Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Psalms 8

 Having come this far, we can't skip around at least until after Psalms 9-10, the first acrostic poem. There is a critical structural aspect to the acrostics that I have pointed out before. Each one celebrates the immediately preceding psalm. And these 7 psalms preceding the nine acrostic psalms define a chiasm that spans the Psalter. They are like the pillars of the cathedral, Psalms 8, 24, 33, 36, 110, 118, and 144. 

The first part of the chiasm appears in Psalms 8, verse 4 fingers, and the mh-anow... ubn adm, in verse 5(h). The reflection of these motifs is in Psalms 144, the only other psalm in which fingers figures, and a psalm with a concerning backward reference in its verse 3, ma adm... bn-anow to the subject of Psalms 8 verses 5 and 6. The pattern you see in the comparison is called a circular pattern. In the crosstabs, it is shaped like a 'greater than' (>) sign showing words used in one sequence, and then used in the reverse sequence.

Comparing selected verses in Psalms 8 and 144

So the usual tasks: read, look at recurrence, hear the music. Decide if there are strophes defined. 

thlim k Psalms 8 Fn Min Max Syll
a lmnxk yl-hgitit mzmor ldvid 1 For the leader on musing. A psalm of David. 3e 3f 13
b ihvh adoninu mh-adir wmç bcl-harx
awr tnh hodç yl-hwmiim
2 Yahweh our Lord how majestic your name in all the earth,
whose splendour is chanted above the heavens.
3e 4C 16
11
g mpi yollim vionqim iisdt-yoz
lmyn xorriç
lhwbit aoib umtnqm
3 From the mouths of babies and nurslings, you have founded strength,
for the sake of your adversaries,
that you might cease enemy and vengeance.
3d 4C 11
6
9
d ci-arah wmiç mywi axbyotiç
irk vcocbim awr connt
4 For I see your heavens that your fingers make,
moon and stars which you have established.
3e 4B 14
12
h mh-anow ci-tzcrnu
ubn-adm ci tpqdnu
5 What is a mortal? for you remember it.
And a child of humanity? for you visit it,

3e 4B 8
9
v vtksrhu my't malohim
vcbod vhdr ty'trhu
6 And you make it a little less than God,
and with glory and honour you crown it.
3e 4B 10
10
z tmwilhu bmywi idiç
col wth tkt-rgliv
7 You give it governance over what your hands make.
All, you put under its feet.
g 3e 4B 11
7
k xonh valpim culm
vgm bhmot wdii
8 Flock and drove, all of them,
and even beasts of the field.
g 3e 4B 8
7
't xipor wmiim udgi him
yobr aorkot imim
9 Bird of the heavens and fish of the sea,
traversing the paths of the seas.

3e 4B 8
6
i ihvh adoninu
mh-adir wmç bcl-harx
10 Yahweh our Lord,
how majestic your name in all the earth.
3e 4A 6
10

Recurring roots shows an obvious parallel line, 7 words in length. This sort of pattern is produced by the repetition of a full verse. Verses 2 and 3 both begin with a leap of a sixth. Verse 4 begins with a leap of a fifth. I suggest two 4-verse strophes, 2-5, 6-9. Verses 1 (incipit) and 10 (repeating the first half of verse 2 with quite different music) each stand alone.
Recurrence for Psalms 8

The Music: Interesting that the incipit (setting the inscription) is again only on e and f#. This is a significant psalm for the structure of the Psalter, but it is introduced with simplicity. There is one tricolon, verse 3. There are lots of variations in the translation of this verse. And about half the translations have different verse numbering. I think it is useful to observe the pauses in the WLC (Westminster Leningrad Codex). If a translation runs roughshod over the pauses, I think it misses something. I think we rush to understanding. Slow down. There are lots of things both in the world and out of it that we can only stand in awe of.


The words of Psalms 8 and 144 are related. Is the music? All three times that the phrase appears in the Hebrew canon, Psalms 8, 144, and Job, the music is different. In my oratorio developed from the deciphering of the music according the the key of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura, Unleashing Leviathan, I have set them as an A (Job 7)-T(Psalms 8)-B(Psalms 144) trio. Here's a snippet. The full score is here.

The music of Psalms 8 and 144 compared.




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