.  I thought about multi-form and even multiplicitously, so just realize this is me restraining myself.  The idea, I think, is “my soul has thirsted for you; how much more has my flesh!”  Which seems backwards to me.  How about “my soul has thirsted for you even more than my flesh is right now”?

v. 3 In terra…sic in sancto apparui tibi.  The Vulgate punctuation and St. Jerome’s sic open the door to some quite interesting readings here.  Every time I try to comment on it I just end up repeating some famous saint or another, so I guess I should just point toward all the good psalm commentaries in our history and leave it at that.  But do ponder the line.  The comparison is quite open-ended.

v. 10 inferiora I initially went with some poetic takes here: “bowels” of the earth, “deeps” of the earth, even “hells” of the earth.  In the end I went with the mundane literal sense.

v. 12 in eo I thought about taking this as the king, so a mediating system of God-king-all who swear–covenant mediator stuff.  Affinity with in Deo was too strong and I chickened out.

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