08 May 2008

The Psalter Search

Trying to find a good Psalter is such a pain...

As I continue work on various liturgical projects, I continue to lament the lack of a halfway decent, contemporary English, Psalter that is worth anything.

My preference, to this day, remains with the 1963 Grail Psalms... but getting permission to use these Psalms in a local-use liturgical book has been a nigh-on-impossible three year journey that I am pretty much on the verge of abandoning. (Of course, the use of the Grail would also be a bit of a personal comfort... as I grew up on a diet of the Grail in the Roman Liturgy of the Hours.) The Grail is, of course, not without its faults... but for my money, when Psalm 4, 91, or 141 is sung, I only want to hear the Grail.

My translation of choice for public proclamation of the Scriptures, the New Living Translation (Second Edition) has the advantage of being well-laid-out for chanting, but its verbiage is awful when it comes to trying to sing... right from the very first verse...

"Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in
the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night."
Psalm 1: 1-2 (NLT)
Compare this to the Grail:

"Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night."
Psalm 1: 1-2 (Grail)
Another entrant could be The Liturgical Psalter that was used in various Church of England publications; most notably in The Alternative Service Book 1980. It has been placed into (essentially) a public domain status by the copyright holders (see: http://www.aquilabooks.co.uk/noframes/psalms.htm#1). Psalm 1 fares better here:

"Blessed is the man
who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly:
nor followed the way of sinners,
nor taken his seat amongst the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord:
and on that law will he ponder day and night."
Psalm 1: 1-2 (TLS)

This winds up sounding pretty good... but fast forward to Psalm 23 (among others) and the fact that it is accurately translated begins to matter far less than the fact that the Psalm sounds awful.

We tend to forget, but the Psalms are poetry, hymnody... and they deserve a better effort than they seem to be given these days. Pardon my side-rant... back to my main point.

For chantability and accuracy, the ESV is actually a really good option (though I might get concerned about the use of two differing translations of the Bible in use in a parish setting).
"Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night."
Psalm 1: 1-2 (ESV)
So, is there anyone out there in the blogosphere with a better idea for a local liturgical psalter? I'd particularlly like to hear from folks who are using Psalters on a daily basis.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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