Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Syllable counting - Psalm 94 as an example.

I did a little experiment in syllable counting today - going back to considering O'Connor's discussion in Hebrew Verse Structure (e.g. p35++) and Fokkelman in his detailed counting (Fokkelman, J. P., Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible, Vol II Psalms and Job 4-14 (2000)).  So I picked Psalm 119 and found verse lengths from 10 to 22 syllables. One interesting result was that part 1 added up to exactly 119 syllables - but it may have been an accident of my algorithm.  The parts also varied in length from 119 to 148 syllables.

In this most regular of poems I did not find regularity.

Here's a shorter example. (Psalm 94)

My question is simple. I divided this by mostly pairs of verses. Terrien divides it by trios. I have noted the central verse (12) where Terrien finds a double centre. Terrien's strophe lengths are between 45 and 59 - so still pretty varied.  Is there any rule?

אֵל נְקָמוֹת יְהוָה
אֵל נְקָמוֹת הוֹפִיעַ
1God of vengeance יְהוָה
God of vengeance shine
הִנָּשֵׂא שֹׁפֵט הָאָרֶץ
הָשֵׁב גְּמוּל עַל גֵּאִים
2Lift up yourself judge of the earth
return reward to the proud

עַד מָתַי רְשָׁעִים יְהוָה
עַד מָתַי רְשָׁעִים יַעֲלֹזוּ
3how long for the wicked יְהוָה?
how long will the wicked exult?
יְדַבְּרוּ עָתָק
יִתְאַמְּרוּ כָּל פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
4they bubble up
they speak arrogance
they promise all the works of mischief

עַמְּךָ יְהוָה יְדַכְּאוּ
וְנַחֲלָתְךָ יְעַנּוּ
5your people יְהוָה they crush
and your inheritance they afflict
אַלְמָנָה וְגֵר יַהֲרֹגוּ
וִיתוֹמִים יְרַצֵּחוּ
6widow and guest they slay
and orphans they murder
לֹא יִרְאֶה יָּהּ
וְלֹא יָבִין אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב
7and they say
Yah will not see
and the God of Jacob will not discern it

בִּינוּ בֹּעֲרִים בָּעָם וּכְסִילִים
מָתַי תַּשְׂכִּילוּ
8Discern, consumers among the people and dullards
when will you have insight?
הֲנֹטַע אֹזֶן הֲלֹא יִשְׁמָע
אִם יֹצֵר עַיִן הֲלֹא יַבִּיט
9the one who planted the ear will he not hear?
if fashioning the eye will he not notice?

הֲיֹסֵר גּוֹיִם הֲלֹא יוֹכִיחַ
הַמְלַמֵּד אָדָם דָּעַת
10the one that chastens nations will he not be correct?
the one who teaches a human knowledge ...
יְהוָה יֹדֵעַ מַחְשְׁבוֹת אָדָם
כִּי הֵמָּה הָבֶל
11יְהוָה knows the devices of a human
that they are futility

אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּהּ
וּמִתּוֹרָתְךָ תְלַמְּדֶנּוּ
12Happy the valiant whom you chasten Yah
and from your instruction you teach them
לְהַשְׁקִיט לוֹ מִימֵי רָע
עַד יִכָּרֶה לָרָשָׁע שָׁחַת
13to give quiet to him from the days of evil
until destruction is dug for the wicked

כִּי לֹא יִטֹּשׁ יְהוָה עַמּוֹ
וְנַחֲלָתוֹ לֹא יַעֲזֹב
14for יְהוָה will not abandon his people
and his inheritance he will not forsake
כִּי עַד צֶדֶק יָשׁוּב מִשְׁפָּט
וְאַחֲרָיו כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב
15for to righteousness judgment will turn
and after it all the upright of heart

מִי יָקוּם לִי עִם מְרֵעִים
מִי יִתְיַצֵּב לִי עִם פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן
16who will arise for me with the evildoers
who station themselves for me with the workers of mischief
לוּלֵי יְהוָה עֶזְרָתָה לִּי
כִּמְעַט שָׁכְנָה דוּמָה נַפְשִׁי
17unless יְהוָה was help to me
insignificant my being dwelt mute

אִם אָמַרְתִּי
מָטָה רַגְלִי
חַסְדְּךָ יְהוָה יִסְעָדֵנִי
18If I said
my foot slips
your mercy יְהוָה confirmed me
בְּרֹב שַׂרְעַפַּי בְּקִרְבִּי
תַּנְחוּמֶיךָ יְשַׁעַשְׁעוּ נַפְשִׁי
19In the many divisions within me
your consolations revel my being

הַיְחָבְרְךָ כִּסֵּא הַוּוֹת
יֹצֵר עָמָל עֲלֵי חֹק
20Is the throne of calamities in league with you
fashioning toil on a statute?
יָגוֹדּוּ עַל נֶפֶשׁ צַדִּיק
וְדָם נָקִי יַרְשִׁיעוּ
21they collaborate against the being of a righteous one
and the blood of an innocent condemn

וַיְהִי יְהוָה לִי לְמִשְׂגָּב
וֵאלֹהַי לְצוּר מַחְסִי
22but יְהוָה will be for me for a retreat
and my God a rock of refuge
וַיָּשֶׁב עֲלֵיהֶם אֶת אוֹנָם
וּבְרָעָתָם יַצְמִיתֵם
יַצְמִיתֵם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ
23and he will turn their mischief on them
and in their wickedness he will annihilate them
יְהוָה our God - he will annihilate them