Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pius XII Psalter is Easier?

I'm not a Latin scholar. I'm just someone trying his best to learn Latin. So read this post with that in mind.

After I wrote about the 1958 BR I decided to give the Pius XII Psalter another look. My main office book has become the Diurnale Romanum from PCP (with the 1964 Benziger in English for Matins) and so I have for a few of the hours over the past week been switching between the two for the Psalter.

At the chance of losing all Catholic-blogger-street-cred I would like to share my new opinion on the Pius XII Psalter.

I think its easier to read...(though uglier) at least from the perspective of someone who is learning Latin from a textbook. The other reason is that most of us today read the Psalms from a direct Hebrew translation rather than from the Vulgate. The modern translation into Latin will reflect latinisms that we use in our modern languages. Grammar and syntax also follow. So in a sense it is much closer to what we're used to.

In the past week there have been times when I've been moving along in the Diurnale, which has the Vulgate Psalter, and wished I was using the 1958 BR so that I could comprehend what I was reading more easily.

Let's look at Psalm 85:1-3 as a quick example. There are probably better ones but this one was handy.

"Traditional" Vulgate version:

1 Inclína, Dómine, aurem tuam et exáudi me,
quóniam inops et pauper sum ego.
2 Custódi ánimam meam, quóniam sanctus sum ;
salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperántem in te.
3 Miserére mei, Dómine,
quóniam ad te clamávi tota die ;

Ugly Pius XII Version:

1 Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam, exaudi me,
quia miser et pauper sum ego.
2 Custodi animam meam, quia devotus sum tibi;
salvum fac servum tuum sperantem in te.
3 Deus meus es tu: miserere mei, Domine,
quia assidue ad te clamo.

Notice in the first verse I highlighted inops and miser, respectively. I had to look up inops. Miser I can figure out in context of "pauper sum ego". In English, a "miser" is an old nasty person. And if you look it up you will see in Latin it means "wretched". I looked up inops and it means "without resources". Perhaps this is where in English we get "inoperable"? Still I think miser is easier.

In verse three I highlighted clamavi and clamo respectively. I know what clamavi means, but I wanted to show you how the case endings in the Pius XII can be easier to understand. With my beginner Latin I know that when I see a verb ending in "o" it usually means I am doing that. "Ad te clamo" means to "to you I cry".

I highlighted assidue in red to be fair. I had to look that word up. The word "assiduus" means "tribute payer".

Go back up to the first verse. This is a subtle change here but this theme runs throughout the Pius XII psalter. It is much more direct. The Vulgate has "aurem tuam et exáudi me" which means "your ear AND hear me." while the new psalter has "aurem tuam, exaudi me" which translated is "your ear, hear me." There is no "and." The Pius XII is much more curt in a lot of places. That makes it easier for me to analyze with my limited knowledge.

I personally like the Hebrew/Pius XII rendering of the second verse. "Custodi animam meam, quia devotus sum tibi." "Keep my soul, for I am devoted to you." Rather than "for I am holy" in the Vulgate. It is much easier for me to consider myself devoted than holy.

But still...

If I was Pius XII, I never would have asked for the new Psalter. It may be that it actually caused more harm than good and now it is slowly being forgotten. New breviaries are being printed with the Vulgate psalter and Pope Pius' version can be found on eBay for less than half the price. It doesn't take a genius to see where that's headed. So I think it is much more worthy and profitable to learn the Vulgate Psalter since in 20 years all those breviaries from the 1940/50s/60s will be pretty badly decomposed. But taking another look at Pope Pius' version has been a good exercise for me.


joncraven said...

I'm sure your Latin has improved in the months since you wrote this, but assidue means "assiduously", or in non-Latinised English, diligently or in a dedicated manner. Which makes a lot more sense than "tribute payer" in this context.

voltape said...

well I am 82 now (2017)- a layman, married - and have been praying the Latin Breviary for more than half a century- Actually the Novus Ordo (vernacular) came when I was already 30 years old - All my breviaries are with the Pius XII version which I love; it is clear, beautiful and of course quite singable. I have the Solesmes Gregorian Chant and it is all in the Pius XII Psalms. When years later I ran into the Vulgate (Gallican) Psalter I found it insipid, full of inaccuracies and mistranslation. Since I am now using the Liturgy of the Hours I have copied the 150 Psalms of Pius XII to read them instead of the Gallican or new Vulgate. Regargas from Lima, Peru

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton