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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access April 20, 2016

Poeticizing the Psalter in an African Language

From Poetry into Poetry, with Special Reference to Psalm 13 – “How long, O Lord…!?”

  • Ernst R. Wendland
From the journal Open Theology


This study illustrates the application of a literary methodology to the analysis and translation of biblical poetry. The aim is twofold: first and foundational, to reveal salient aspects of the beauty and power of Psalm 13 in the original Hebrew; and second, to experiment with different methods of communicating the original meaning of the psalmist’s passionate prayer with respect to lyric form, content, and function in Chichewa, a major Bantu language. After a thorough examination of the principal structural and stylistic features of the biblical text, a typical lament psalm, several published and unpublished Chewa translations are critically discussed. The ultimate purpose is, as the title of this paper suggests, to produce an acceptable, functionally equivalent, poetic version of the Hebrew text in the vernacular. In conclusion, the main principles illustrated in this study are summarized in an effort to encourage more dynamic, idiomatic, indeed melodic translations of the Scriptures in local languages, where circumstances allow. “How long” must so many reader-hearers suffer under the burden of a less than communicative version of the Psalter in their mother tongue?


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Received: 2016-2-19
Accepted: 2016-3-9
Published Online: 2016-4-20

©2016 Ernst R. Wendland

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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