By Mark Watney
Behold! How gladly22 it is how goodly23 it is
when two brothers build together
an earth-dwelling24 a hobbit-hole
It is like Mugwort the master-weed25
which heals the head and flows down the beard
down Aaron’s beard smeared26 with oil
down the hems of his cloak like the hems on Mt. Hermon
like the dews on Mt. Zion
gushing with God-goodness
23 god swylce
24 eard weardian
25 wyrt-cynn (weed-king), also known as “mugwort”
These Hebrew Psalms are inspired by my reading of the 11th century Old English Psalter.1 They are not direct translations, but rather, an attempt to re-capture the bold alliterative echoes found between the first and second half of each line of Old English poetry. I have also tried to reproduce some of the “kennings” (compound words with which the Anglo Saxons loved to create new and blended images). Some of these kennings are footnoted back to the original Old English. Others I have created myself.
1. Old English Psalms. Translated into English prose by Patrick P. O’Neill (2016).
Mark C Watney is an immigrant from South Africa who teaches English at Sterling College in Kansas. As his brain ages, and his chess ratings drop, he is discovering a poetic sensibility he lacked as a younger man. This is his 7th Psalm published in St. Katherine Review.