Psalms 119 -- An Alphabetic Acrostic
Uploaded on Sep 18, 2017
Psalm 119, as is well known, is an acrostic poem. It is an extended meditation on the torah, the "law" or "teaching" of the word of God. It uses eight synonyms for torah: law, commandment, statute, precept, testimony, word, promise, and teaching. It consists of twenty-two stanzas of eight verses each. In the first stanza each sentence begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in the second stanza each sentence begins with the second letter, and so on through the whole alphabet. The Hebrew alphabet is made up of twenty-two letters, and hence the twenty-two stanzas and 176 verses;.
In the version below I used the English alphabet, which includes twenty-six letters. Since I wanted the poem to have twenty-two stanzas, like the original and Hebrew version, I was, thankfully, able to avoid having to use the four letters Q, X, Y, and Z. As an aid I have included the verses that each stanza represents.
I used the well known Genevan 119 for the musical setting because of its close association with the Psalm. Whereas I used the metre of Genevan 119 I did not use the rhyming scheme, largely because an acrostic poem puts the emphasis on the first letter of the line rather than on the rhyming of the final syllable of the line.
Using the parameters of acrostic and tune the result is likely more of a hymn based on Psalm 119 than a strictly literal versification of it. The reader will need to judge whether my stanzas do justice to the stanzas found in the Bible.
One of the inspirations for this poem was the Knox Bible, as translated by Mgr. Ronald Knox, 1888-1957.
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