Psalm 62 (61)
(Palm by David; English arranged by Sean Killehua)

For God my soul waits silently and still.
And all my expectation is from Him.
For He alone salvation is,
my sure defense, my Rock.
With Him my soul is steady and unmoved.

Would you assail a man and not relent,
like trampling on a leaning broken fence?
For evil men delight in telling lies,
in tearing down a man of noble birth!
With words they bless, but inwardly they curse!

My soul in silence waits for God, my Hope.
For He alone salvation is,
my sure defense, my Rock.
With Him my soul is steady and unmoved.
My glory and salvation are from God.
The rock of strength, my refuge is in Him.

Pour out your heart out unto God,
Let all your hope be in Him,
for God is a refuge for us!

The men of low degree are but a breath,
and men of high position mere façade,
Like vapor in the balance they rise up.

So put no trust in strength nor hope in theft.
Nor let your heart grow confident in wealth.
For God has spoken; twice I’ve heard it said:
That pow’r beyond compare belongs to Him.

And You, O Lord, are merciful and true,
For You requite us by the deeds we do.

 

*Why Meter

My aim in rendering Psalm 62 (61) in metered English was to set the language into a flowing meter, while at the same time keeping the language as close to the version I know best (NASB). This particular Psalm has personal significance, expressing deep sentiments that have followed me all my life. When looking at other translations of the Psalms I always go to number 62 (or 61 from Septuagint sources) to see if the feel comes through.  As background goes, let this suffice as explanation of why I, myself, would work a Psalm into meter.

Why put any of the Psalms in meter when so many variations are available in translation, and when the Psalms are, in some of those renderings, already powerful?  The simple answer is aesthetics matter.  When translators do their work they are fully aware that, try as they might, some nuances in the original must be sacrificed.  One of these is the internal cadences and rhythms of the language itself.  What I’m referring to goes under the radar of most people until they crash into something awkward in their native language.  An easy example is the Our Father.

The Protestant has repeated thousands of times, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” following the King James rendering.  It has a pretty smooth rhythm to it.  But this is not what Catholics or Orthodox are raised on, saying instead, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Ugh, eighteen syllables versus twelve; seven stressed syllables versus five; unevenly spaced stresses compared to evenly spaced.  Nevertheless, the Catholic doesn’t notice because years of use have infused a great deal of meaning into the exact phrasing, meaning that plays back automatically when repeated.  (This, by the way, is the value of rote.)

So it is with many of the Psalms.  One of the most loved is Psalm 23 (22):  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not…”  What did you supply for the ellipsis? Probably “want.”  It is the best way audibly to end that phrase, a short stressed syllable.  And yet, precision of meaning causes other versions, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.”  That’s not bad, but it is more prose than poetry—which is what the NIV is known for: readability.  Notice the shift in stress, where the KJV has the stress on “shall” the NIV has it on “I.”  That subtlety siphons some of the focus away from the Shepherd to the “I.”  Surely unintentional.

For some you, these aspects of language barely register on your reading radar, and that is to be expected.  I am here dealing with the musical qualities inherent in our language, a thing I tend to be more sensitive to, but only in degree.  Everyone has a threshold at which they cringe, or laugh, at the awkwardness of something said or written.  When these kinds of things turn up in liturgical texts, then they compromise the element of beauty—a crucial component of worship.  And, as it happens, there is translation which has found favor with our liturgists, a translation which has prioritized other technicalities of translation far above the consideration, “Is the resulting English beautiful?”  Very often it is not, despite other solid qualities of the work.

So I tried to bring beauty to one of my favorite Psalms, and used the most natural English cadence, iambic meter.  The noble sonnet has a form named for English’s greatest poet.  Our great prose writers use it to great effect.  Consider Dickens’s famous opener:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  The content of Psalm 62 already moves me; it was a joy to discover word combinations that bring the meaning into flow.  Such an exercise is like that, more discovery than invention.  The result satisfied me, and I’ll let it stand or fall with others as regards impact.  Hopefully flowing words assist memorization, so that during the stresses of my day, prayers can almost pray themselves.  “With Him my soul is steady and unmoved!”

2 replies
    • Avatar
      Sean Kiilehua says:

      Wonderful! I’m so glad it touches you. As to metered Psalms, there is a set available for free in You Version Bible app (perhaps other places, too). The app is free. Look for “MP1650”. I saw a print version of this many years ago. Here are the first four lines of Ps. 62:
      “My soul with expectation
      depends on God indeed;
      My strength and my salvation doth
      from him alone proceed”
      And it continues on in that rhythm and rhyme. In fact, all the Psalms are rendered that way—I was amazed. To find out more about the MP1650 simply search the web for “Metrical Psalms 1650.”

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.