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Psalm 19

Another member of the Lindisfarne Community and I are embarking on a course of study of the Psalms. We are looking at them primarily as poetry, and investigating things like cultural context, poetic conventions, authorship, liturgical use, and textual interpretation. Fun, eh?

Psalm 19

The heavens tell God’s glory,

and His handiwork sky declares.

Day to day breathes utterance

and night to night pronounces knowledge.

There is no utterance and there are no words,

their voice is never heard.

Through all the earth their voice goes out,

to the world’s edge, their words.

(David Alter translation)

2 (1) The heavens declare the glory of God,
the dome of the sky speaks the work of his hands.
3 (2) Every day it utters speech,
every night it reveals knowledge.
4 (3) Without speech, without a word,
without their voices being heard,
5 (4) their line goes out through all the earth
and their words to the end of the world.

(Complete Jewish Bible)

Day to day uttereth speech, And night to night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech, and there are no words. Their voice hath not been heard.

Into all the earth hath their line gone forth, And to the end of the world their sayings,

(Young’s Literal Translation)

My intention will be to try to uncover the poetry in the Psalms, according to the notion that as poetry they had better move us in evocative and liminal ways. All good poetry does that. I’m also hoping for a renewal of understanding that will show very clearly that the ho-hum, routine recitation of the Psalms in their proper liturgical place doesn’t do them justice, and certainly doesn’t even attempt to demonstrate how moving and powerful they truly are. I’m going to use the order of Psalms as listed in the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer.

(For any who are interested we are in Year Two.)

Off we go.

Psalm 19

Those heavens report God’s glory

and his acts the air declares.

Day to day teach wise sayings,

and night to night make understandings known.

No saying exists,

and no words exist;

no voice of them is heard.


In all of Earth onward they are measured

and where no-one lives, proclaimed.

                                (My version, based on the Online Hebrew Interlinear Bible)

A quick note:

I couldn’t help but be reminded of these lines from the Heart Sutra—

“Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form. Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form……All dharmas are forms of emptiness, not born, not destroyed; not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain;” (Two Arrows Sangha version)

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