This post continues to interact with Wayne Leman’s comments on my translation of Psalm 51. He raises important issues. More than once, Wayne’s comments have brought about a change in my thinking.
6 You alone have I offended,
I have done evil in your eyes.
So you are just when you speak,
you are pure when you judge.
7 Truth be told, I was born into sin,
into wrongdoing my mother expelled me.
8 Truth be told, you desire truth in the inward parts,
in secret you would teach me wisdom.
9 Purify me with hyssop, till I be clean,
wash me, till I be whiter than snow.
My response: Perhaps the idiom has its origin in biblical diction, but a google search makes clear that it is deployed today in a variety of genres. Am I the only Peter Gabriel fan here? My sense is that the idiom resonates well and is readily comprehensible. Are there standard for testing a hypothesis of this kind?
W’s comment re “into wrongdoing my mother expelled me”: "expelled me" refers to getting kicked out of school, not to birthing.
My response: a google search demonstrates that “expel a fetus” is acceptable English. Still, Wayne has put his finger on a piece of the translation I’m unhappy with. Part of the problem is that the construction in the Hebrew is otherwise unattested. Its precise sense may actually elude us. As I understand it, the sense is: “remember, I was born into sin, / my mother’s estrus brought me into misdoing.” “Sin” and “misdeed” describe the human condition as one in which wrongdoing is normal. My goal would be to preserve the concreteness of the original’s reference to “estrus,” and the reference to “offense” and “misdeed” as descriptive of the human condition, not of the psalmist himself, as some translations have it, or of the sexual act, as other translations have it. Any ideas out there?
W’s comment re “in the inward parts”: Hebraism, not English.
My response: I agree with the comment. It is also an infelicitous Hebraism. NJB’s “You delight in sincerity of heart” is attractive in some ways, but it seems best to avoid introducing “heart” here. My goal is to offer an adequate parallel to the “B” component of the parallel pair (“in secret”) of the original. Perhaps NRSV’s “in the inward being” is idiomatic enough; my tentative suggestion would be to reuse it.
W’s comment re “be”: Should be "am."
My response: are my subjunctives a result of linguistic interference from Italian? It’s possible. The simpler “am” is preferable anyway. Thanks, Wayne.