Improving Songs by Weird Syntax

Earlier I wrote about strange syntax in songs used for corporate worship. This is an offence:

Though in a valley dark as death
no evil makes me fear.

Compare Robert Alter’s much more literal yet skilful rendering (which, however, isn’t written for singing in church):

Though I walk in the vale of death’s shadow,
I fear no harm,
for You are with me.

And see the more traditional version in the Scottish Metrical Psalter:

Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
yet will I fear none ill:

if we assume for the moment that the main comparison is between something like the Scottish Metrical Psalter’s rendering and the first version mentioned, the newer version actually makes the syntax more complex, not less complex, without a compensating improvement. Don’t fix the thing unless you can make it better.


One response to “Improving Songs by Weird Syntax

  1. Wow. Alter’s good for something.

    I haven’t been on here in so long… your new layout at one bamboozles me. Sooo many columns and sooo many categories of everything. *eeks*


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