Saturday, 8 June 2013

Psalm Translations: Out of the deep

(Disclaimer: these are not all translations. It's just a small selection of words and music based on, or inspired by, Psalm 130.)

From the Book of Common Prayer:

1 Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord : Lord, hear my voice.
2 O let thine ears consider well : the voice of my complaint.
3 If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss : O Lord, who may abide it?
4 For there is mercy with thee : therefore shalt thou be feared.
5 I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him : in his word is my trust.
6 My soul fleeth unto the Lord : before the morning watch, I say, before the morning watch.
7 O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy : and with him is plenteous redemption.
8 And he shall redeem Israel : from all his sins.

Thomas Morley (the best of a poor selection on youtube):

From the earliest complete English prose Psalter (here) - the Midland Prose Psalter (c1350–1400):

1. Ich cried, Lord, to þe for þe depe; Lord, here my uoice.
2. Ben þin eres made vnder-stondand to þe voice of mi praier.
3. Lord, yif þou hast kept wickednes, Lord, who shal holde hem vp?
4. For help is to þe, & ich susteined þe, Lorde, for þy lawe.
5. My soule helde vp gode in his worde, my soule hoped in our Lord.
6. Hope, þe folk of Israel, in our Lord fram þe mornynge kepinge vn-to þe niyt.
7. For merci is at our Lord, & at him is plentiuose raunsoun.
8. And he shal raunsoun þe folk of Israel fram alle her wickednes.

Orlando di Lassus:

From the Wycliffite Bible, c.1390s:

1 Lord, Y criede to thee fro depthes; Lord, here thou mi vois.
2 Thin eeris be maad ententif; in to the vois of my biseching.
3 Lord, if thou kepist wickidnessis; Lord, who schal susteyne?
4 For merci is at thee; and, Lord, for thi lawe Y abood thee.
5 Mi soule susteynede in his word; my soule hopide in the Lord,
6 Fro the morewtid keping til to niyt; Israel, hope in the Lord.
7 For whi, merci is at the Lord; and plenteous redempcioun is at hym.
8 And he schal ayenbie Israel; fro alle the wickidnessis therof.

'Ayenbie' is typical of the diction of the Wycliffite Psalms; it's literally 'again-buy', that is, ransom.

Orlando Gibbons:

Christina Rossetti, De Profundis:

Oh why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.

I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.

I never watch the scatter'd fire
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:

For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.

And a poem of the same name by the young C. S. Lewis (published in Spirits in Bondage, 1919):

Come let us curse our Master ere we die,
For all our hopes in endless ruin lie.
The good is dead. Let us curse God most High.

Four thousand years of toil and hope and thought
Wherein man laboured upward and still wrought
New worlds and better, Thou hast made as naught.

We built us joyful cities, strong and fair,
Knowledge we sought and gathered wisdom rare.
And all this time you laughed upon our care,

And suddenly the earth grew black with wrong,
Our hope was crushed and silenced was our song,
The heaven grew loud with weeping. Thou art strong.

Come then and curse the Lord. Over the earth
Gross darkness falls, and evil was our birth
And our few happy days of little worth.

Even if it be not all a dream in vain
— The ancient hope that still will rise again —
Of a just God that cares for earthly pain,

Yet far away beyond our labouring night,
He wanders in the depths of endless light,
Singing alone his musics of delight;

Only the far, spent echo of his song
Our dungeons and deep cells can smite along,
And Thou art nearer. Thou art very strong.

O universal strength, I know it well,
It is but froth of folly to rebel;
For thou art Lord and hast the keys of Hell.

Yet I will not bow down to thee nor love thee,
For looking in my own heart I can prove thee,
And know this frail, bruised being is above thee.

Our love, our hope, our thirsting for the right,
Our mercy and long seeking of the light,
Shall we change these for thy relentless might?

Laugh then and slay. Shatter all things of worth,
Heap torment still on torment for thy mirth—
Thou art not Lord while there are Men on earth.


Steffen said...

Thank you for this beautiful collection. Psalm 130 is a favourite of mine, as it portrays - to my mind - so accurately the human condition, and highlights the humanism of Judaeo-Christian tradition, so often neglected by Secularists dismissive of religion.

Clerk of Oxford said...

Yes, indeed - it's very comforting that the Psalms don't shy away from confronting the depths of the human condition, as well as the heights.

Bright Eärendil said...

It's not quite traditional, but I like John Rutter's version from his Requiem. Lovely blog, by the way!