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The Lincoln Psalter

Gordon Jackson

Translated by Gordon Jackson

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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • I lift my eyes up to heaven
        for it's said that's where you live.
    As a slave's eye is fixed on his master's hand,
        and the slave-girl watches her mistress,
    So are our eyes on the Lord our God
        as we await his mercy.
    Show us your mercy, O Lord, show us your love,
        we have had so much to put up with;
    I don't think we can take it much more,
        the rich man's ridicule,
            the pride of the man of power.
    Psalm 123

    Donald Davie, editing The Psalms in English for Penguin Classics, came across versions by Gordon Jackson. He was so taken with what he read that he encouraged Jackson to tackle the entire Psalter. Davie thought him uniquely equipped for the task in terms of verbal and spiritual skills. And Jackson obliged, working with due humility in the shadow of a great tradition of Psalm-translation. He 're-experienced the experiences of the Hebrew poet,' Davie wrote, he did not just follow 'the run of the Hebrew words. This saves him from the exclamatory, priggish or stroppy voice' that comes through in many modern versions.
    'Without departing from the awesome authority of Coverdale,' Jackson says, 'I have tried, by shifts of register, to repersonalise the matter, and by giving greater sway to the metaphors, and unity to the rhythm, to recover a feel of their essentially poetic character. I do this,' he warns, 'in all ignorance of Hebrew, and in great astonishment that no one seems to have done it before.'
    Gordon Jackson
    Born in Leeds in 1938, Gordon Jackson was at school with his friend and mentor the poet John Riley, whose work he first printed and published under his Grosseteste Press imprint in 1966. He later published 50 titles of his own work under the Asgill imprint. His working life has been ... read more
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