Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Thy staffe & thy shepehoke"

I have always had a mild preference for Tyndale's Bible over the King James version; it has most of the same virtues, as well as that of relative unfamiliarity, which leads to an increase in felt vividness. Carol Rumens has a nice post at the Guardian books blog on Psalm 23 that quotes both the Tyndale and the KJ versions of the psalm; here's Tyndale:
The LORDE is my shepherde, I can wante nothinge. 2 He fedeth me in a grene pasture, and ledeth me to a fresh water. 3 He quickeneth my soule, & bringeth me forth in the waye of rightuousnes for his names sake. 4 Though I shulde walke now in the valley of the shadowe of death, yet I feare no euell, for thou art with me: thy staffe & thy shepehoke comforte me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me agaynst mine enemies: thou anoyntest my heade with oyle, & fyllest my cuppe full. 6 Oh let thy louynge kyndnes & mercy folowe me all the dayes off my life, that I maye dwell in the house off the LORDE for euer.
"Shepehoke" does a much better job than "rod" of getting the right pastoral tone. The big countervailing loss, of course, is "my cup runneth over." By the way I hadn't quite realized how similar the feeling of Heaney's "Harvest Bow" is to verse 4 of the psalm:
Me with the fishing rod, already homesick
For the big lift of these evenings, as your stick
Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes
Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes
Nothing: that original townland
Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your hand.

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