Monday, December 15, 2008

Revised Grail Psalter?

This has received some comment on other blogs about the place (see, for eg., The New Liturgical Movement here and here), but it does make me wonder.

The USCCB has decided something called the "Revised Grail Psalter" should be used as their official translation of the psalms for the new translations of the liturgy. I don't think the Australian Bishops have even considered the question of appropriate psalm versions for the new translations.

Be that as it may, what is the "Revised Grail Psalter"? You can't find it on the web, because it is copyrighted. (Copyright is one of the big problems.) But it also won't be published until it gets the Vatican imprimatur.

Here is what the creators have to say about it:
While the 1963 Grail Psalter was very successful in this regard, there are places where the adherence to a set rhythm necessitated a paraphrase of the original Hebrew as opposed to a more authentic translation, taking into consideration the sometimes irregular rhythm of the Hebrew Psalms. Since Vatican II, however, we have seen a move to preserve sacred texts' fidelity to their original sources.

Secondly, since the 1950s when most of these psalms were composed, “Much has happened in the area of biblical scholarship to enable us to understand better both the structure of Hebrew poetry and some of the more problematic texts,” Abbot Gregory said. He continued, “This scholarship will make a more accurate translation possible.”

Additionally, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments’ 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam insists that a consistent translation be used in all the texts of the liturgy, which is currently not the case as far as the psalms are concerned. The Revised Grail Psalter will be the official translation used in the Lectionary, the Liturgy of the Hours, the texts for all books of the Sacraments, etc.
All of these points are excellent issues. The Lutheran Church of Australia, for eg., never endorsed the Grail version precisely because it is an inaccurate translation. Our local Kapelmeister in the Cathedral refuses to use it - he calls it the "dum titty dum titty dum de dum" version - and uses the NRSV instead which is much better suited for chant.

I actually like the "dum titty dum" style of the Grail - it makes it easy for memorisation as well as singing - but would be eager to see a more accurate translation.

The issue of Copyright remains though, and it is hard to see a way around this. I do not believe that any element of the Church's liturgy should be "copyrighted". It should all be freely available electronically on the internet. But of course the publishers and composers and translators have to earn a living too, so I guess this is something I can live with.

(As long as they don't try to prosecute me when I do make copies of their texts...)

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