Melanchthon’s Psalm 111

First Things recently ran my metrical translation of Philip Melanchthon’s poem on the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth. You can read an accompanying essay at Mere Orthodoxy.

Here is another: a version of Psalm 111. First, the Psalm in the English of the King James:

Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.

The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.

He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.

The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Here is the Latin of Melanchthon’s poem (see page C8b):

PSALMUS CXI. Confitebor Domino.

Quas laudes tibi nos pater canemus,
Quae praeconia maximisque factis
Dicemus? manifesta signa nobis
Monstrasti bonitatis et favoris,
Ut curae tibi nos sciamus esse.
Escam namque piis pater dedisti,
Et tradis Cananaea regna nobis,
Mansurum quoque foedus omne in aevum
Fecisti: rata sunt, eruntque semper,
Quae dicis pater, atque polliceris.
Defendes populum tuum, atque mittes
In terras Dominum, ille liberabit,
Et nos proteget, et procul fugabit
Aerumnas, mala cuncta: reddet ille
Vitae gaudia sempiterna nobis.
Ergo omnes Dominum Deum timete,
Nam prima est sapientia hunc timere,
Quisquis iussa Dei facit, colitque,
Is demum sapere optime est putandus.

The meter of the poem is hendecasyllabics, which go like this (“-” = a long syllable; “u” = a short syllable; “x” = a syllable that can be long or short): x x – u u – u – u – – .

In my English translation, I’ve attempted hendecasyllabics, substituting the stressed and unstressed syllables of English meter for the long and short syllables of Latin quantitative meter–though I’ve allowed myself some liberties (this kind of license is, I believe, called “poetic”) and my attempt is far from perfect.

O what praises to You shall we sing, Father?

What renown for Your works are we to proclaim?

For You’ve shown to us signs of goodness, favor;

These make clear with no doubt that we are Your care.

You gave food to the godly, gracious Father;

You give also to us the land of Canaan.

Not just this, but Your covenant forever

You have fixed; it is firm and everlasting.

All Your heavenly promises are “Amen.”

You will faithfully guard your congregation;

You will send to the earth the Lord, and He will 

Free us and give us all protection, send far

Off from us all distresses, all our evils;

He will give us the joys of life eternal.

Therefore fear the Lord God, all you, His people,

For His fear is the way we come to wisdom.

That man, therefore, who does His will and worships

Must be reckoned the wisest and the best man.

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