Translating Psalms (67)

Been a while since I’ve had a really long one.  Time to roll up the sleeves.  Wow did this thing have some weird expressions.

“Exurgat Deus” (Psalm 67)

[1] In finem. Psalmus cantici ipsi David.

Unto the end.  A psalm of a canticle for David himself.

[2] Exsurgat Deus, et dissipentur inimici ejus; et fugiant qui oderunt eum a facie ejus.

May He arise, may God, and let them be scattered, His enemies, and let them flee, those who hate Him, from His face.

[3] Sicut deficit fumus, deficiant; sicut fluit cera a facie ignis, sic pereant peccatores a facie Dei.

Just as fails the smoke, let them fail.  Just as flows wax from the face of fire, so let them perish, sinners, from the face of God.

[4] Et justi epulentur; et exsultent in conspectu Dei, et delectentur in laetitia.

And the just, let them feast and let them exsult in the sight of God and let them be delighted in joy.

[5] Cantate Deo, psalmum dicite nomini ejus; iter facite ei qui ascendit super occasum. Dominus nomen illi; exsultate in conspectu ejus. Turbabuntur a facie ejus,

Sing to God, a psalm speak to His name. A way make for Him who ascends above the setting sun.  Lord, the name to Him; exsult in His sight.  They will be troubled before His face,

[6] patris orphanorum, et judicis viduarum; Deus in loco sancto suo.

the Father of Orphans and the Judge of Widows: God in His holy place.

[7] Deus qui inhabitare facit unius moris in domo; qui educit vinctos in fortitudine, similiter eos qui exasperant, qui habitant in sepulchris.

God Who makes to dwell in a home of one custom, who leads out the chained in strength, likewise them who irritate, who dwell in tombs.

[8] Deus, cum egredereris in conspectu populi tui, cum pertransires in deserto,

God, when You went out in the sight of Your people, when You crossed through in the desert,

[9] terra mota est, etenim caeli distillaverunt, a facie Dei Sinai, a facie Dei Israel.

the earth was moved and indeed the heavens rained down from the face of the God of Sinai, from the face of the God of Israel.

[10] Pluviam voluntariam segregabis, Deus, haereditati tuae; et infirmata est, tu vero perfecisti eam.

A willing rain will you divide, O God, for Your heritage; she is weakened but You have perfected her.

[11] Animalia tua habitabunt in ea; parasti in dulcedine tua pauperi, Deus.

Your animals will dwell in her.  You have made ready in Your sweetness for the poor man, O God.

[12] Dominus dabit verbum evangelizantibus, virtute multa.

The Lord will give a word to those preaching with much strength.

[13] Rex virtutum dilecti, dilecti; et speciei domus dividere spolia.

The king of powers: the beloved’s, the beloved’s.  The beautiful house’s: to divide spoils.

[14] Si dormiatis inter medios cleros, pennae columbae deargentatae, et posteriora dorsi ejus in pallore auri.

If you would sleep among the middle fields, wings of the dove silver and the hindquarters of its back in pallor of gold.

[15] Dum discernit caelestis reges super eam, nive dealbabuntur in Selmon.

When He allots, the heavenly one, kings above it, by snow they will be whitened in Salmon.

[16] Mons Dei, mons pinguis. Mons coagulatus, mons pinguis :

Mountain of God, mountain fertile.  Mountain of curds, mountain fertile.

[17] ut quid suspicamini montes coagulatos? Mons in quo beneplacitum est Deo habitare in eo; etenim Dominus habitabit in finem.

Why do you look askance, mountains of curds?  The mountain on which it well-pleased God to dwell on it; and indeed the Lord will dwell unto the end.

[18] Currus Dei decem millibus multiplex, millia laetantium; Dominus in eis in Sina in sancto.

The chariot of God by ten thousand layered, thousands of rejoicers; The Lord among them on Sinai on the holy.

[19] Ascendisti in altum, cepisti captivitatem, accepisti dona in hominibus; etenim non credentes inhabitare Dominum Deum.

You have ascended into the height, You have captured captivity, You have received gifts among men; and indeed these not believing He dwells, the Lord God.

[20] Benedictus Dominus die quotidie : prosperum iter faciet nobis Deus salutarium nostrorum.

Blessed the Lord daily each day!  Prosperous the way will He make for us, the God of our salvations.

[21] Deus noster, Deus salvos faciendi; et Domini, Domini exitus mortis.

Our God, the God of making safe!  And the Lord’s, the Lord’s, the going out of death.

[22] Verumtamen Deus confringet capita inimicorum suorum, verticem capilli perambulantium in delictis suis.

But yet God will shatter the heads of His enemies, the tip of the hair of those walking through in their crimes.

[23] Dixit Dominus : Ex Basan convertam, convertam in profundum maris;

He has spoken, has the Lord: “Out of Bashan will I turn, I will turn unto the deep of the sea

[24] ut intingatur pes tuus in sanguine, lingua canum tuorum ex inimicis, ab ipso.

that it may be sunk, your foot, in blood from enemies, the tongue of your dogs by the same.”

[25] Viderunt ingressus tuos, Deus, ingressus Dei mei, regis mei, qui est in sancto.

They have seen Your goings in, O God, the goings in of my God, of my king, Who is in the holy place.

[26] Praevenerunt principes conjuncti psallentibus, in medio juvencularum tympanistriarum.

They have come ahead, princes conjoined with those singing psalm, in the midst of the maiden drummers

[27] In ecclesiis benedicite Deo Domino de fontibus Israel.

In assemblies bless the Lord God from the fonts of Israel.

[28] Ibi Benjamin adolescentulus, in mentis excessu; principes Juda, duces eorum; principes Zabulon, principes Nephthali.

There Benjamin’s youth, in the excess of mind!  The princes of Judah, their leaders!  The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphthali!

[29] Manda, Deus, virtuti tuae; confirma hoc, Deus, quod operatus es in nobis.

Give command, O God, to Your strength; confirm this, O God, which You have worked in us.

[30] A templo tuo in Jerusalem, tibi offerent reges munera.

From Your temple in Jerusalem, to You they will offer, will kings, tributes.

[31] Increpa feras arundinis; congregatio taurorum in vaccis populorum; ut excludant eos qui probati sunt argento : dissipa gentes quae bella volunt.

Rattle the beasts of the reed; gathering of bulls in cows of the peoples; that they may shut out them who have been tested by silver.  Scatter the nations which want wars.

[32] Venient legati ex Aegypto; Aethiopia praeveniet manus ejus Deo.

They will come, legates out of Egypt; Ethiopia will anticipate its hands to God.

[33] Regna terrae, cantate Deo; psallite Domino; psallite Deo.

Kingdoms of the earth, sing to God!  Sing psalm to the Lord, sing psalm to God.

[34] Qui ascendit super caelum caeli, ad orientem : ecce dabit voci suae vocem virtutis.

Who ascends above the heaven of the sky unto the east.  Behold He will give to His voice the voice of strength.

[35] Date gloriam Deo super Israel; magnificentia ejus et virtus ejus in nubibus.

Give glory to God above Israel! His magnificence and His strength on the clouds.

[36] Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis; Deus Israel ipse dabit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi suae. Benedictus Deus!

Marvelous God among His holy ones! God of Israel Himself will give strength and might to His people.  Blessed God!


v. 4 laetitia You want to see an Ethics teacher get excited, ask them to talk about all the happiness words in Latin.  Cool point of the day: the Indo-European root that gives rise to laetus (“happy”) in Latin also gives rise to “free” in English!

v. 6 in loco sancto suo “In a place, holy, of His own” is silly, right?  Tempting though.

v. 10 pluviam voluntariam “Voluntary rain” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on its own.  The idea I think is to modify the direct object with an adjective as a fancy way of expressing an adverb: “You will freely divide a rain…”  I considered using a “willed rain.”  Expressing the subject of infirmata est as feminine is meant to make it clear we are talking about God’s heritage: Israel, but also the Church and the soul.

v. 12 virtute multa Nice word placement ambiguity–can be God giving the word with much strength or giving it to the people preaching with much strength.  Editor’s punctuation is trying to make it the former but I’m leaving it open.

v. 14 cleros It appears to be the standard move here to claim that the Vulgate is transliterating the Greek kleros, which can mean any kind of allotment or portion, often of land.  That fits nicely the surrounding verses so we’re going with that, since the Latin can only mean “clergy” on its own.  I’ve gone with allotment of land; i.e., a farmer’s field.  As for the rest of the verse, there’s a major lack of verb!  In a prose composition I would not hesitate to supply an est or two in here, but my mission is to keep this as lyrical as possible.  No verbs in Latin, no verbs in English!  The problem is that in a conditional sentence that sounds even stranger than in a boring simple sentence like v. 13 above.  And with this wild animal imagery…yikes.

v. 15 caelestis Perhaps I’m a bit trigger happy when it comes to this form but I always suspect accusative plural before anything else.  Those third declension adjectives like to get sneaky with their endings, especially in poetry.  Here it plays a great game–if it’s singular then it’s the heavenly one doing the allotting, while the plural would be the kings being allotted.  Nice double sense here, but since the default in these psalms tends to post-positive adjectives, I made it the singular subject of discernit.

v. 16 coagulatus The Greek hiding behind this is the verb for making cheese, so it’s not just any congealing or clotting or curdling.  It’s the “making-of-curds” curdling!  The land flowing with milk and honey is hiding behind this–both pinguis and coagulatus being marks of fertility.  The problem is I can’t think of a good alternative to curdled, which just doesn’t convey well in English.  Mountain of Cheese?  Cheesy Mountain?  Ugh.  Something had to give way so I went with a genitive construction.  Believe me, I tried to do a search online for “historical terminology for cheese-making” to get this right.  The internet is a worthless and empty place.

v. 18 in sancto Another nice double sense: in the holy thing (the ark), in the holy place (Mt. Sinai).  Hence the awkward “in the holy,” leaving the noun unexpressed.

v. 19 etenim This threw me off for quite a while; only when I worked backwards did I realize this word was the problem.  Etenim, should introduce another reason, like after making an argument and then saying, “and besides…[extra reason].”  It could also be something like “For also,” and so things like “Furthermore.”  There’s nothing argumentative here that I can see, so I think it’s just got a sense of “and even…”, much like the way it further specifies in v. 17.  In that form it seems to link non credentes–people not believing something–with an antecedent.  The closest is in hominibus, so something like “God receives gifts from among men–even from men who don’t believe in Him.”  But the “correct” grammar would then be non credentibus.  If we search back for a nominative or accusative plural, it’s actually dona–the non-believers are among the gifts God receives.  Choose your own adventure!

v. 22 verticem capilli There’s a choice to be made here and I’m not convinced I’ve made a good one.  Vertex has a lot of meanings, all derived from the idea of a point around which things turn and from there angles.  The peak of hair is just the top of the head, in which case I should take this phrase idiomatically and let it be parallel with the previous capita.  But the verb confringet is a great verb of shattering something utterly–like an expensive crystal chandelier falling and exploding into a trillion tiny shards.  Then verticem capilli has some sense of “even to the tips of their hair.”  Maybe that’s a distinction without a difference but I’ve gone with the latter.

v. 24 This is a dog’s dinner of word order, even in Latin.  It’s beatnik gibberish if I try to bring it into English without any amelioration.  ex inimicis is out of order and doing double-duty, completing both in sanguine and ab ipso.  I toyed with taking ex inimicis as a sneaky noun phrase equivalent to in sanguine–“the stuff that pours out of enemies” but the line is already a snarl and that just makes it worse by giving ab ipso nothing to do.  So ex inimicis comes off as a genitive and I smooth things over by attaching it to in sanguine instead of the closer-at-hand ab ipso.  Boo.

v. 26 juvencularum tympanistriarum Yiiiikes.  A juvenca is a feminine form for a “young thing,” both cattle and human.  There’s a diminutive ending here, so something like “youngling (girl).”  It appears to be a Vulgate-specific word.  A tympanum is a drum so we have a female drummer who is a young little girl.  All in two words?  Ugh.  No way I can pare that down…


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