Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Investment in verses

What a strange thing the Bible is. I grew up with the cadence of The Authorized Version and the Coverdale Psalter. Talk about long influence. Authorized by whom? And who is Coverdale? Well, he's old, ancient, 4 or 5 hundred years or so, and he translated from the German and the Latin. Nice. And he was establishment - Cambridge - and exiled according to the article. Not surprising in those days, I guess.

I grew up under the influence of his pulse, among many, of that era. And the pulse is memorable. So many verses are ingrained into my pulse from theirs. The count is in the hundreds of phrases and verses (but not more than 10% I expect). Over time, with the plethora of translations we have seen in the last 50 years, I have become aware of this influence. And I do not reject it. It forms my language. I could not reject it without skinning myself.

But I can prod and poke. Eventually it was the King, James himself, who realized that there must be an 'authorized' version. Freedom to read in one's own tongue, yes, but not freedom to form parties that would undermine royal authority. The king was fighting a losing battle. Even the verse numbers were out of whack with other jurisdictions. His authority was limited to the power he could bring to bear on it. But the influence of the AV was pervasive and continues.

I am less concerned with royal authority than with the love I have for the rhythm I grew up with. What do I do with my bias in favour of it and what do I do with my bias against it? What do I do when faced with a random verse that I have no investment in?

This morning for some reason, Numbers 11:1 came up before me. And I was stuck on the first phrase.

וַיְהִ֤י הָעָם֙ כְּמִתְאֹ֣נְנִ֔ים רַ֖ע בְּאָזְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה

That's the first bit to the cadence. Is it one sentence or two?

In the second bit Yahweh's anger burns and fire is kindled in the outskirts of the camp. The first two words occur twice together, here and in Isaiah 9:19 (18 Hebrew וַיְהִ֤י הָעָם֙ כְּמַאֲכֹ֣לֶת אֵ֔שׁ). In each case they are followed by the prefix kaf.

וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע יְהוָה֙ וַיִּ֣חַר אַפּ֔וֹ וַתִּבְעַר־בָּם֙ אֵ֣שׁ יְהוָ֔ה וַתֹּ֖אכַל בִּקְצֵ֥ה הַֽמַּחֲנֶֽה

I was stuck at the end also. The last two words in the second part occur 3 times, here and twice in the Gideon story in Judges 7:17,19. Eventually I came up with this:

And the people were complaining of evil in the ears of Yahweh.
And Yahweh heard and his anger burned and the fire of Yahweh was kindled among them and devoured at the outskirts of the camp.

AV has
And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.

JB has
Now the people set up a lament which was offensive in Yahweh's ears, and Yahweh heard it. His anger blazed and the fire of Yahweh burned among them: it destroyed one end of the camp.

JB misses the cadence point, but I and JB have missed the separation of the two clauses in the first part of the verse by zaqef qatan if we are following the disjunctive aspect of the accent. 

REB is very free
The people began complaining loudly to the Lord about their hardships, and when he heard, he become angry.

REB gets the cadence point, but is too free with words for me. 'hardships' is a good move but not available to me in that I have used this gloss for עצב.

Letter by letter the kaf gives a certain forward movement to the opening phrase: the people were 'as' ones complaining evil in (the, construct specific) ears of Yahweh... Perhaps you can see why I treated the complaining participle as part of a construct chain and why JB and REB do not separate the two phrases significantly.

The accents give rise to a typical trope initially rising to a recitation on the sixth. I suspect recitation on the sixth will be a typical complaint tone. That remains to be heard. I think interpreting this as two phrases is moot.

One thing is difficult to query, the number of syllables on any given recitation. I do it in the decoding of the music, but I have not saved it in a convenient form. One day I will rerun the music with side effects and save all the byproducts of syllable-counts and recitation-length. I have no clear design for this process yet.


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