The Disgruntled Psalter

One of the downsides of people wanting to sing Psalms is the doggerel metrical arrangements they will go for (as long as it matches a dogged literalness of expression–something canine being the key to the whole aesthetic). We need people who can write lyrics, but people who can write lyrics are in very short supply. One of the funniest to me of the old ones we sometimes sing is the line speaking of pilgrims to Zion arriving there “at length.” Some of these older ones for some reason have an artless charm, but none of the more recent ones I’ve seen do. I would like to draw attention to one of the glaring modern metrical adaptations’ deficiencies the devices of which are sometimes so inept as to be not altogether unlike this:

The wicked stand with arrows knocked
to pity their hearts shut;
and seek to use their bows to get
the upright in the butt.

As we are being exposed to the ongoing effort of the OPC and the URC (I think) to come up with a new and (I assume) better Psalter than that we have, there may be further contributions to The Disgruntled Psalter forthcoming. One of the benefits of this effort, should you care to try it yourself, is to see how difficult it is to come up with something that gets beyond artless:

I sheltered in the Lord;
how can you say to me:
“Behave as circumstances call
and fly erratically”?

The badness of which could be heightened by drawing attention to the heart of the problem by attempting to revive elapsed conventions and writing ‘eratic’lly’, which, to no one’s surprise, still happens. And there was also this, the more subtly disturbing:

The wicked stand beneath the trees
and peer forth from their gloom
with bows and arrows set to bring
the righteous to their doom.

It is very hard to take religion seriously, but as my examples have shown, it is very bad if we give up.


4 thoughts on “The Disgruntled Psalter

  1. I recenty purchased Hymns of Grace and Glory (or vice versa) edited by Pinkston. I was surprised at some of the dullness of the Scottish Psalter stuff.

    But, as you say, we must not quit.

    1. Ever read the novels of George MacDonald? I finally started on them (found a pal who’s keen on them here, and Charles Williams) and there may be an explanation there of some of the Scottish Psalter.

  2. I apologize if this is a repeat, but have you seen the Psalter section of “Cantus Christi”? The hymnal is published by Canon Press of Moscow, Idaho, copyright 2002 Christ Church, Moscow Idaho. (Doug Wilson) ISBN13: 978-1-59128-004-0.

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