Monday, July 29, 2013

Key verses - Psalm 3

Y'all know that I have studied the psalms a little. I don't do it for magic. I was once asked if I thought the patterns I was finding were there by magic. Simple answer is no. Don't need magic. (Faith is not magic but rather a simple expression of both knowledge and not-knowledge.) If there is structure in a poem, then it must have been possible and meaningful for the human poet to have put it there. It must be possible for the poet to have conceived the poem. At least that is the assumption I impose. True, I do my colour coding by gematria, the sum of the letters of a Hebrew word. But that's for fun and for convenience. (And like the tables I can produce at will, it is automated.) It allows me to display the tables to assist someone in reading the columns. There is no meaning to it.

But do I even present meaning? No. Meaning implies that I have an answer and I am not into answers in the ways I used to be (or so they thought when I was half my current age or less). Probably, if I were honest with the attitude I projected at that time, I was into hope and fear more than answers. What hope did I think I had? (Except, of course, to fulfill my responsibilities as best I could.)

Anyway, I present poetry to let it speak for itself. I search for a way to present it that is as clear as I can manage. I see another site by Casper Labuschagne, a person who may be as passionate about the psalms as I am. And he has answers concerning structure that are calculated from word counts. If the word counts are too rigid, then my conclusion would be that they are forced because normal human beings could not have done the job of creating them - and we would be in the presence of magic. Such magic might force us to believe in a way that we should not.

When I have done my human eyeful, and earful thinking, then I will look at his analysis (for it is the site of a scholar) and see if his results concur with mine. (There's sticking your neck out. Incidentally, we already disagree on Psalm 85. Of course it has a centre, but it also has progression, and the progression seems to me to demand more attention than the centre.)

So what about Psalm 3?  There is a central verse. In the first strategy for memorization, I was looking at first verses or words following the inscription (if present). For this key-verse strategy, I chose a verse that is surrounded by audible word repetition, if it is there in the poem.

For Psalm 3 it is verse 6:
I lie down and I sleep
I awake
for יהוה supports me

such a simple verse (and I consider that the recurrence of awake in Psalm 139 has significance - for the meaning suggested by analogy is the awakening from death to resurrection).

Anyway - there's your memory verse for Psalm 3. Easy-peasy as they say. Here's the recurrence table. I excluded several words for simplicity (and so leave verses 4, 5 and 6 without recurrence). The four words in sequence that surround verse 6 are reasonably obvious.
Word and gloss * first usage12345VsRoot
* רבו multiplied
2רבב
* קמים arise
2קום
* ישׁועתה salvation
3ישׁע
* באלהים in God
3אלוה
* מרבבות the multiplicity
7רבב
* עם people
7עם
* קומה arise
8קום
* הושׁיעני save me
8ישׁע
* אלהי my God
8אלוה
* הישׁועה is the salvation
9ישׁע
* עמך your people
9עם
(And Casper Labuschagne agrees about the mid-point but I find it painful to see all those numbers as if they constrained the poet. There must be a better way to present this schema.)

I could be, answers apart, quite interested in Casper's idea - because it locates the atnach firmly in the poet's time and thus ties directly into the music as deciphered by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. Unfortunately, I need better evidence than that.

So what happens if we count the words before and after the atnach, the midpoint of the verse harmonically; the subdominant, the place of rest. I have marked them all below.

מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד֑
בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי אַבְשָׁלוֹם בְּנוֹ
1A psalm of David,
when he ran away from the face of Absalom his son
יְהוָה מָה רַבּוּ צָרָי֑
רַבִּים קָמִים עָלָי
2יהוה, how multiplied my straits!
Many arise over me
רַבִּים אֹמְרִים לְנַפְשִׁי
אֵין יְשׁוּעָתָה לּוֹ בֵאלֹהִים
סֶלָה
3Many say of me
There is no salvation for him in God
Selah

וְאַתָּה יְהוָה מָגֵן בַּעֲדִי֑
כְּבוֹדִי וּמֵרִים רֹאשִׁי
4But you, יהוה, a shield about me
my glory, and lifting high my head
קוֹלִי אֶל יְהוָה אֶקְרָא֑
וַיַּעֲנֵנִי מֵהַר קָדְשׁוֹ
סֶלָה
5My voice, to יהוה I call
and he answers me
from his holy hill
Selah
אֲנִי שָׁכַבְתִּי וָאִישָׁנָה
֑הֱקִיצוֹתִי
כִּי יְהוָה יִסְמְכֵנִי
6I lie down and I sleep
I awake
for יהוה supports me

לֹא אִירָא מֵרִבְבוֹת עָם֑
אֲשֶׁר סָבִיב שָׁתוּ עָלָי
7I will not fear the multiplicity of people
that surround set over me
קוּמָה יְהוָה
הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי אֱלֹהַי
֑כִּי הִכִּיתָ אֶת כָּל אֹיְבַי לֶחִי
שִׁנֵּי רְשָׁעִים שִׁבַּרְתָּ
8Arise יהוה
save me my God
for you strike all my enemies on the cheek
the teeth of the wicked you break
֑לַיהוָה הַיְשׁוּעָה
עַל עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶךָ
סֶּלָה
9Of יהוה is the salvation
On your people your blessing
Selah
Hebrew words: 70. Percentage of Hebrew words that recur in this psalm: 39%. Average keywords per verse: 3.

Ignoring Selah, the count of words preceding / following the atenach is as follows: 2/4 4/3 7/0 4/3 4/3 4/3 4/4 10/3 2/3. Total excluding verse 1 39/22. I must admit I do not find this significant. I would rather listen to Purcell in Latin - in spite of the poor rendering of the Hebrew. Note also - I arrange the poem in 3 strophes, 2-3, 4-6, 7-9. My reasoning is from the recurrence table. In a sense, in the final stanza, the poet is responding to the first half of the poem. I could be convinced otherwise but not by word-counts. I will hold my breath for one or two more tests - but really, I think the numbers are a considerable distraction from the poetry. Not every poem is a haiku.