Monday, November 29, 2010

CEB Psalm 1

The first verse
The truly happy person
doesn't follow wicked advice
doesn't stand etc
These persons love the Lord's Instruction
They are like a tree
replanted ...
which bears fruit
That's not true for the wicked
They are like dust

I want to illustrate what I think is important that is missed here. Though I realize that my translation is often stilted, I wonder about other modern translations and what we have lost in our sensitivity to our own language.

Verse 1 - misses the chiasm a-b,b-a,b-a in the trio of thoughts. I am glad they kept the singular at least in verse 1. The opening 'truly happy' is a false sequence in human thought. What do you think - is happiness a consequence or a prevenient grace? A sequence - do this and you will be happy, or a mystery of the interaction of hidden dimensions?

(skipping the complex 'instead of doing these things', an explanatory gloss in a poem)
'These persons' -  the switch to plural here is potentially a misreading of the Psalter. In any case, it is not yet plural.

replanted - what's wrong with transplanted or just planted? Transplant is surely a very common word for trees.
The tree is singular, 'they' is plural. What does that do to the English agreement of relative pronoun and verb?

'dust' - this misses the harvest image. It is arguable that harvest (psalm 67) is a centrepiece of the Psalter. So missing the image here is unfortunate. The chaff is a necessary part of fruitfulness.