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The Lincoln Psalter
Translated by Gordon Jackson
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.
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.'
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