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A Book of Psalms: Selections Adapted from the Hebrew
     

A Book of Psalms: Selections Adapted from the Hebrew

by Stephen Mitchell
 

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Psalm 93
God acts within every moment
and creates the world with each breath.
He speaks from the center of the universe,
in the silence beyond all though.
Mighter than the crash of a thunderstorm,
mighter than the roar of the sea,
is God's voice silently speaking
in the depths of the listening heart.

Overview

Psalm 93

God acts within every moment
and creates the world with each breath.
He speaks from the center of the universe,
in the silence beyond all though.
Mighter than the crash of a thunderstorm,
mighter than the roar of the sea,
is God's voice silently speaking
in the depths of the listening heart.

Editorial Reviews

Zom Zoms
"Praise ye the Lord, 'tis good to raise / Your hearts and voices in His praise," declares a hymn of Isaac Watts. Mitchell, translator of Job and compiler of many fine anthologies of religious literature, has aimed to restore to some 50 of the psalms of David their function as hymns of praise. He calls his versions not translations but adaptations--entirely accurately, for he has stripped them of the tribal chauvinism that makes them so difficult for modern readers. His versions often resemble those of the King James Version of the Bible very closely, but they update their referents to common things and religious concepts. So bodhisattvas are called upon to praise God, and modern people are enjoined to praise him "with computer." Most importantly, Mitchell has responded to the old poems with a contemporary spirit that values peace, economic and political justice, and personal integrity and dedication more than religiosity: "I know you don't care about rituals or the mummeries of religion," he writes in Psalm 40, "The only thing that you want is our whole being, at every moment." Watts' hymn continues, "His nature and his works unite / To make this duty our delight." Mitchell has so well succeeded in his restorative task that he makes our delight in praising God through the psalms seem not dutiful but inevitable. REVWR Ray Olson *** BOR H1 Adult Books H2 Nonfiction H3 The Arts AUTH Kaiser, Richard K. AUTH2 ILLUS TITLE Painting Outdoor Scenes in Watercolor TITLR 245C PUBD 1993 PAGES 144p PHD index. illus. PUBL North Light FORM hardcover PRICE $27.95 ISBN (0-89134-460-8) FORM2 PRICE2 ISBN2 RFORM CAT 751.42'2436 Landscape painting--Technique || Watercolor painting--Technique [CIP] 92-30946 REVIEW %% This is a multi-book review. SEE the title "Watercolor" for next imprint and review text. %%

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061868382
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
108
Sales rank:
1,125,540
File size:
384 KB

Read an Excerpt

Book of Psalms, A
Selections Adapted from the Hebrew Foreword

The Hebrew word for psalm is mizmór, which means a hymn sung to the accompaniment of a lyre. But when the ancient rabbis named the anthology that we know as the Book of Psalms, they called it séfer tehillím, the Book of Praises. That is the dominant theme of the greatest of the Psalms: a rapturous praise, a deep, exuberant gratitude for being here.

The mind in harmony with the way things are sees that this is a good world, that life is good and death is good. It feels the joy that all creatures express by their very being, and finds its own music in accompanying the universal rapture.

Let the heavens and the earth rejoice, let the waves of the ocean roar, let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains rumble with joy, let the meadows sing out together, let the trees of the forest exult.

Thus the Psalmists, in the ardor of their praise, enter the sabbath mind and stand at the center of creation, saying, "Behold, it is very good." This is the poet's essential role, as Rilke wrote in a late poem; when the public wonders, "But all the violence and horror in the world — how can you accept it?" Rilke's poet says simply, "I praise."

The praise is addressed to whom? to what? When gratitude wells up through our whole body, we don't even ask. Words such as God and Tao and Buddha-nature only point to the reality that is the source and essence of all things, the luminous intelligence that shines from the depths of the human heart: the vital, immanent, subtle, radiant X. The ancient Jews named this unnamable reality yhvh, "that which causes [everything] to exist:' or, even more insightfully, ehyeh, "I am." Yet God is neither here nor there, neither before nor after, neither outside nor inside. As soon as we say that God is anything, we are a billion light-years away.

How supremely silly, then, to say that God is a he or a she. But because English lacks a personal pronoun to express what includes and transcends both genders, even those who know better may refer to God as "he." (Lao-tzu, wonderfully, calls "him" "it"

There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.)

In the following adaptations, I have called God "him" for lack of a better pronoun. You should, of course, feel free to substitute "her" if you wish.

"Sing to the Lord a new song" My primary allegiance in these psalms was not to the Hebrew text but to my own sense of the genuine. I have translated fairly closely where that has been possible; but I have also paraphrased, expanded, contracted, deleted, shuffled the order of verses, and freely improvised on the themes of the originals. When I disregarded the letter entirely, it was so that I could follow the spirit, wherever it wanted to take me, into a language that felt genuine and alive.

The Psalms speak as both poetry and prayer. Some of them are very great poems. But as prayer, even the greatest poems are inadequate. Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.

Book of Psalms, A
Selections Adapted from the Hebrew
. Copyright © by Stephen Mitchell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Stephen Mitchell's many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, Gilgamesh, and The Second Book of the Tao, as well as The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, and Meetings with the Archangel.

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