Metrical Psaulms in Doric

The Psalms are the Songbook of the Bible, representing the songs of the Jews in the Temple and elsewhere. Psalms were sung at special festivals and Jesus and His disciples sang these at the Last Supper. Spanish music is such that, for example, Psalm 121 can be sung virtually off the page as it is with only the use of repetition to maintain the verse form. However, in many other cases, languages had to invent a singable version by creating stanzas or verses using rhyme. This meant a parallel art-form in which the sung forms (“metrical psalms”) were very faithful to the original words but had to use repetition and changing of word-order to maintain a rhyme.

In fact, metrical psalms in English are a triumph of ingenuity and faith. You can see them here:

Still, the Doric language never figured in the construction of psalms meant to be sung across the British Isles. That is not surprising and there can be no criticism of the 1650 and earlier psalms and their excellent result in giving the songs of the Bible a fresh outlet for churches in Britain. The only slight problem with this is that, without including Scots and other versions, the Reformation principle of putting God’s Word into the hands of ordinary people in their own language gets left behind. We have the Psalms in Gaelic, of course, and these are a glorious and special tradition which enriches the world church. Yet, why should Doric speakers not have the psalms in their ain tongue, if the intention truly is to share the Word of God with everyone?

For this reason, I decided to start to translate the Psalms into Doric directly from Hebrew, inspired and occasionally guided by the English version, but not dominated by it. Hebrew, like Scots, is a very expressive and evocative language and responds well to translation into Doric. I use free translation at times to capture the nuances of the original. I can supply reasons for my choice of words if anyone challenges them but I hope I am humble enough to listen to good advice or guid (pron. gweed) coonsel if I am given it. I have so far translated a tad over thirty psalms and I have been encouraged to do more. I have other things to write and focus on so there will not be a rush of more. However, I intend to keep plugging away at translation. As a token of this I have decided to publish the first thirty over the next month. Feedback is welcome and as this is a sensitive issue I will try to explain what I am trying to do, hopefully persuading others to engage with our Mither Tongue.

On this note, I recommend looking online for Gordon Hay’s rendition of The New Testament into Doric, a massive achievement that encourages us all.

The first thirty psaulms will follow, one by one, shortly.