Monday, June 27, 2011

Project status

In the last 10 days, I have modified my selection of glosses in about 200 verses. That is the rate I have been working at for the past month or so. I have not reported all my decisions, but here is an aspect of translation theory that I wrestle with.

What do you do with shades of meaning? (shake, tremble, quake, writhe)? How do you handle synonyms? How about homonyms or polyvalent words? What about rare words? If a word is used once in the whole Bible should it get a gloss or phrase that will never be used again? (I have done this with וְיַחְרְגוּ in psalm 18:46.)

What about words that cross over, like the Hebrew word עבר that means to pass over, go beyond, transgress (a Latinate word meaning pass over), and a host of other possibilities like cross over because it is that kind of word - a common word with many shades of meaning? How does a word you might not know the meaning of take its meaning from the other words in a sentence fragment?  I am wary of this one - sometimes one might think a noun can only have some verbs applied to it, whether transitive or intransitive. Sometimes one might think the poem 'does not make sense', when the poet was searching to say what could only be said with that word! (I find this with many modern translations that search for meaning, or natural language, etc.)

For instance if a word z can mean shake, then if the noun y is milk -  y-z must be a milkshake - right? (OK a shake-milk but the word order in this pretend language is reversed. It's poetic license too.) So if word y is earth and word z is חול- (xul) is it a shaking earth, a quaking earth, a moving earth, a forming earth, a trembling earth, a writhing earth or an earth in birth? Wait a minute - earth's don't birth. Well - according to Romans 8 they do and they are. And in the Psalter they do too. (Psalms 90:2, 96:9, 97:4, 114:7) They writhe - they go into labour - they give birth at the command of the Most High. And this word writhe might shade into dance or whirl also.
StemTranscriptionHebrewPsalm verseEnglish
חול XVLיָחִילוּ דְרָכָו בְּכָל עֵת
מָרוֹם מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ מִנֶּגְדּוֹ
כָּל צוֹרְרָיו יָפִיחַ בָּהֶם
10.5His ways are twisted in all times
High is your judgment, out of his sight
All his foes, he snorts at them
חול XVLקוֹל יְהוָה יָחִיל מִדְבָּר
יָחִיל יְהוָה מִדְבַּר קָדֵשׁ
29.8The voice of יְהוָה births a wilderness
יְהוָה births the wilderness of Kadesh
חול XVLקוֹל יְהוָה יְחוֹלֵל אַיָּלוֹת
וַיֶּחֱשֹׂף יְעָרוֹת
וּבְהֵיכָלוֹ כֻּלּוֹ אֹמֵר כָּבוֹד
29.9The voice of יְהוָה causes birthing of hart
and he strips the forest
and in his temple everything says glory
חול XVLהָפַכְתָּ מִסְפְּדִי לְמָחוֹל לִי
פִּתַּחְתָּ שַׂקִּי וַתְּאַזְּרֵנִי שִׂמְחָה
30.12you have turned my wailing into my dance
you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me in gladness
חול XVLדּוֹם לַיהוָה
וְהִתְחוֹלֵל לוֹ
אַל תִּתְחַר בְּמַצְלִיחַ דַּרְכּוֹ
בְּאִישׁ עֹשֶׂה מְזִמּוֹת
37.7dumb - mute - be still in יְהוָה
endure your birth in him
do not burn over one who prospers in his way
of someone making up schemes
חול XVLרְעָדָה אֲחָזָתַם שָׁם
חִיל כַּיּוֹלֵדָה
48.7Trembling took hold of them there
as the pain of birth
חול XVLהֵן בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי
וּבְחֵטְא יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי
51.7Indeed in iniquity I was brought forth,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
חול XVLלִבִּי יָחִיל בְּקִרְבִּי
וְאֵימוֹת מָוֶת נָפְלוּ עָלָי
55.5my heart is in turmoil within me
and the horrors of death fall upon me
חול XVLרָאוּךָ מַּיִם אֱלֹהִים
רָאוּךָ מַּיִם יָחִילוּ
אַף יִרְגְּזוּ תְהֹמוֹת
77.17The waters saw you O God
the waters saw you and they writhed
even the abysses trembled
חול XVLוַיַּמְטֵר עֲלֵיהֶם כֶּעָפָר שְׁאֵר
וּכְחוֹל יַמִּים עוֹף כָּנָף
78.27and he rained flesh on them as dust
and feathered birds as the sand of the sea
חול XVLבְּטֶרֶם הָרִים יֻלָּדוּ
וַתְּחוֹלֵל אֶרֶץ וְתֵבֵל
וּמֵעוֹלָם עַד עוֹלָם אַתָּה אֵל
90.2from ere mountains were born
or earth and world writhed
and even from everlasting to everlasting you are God
חול XVLהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לַיהוָה בְּהַדְרַת קֹדֶשׁ
חִילוּ מִפָּנָיו כָּל הָאָרֶץ
96.9worship יְהוָה in the beauty of holiness
let all the earth be birthed in his presence
חול XVLהֵאִירוּ בְרָקָיו תֵּבֵל
רָאֲתָה וַתָּחֵל הָאָרֶץ
97.4his lightnings light the world
and the earth saw and was in birth
חול XVLמִלִּפְנֵי אָדוֹן חוּלִי אָרֶץ
מִלִּפְנֵי אֱלוֹהַּ יַעֲקֹב
114.7from the presence of the Lord let earth be birthed
from the presence of the God of Jacob
חול XVLאֶסְפְּרֵם מֵחוֹל יִרְבּוּן
הֱקִיצֹתִי וְעוֹדִי עִמָּךְ
139.18I count them more in number than sand
I awake and still I am with you
חול XVLיְהַלְלוּ שְׁמוֹ בְמָחוֹל
בְּתֹף וְכִנּוֹר יְזַמְּרוּ לוֹ
149.3Let them praise his name in a dance
with drum and harp let them psalm him
חול XVLהַלְלוּהוּ בְּתֹף וּמָחוֹל
הַלְלוּהוּ בְּמִנִּים וְעֻגָב
150.4Praise him with timbrel and dance
Praise him on strings and pipes
For me writhe and birth would be acceptable, since both, in my glossary, refer only to this Hebrew stem - is that reasonable? We'll see. I say we'll see because the full matrix of possibilities is too large to see at once, so I look at it as I review each psalm, seeing the clarity and variety from many points of view. I am as I have noted before, trying to restrict my variety as follows:
  • Hebrew source word - may be one English word or many be many.
  • English target word or phrase must map in reverse to one Hebrew source stem.
What else?
  • I am sort of stuck (at psalms 90-91) in my writing of notes.I am concentrating more on the translation perplex than notes. My changes noted above of 100 or so of the 20,000 words per week, testify to the review over all psalms (and selected other bits of Scripture) of the translation first. 
  • I am also reading more Fishbane and von Rad on other parts of Scripture, as well as history of Christianity (MacCulloch). 
  • Structure is viewable from the tables - so I want to show but make the significant ones more obvious. I also want to explore the seams, asking the question: what poem gives rise to a thought in another poem? 
  • Two parts of the 'comments' I am writing really need to be adjacent to the text of the poem rather than in textual paragraphs themselves. And I seem to be petering out on the personal applications - which I think of as the most interesting aspect of the poems - answering the question: what is the social impact?
  • I regard social impact as important given the tendency in human society to all forms of domination - the real religion of most of us, obvious in some cases, more subtle in others.  The question here is: do the psalms lead to better or worse government among humans?
  • I have figured out how to schedule posts at PoC. May set up the next 10 for August - Oh what discipline - my New Year's resolution is still going!
  • There's always lots of mechanical issues - it may be that I can copy back all my notes into the database, extend the poem-related ones to print with the verses, find a way to highlight significant structures and seams, and produce edit-ready copy from the database rather than from the many sources I currently maintain. 
  • Help is always welcome. I don't know, of course, how many mistakes or poor decisions I am making or have made till I find them.
I have no real deadline for now. In October I begin a 3 month fellowship at UVIC and I know there is a visiting professor of Hebrew, Bill Morrow, who will be there at the same time. (News here.) So when I present my research as a Community Fellow to someone I don't yet know, I will have to be prepared for real criticism. So my work now is clarity, and fluency, as far as one lone person can do it. I have met one of his colleagues, retired NT Professor, Dan Fraiken, who sings tenor with me and who has enjoyed a few of my renderings, and who warns me against too facile a concordance - as I warn myself.

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