Thursday, April 3, 2014

Psalm 140:12 the subject of the verb

If you believe the te'amim are punctuation, then Psalm 140:12, the final sentence with the atnah in the middle of it, has its subject disjunct from its verb. In punctuation this would be silly. In music, it is just fine. Especially if you are used to a rest mid-verse to contemplate the tension.

אִ֥ישׁ לָשֹׁון֮ בַּל־יִכֹּ֪ון בָּ֫אָ֥רֶץ 
אִישׁ־חָמָ֥ס רָ֑ע
יְ֝צוּדֶ֗נּוּ לְמַדְחֵפֹֽת׃

Note the cadences in the music: on ba-arets, (in the earth) a mid-phrase minor cadence, on ra (evil), the rest-point in the verse, and as inevitable, the full close at the end of the verse.

This analysis concurs with the Greek and other more recent translations according to this article from the Hebrew annual review, an open access journal. (Thanks for the link to James McGrath). Greenberg suggests the image of driving gazelles into an enclosure to understand the verse.

A number of his cited translations fit the Hebrew syllable rhythm rather better than mine, particularly the old JPS will pursue with blow upon blow. Whether blow upon blow, or urgently, some urgency is required to destroy violence in us.