Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ruth 2:3-7 Alter and music

You have seen the care with which I have followed concordance as a strategy over these past 6 years since the publication of my first book on the Scriptures, Seeing the Psalter.

I worked with the poetry of the Psalms first. Among my first works with the prose was the book of Ruth. So here I will compare the English of three versions.

Have I written English in my work? This is a question I have worried about. Reading and studying a foreign tongue twists ones own in unpredictable ways. Consider the language of Yoda in the Star Wars films. Sometimes I even followed Dr. Seuss as my model. (My tongue is in my cheek.)

But seriously, I am also supposed to be paying attention to the music. To be fair, I don't always try to underlay the text. I would be working for several more years to do this. But we have all the music available. So there's nothing to stop you all from doing this. Or from reading my close translation for the music.

Here are, line by line, Alter, NRSV, and Bob with music for Ruth 2:3 to 7. And each musical line shows the Hebrew, the pulse, and the cadences and ornaments. I do not know who invented these hand-signals but they are fantastically good for the text which itself is so dearly loved. It would be a shame to get it wrong. And they are much more accurate as to tone and rhythm than any abstract poetical concepts.

I am taking my information from the section of the review of Alter's translation by Adele Berlin, whose presentation skill I greatly admire.

I have put the line breaks where the cadence on the subdominant is in the music. This is a fascinating comparison. One can see the loves and fears about English in each translation. One can also see the rhythmic limitations of the English immediately.

Verse 3
A. And she went and came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers,
N. So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers.
B. And she went, and she came, and she gleaned in the field, following the reapers.
Ruth 2:3 showing the pulse and cadence of the Hebrew text
Both Alter and NRSV miss the pulse of the first part of the verse. The musical notes give an accurate representation of the syllables if you are in to counting.

A. and it chanced that she came upon the plot of Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
N. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelek.
B. And she chanced by chance on the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelek.

Why did Alter vary the gloss for field to plot? Quite unnecessary here. Both NRSV and Alter do not repeat the doubled verb. I often don't also. But in this case the lilt is unmistakable. Why not repeat it? The music reveals that this is a story to be told with a living pulse. It is not just a boring narrative.

Verse 4
A. And look, Boaz was coming from Bethlehem, and he said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you!”
N. Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.”
B. And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, Yahweh be with you.

A. and they said, “May the Lord bless you!”
N. They answered, “The Lord bless you.”
B. And they said to him, Yahweh bless you.

Ruth 2:4 music

Why would Alter and NRSV omit the words 'to him'? I am baffled. Note the sudden high C - the appearance of Boaz. The music paints an unexpected coincidence.

Verse 5
A. And Boaz said to his lad who was stationed over the reapers,
“Whose is this young woman?”
N. Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers,
“To whom does this young woman belong?”
B. And Boaz said to his lad who was monitoring the reapers,
Whose is that lass? 
Ruth 2:5 music
Now the high C highlights the question to come before it is spoken - hey, who is this. Pop music 3000 years ago. Here Alter and even more NRSV have a fuller syllable count for the notes. But the emphasis in the English is really awkward when you set it. My spondee fits one word per note in this case: whose (A) is (g#) that (f) lass (e).

Verse 6
A. And the lad stationed over the reapers answered and said,
“She is a young Moabite woman who has come back with Naomi from the plain of Moab.
N. The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered,
“She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.
B. And the lad monitoring the reapers answered and he said,
She is the Moabite lass, she who returned with Naomi from the fields of Moab. 
Ruth 2:6 music
If you wish - rephrase as you set the music - and answered the lad ... that gets the ornament on the right word. To rephrase accurately (as opposed to paraphrasing), you need a concordant reading to work from. That's what you get with Bob's Bible, the only English reading that is for the music.

The silluq on Moabite draws in mystery by prematurely returning us to the tonic. Don't get involved with a Moabite. Alter repeats young woman accurately. NRSV just misses it. I chose lass to go with lad. NRSV servant is traditional but conflicts for me with אבד.

Verse 7
A. And she said, ‘Let me glean, pray, and gather from among the sheaves behind the reapers.’
N. She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ 
B. And she had said, Please let me glean, and gather among the bales following the reapers. 

A. And she has come and stood since the morning till now. She has barely stayed in the house.”
N. So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.”
B. And she came and she stood from then, the morning, and till this minute, sitting in the house briefly.
Ruth 2:7 music
I admit I could have avoided using the pluperfect. Note the sudden drop on zeh (this) and the ornament on morning (if you are setting English words to the Hebrew, feel free to leave out notes when the syllable count doesn't match.)

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