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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: Psalm 46
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0048  Tuesday, 12 January 1999.

[1]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Jan 1999 09:41:25 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0034  Re: Psalm 46

[2]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Jan 1999 09:41:45 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0034  Re: Psalm 46

[3]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Jan 1999 18:42:31 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46

[4]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Jan 1999 15:14:39 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46

[5]     From:   Ralph Alan Cohen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Jan 1999 00:40:20 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 10.0034  Re: Psalm 46

[6]     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Jan 1999 12:05:21 -0800 (PST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jan 1999 09:41:25 -0500
Subject: Re: Psalm 46
Comment:        SHK 10.0034  Re: Psalm 46

>>is it at all possible that such a thing could occur just by chance? <<
>>  Yes.<<

Let's go over this again, slowly.

In the 46th Psalm, the word "shake" appears 46 words down from the
beginning, and the word "spear" appears 46 words up from the end.  And
in the year 1610, while this work was going on, William Shakespeare was
46 years old.

And it's a fact that James the One, a literary person himself, wanted
his new version of the Bible to be a work of literary value, not just a
translation.  The commission he appointed to do this work got some of
the best writers available at that time-and surely Our Will was one of
the best, and best known, writers.

For me at least, it all adds up to something more than mere chance.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jan 1999 09:41:45 -0500
Subject: Re: Psalm 46
Comment:        SHK 10.0034  Re: Psalm 46

>The complete details of my brief research are below.  I suspect my
>results may also be confused by not knowing which translations and
>versions might have been derived from each other.

>Revised Standard, tremble, spear, 39, 41
>American Standard, tremble, spear, 46, 45
>Young's literal translation, shake, spear, 44, 42
>Holy Bible by Noah Webster, shake, spear, 45, 41
>Bible in Basic English, shaking, spear, 52, 52
>KJV, shake spear, 46, 46
>New International version, quake, spear

All that research wasn't really necessary.  It "works" only with the
KJV.  (Because that's the only version Will S. would have worked on.)

>On the other hand, the timing is right, wouldn't England's foremost
>writer be involved in the King's translation?

Right.  Makes sense to me.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jan 1999 18:42:31 -0500
Subject: Re: Psalm 46
Comment:        SHK 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46

>The only way to test this one is to see whether it is possible to
>produce similar results by pure chance.

Always an excellent idea.

>As a brief experiment I took a look at the names of previous posters on
>this thread, and found the name "Peter Groves."  I then took a look at my
>Shakespeare Concordance to see whether Peter's name turns up in any
>numerically significant positions as far as Act,
>Scene and Line numbers are concerned in Shakespeare's plays.  Sure enough,
>in "Midsummer Night's Dream", the name "Peter" appears in
>1.2.8 and the word "Grove" appears in 2.1.28.

Well now, you see, that's the thing.  The trouble with the Psalm 46 deal
is that it's perfect.  "Shake" is 46 down; "spear" is 46 up.  And
they're in the 46th Psalm.  And in 161O, when the thing was being
written, Our Will was 46, etc.  That's it, no finagling.

If you'll forgive me for pointing it out, the references you mention
above aren't "exactly the same" at all.  One is 1.2.8 and the other is
2.1.28.  (It reminds me of the Oxfordians' claim that the name "E. de
Vere" appears in the word "every."  If it does, it does only to them.)

>There is another suitable reference in "Romeo and Juliet", where the
>word "Grove" appears at 1.1.128 (in the Globe edition, used by
>Bartlett), and later "Peter", the Capulet's servant, speaks line 4.5.128
>("When griping grief the heart doth wound").

But-forgive me again-Peter, in the above-mentioned scene, says a lot,
has quite a number of lines, so it's easy to selectively choose whatever
line might fit what one has in mind.  However, again, the point is, the
Psalm 46 deal isn't like that at all.  It is what it is; there's no
opportunity for manipulation or machination (not, you understand, that
I'm accusing you of such a thing).

>just about any name you pick is bound to turn up somewhere and in
>some form as long as
>it can be broken into two reasonably common words.

Very true.  Shakespeare is vast; my name is in the plays, both my first
name and my last.  But that really doesn't have much to do with what
happens with Psalm 46.  I'm well aware that I may be wrong, and the
Psalm 46 situation is pure chance.  But since the evidence is so
precise, and cannot be finagled with (as is usually the case with such
evidence), I find it hard to believe it's entirely fortuitous.  It's
like finding a couple of guys with the same DNA.  <g>

At any rate, your research on the topic was very interesting and I thank
you for it.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Jan 1999 15:14:39 +1100
Subject: 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46

>There is another suitable reference in "Romeo and Juliet", where the
>word "Grove" appears at 1.1.128 (in the Globe edition, used by
>Bartlett), and later "Peter", the Capulet's servant, speaks line 4.5.128
>("When griping grief the heart doth wound").

>Does any of this mean anything?  Well, of course it doesn't.  It is just
>a nice series of coincidences.  Shakespeare couldn't have known who
>Peter Groves was, and had no idea of how subsequent editors would number
>lines and pages.

Actually I did write the plays, in a previous incarnation as Queen
Elizabeth.  I used to go about as the Earl of Oxford, in which disguise
I wrote the plays in Hebrew and got Francis Bacon to translate them.  I
think Marlowe had a hand in it, too.

Peter Groves,
Department of English,
Monash University

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ralph Alan Cohen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Jan 1999 00:40:20 -0400
Subject: Re: Psalm 46
Comment:        SHK 10.0034  Re: Psalm 46

Consider this about Psalm 46:  the number 46 is made up of two numbers-a
four and a six; four subtracted from six is two. And what number (other
than one) divides into both a four and a six?  Again, two.  Now ask
yourself how many parents Shakespeare had.  Two.  Coincidence?

Ralph Cohen

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Jan 1999 12:05:21 -0800 (PST
Subject: 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0042  Re: Psalm 46

Psalm 46 may be a coincidence, but maybe not.  I see nothing wrong in
putting Shakespeare to work on the King James Bible, and several years
ago I put together a small pamphlet on the subject:
--------------------------------------------------------------------

                      SOME NAMELESS SKILL

Queen Elizabeth died in March, 1603, and in the month of January, 1604,
King James commanded a new revision of the Holy Bible to be written, and
that summer he named 54 clerics and scholars to bring about the work,
the number to be added to as necessary.  After an unexplained delay of
about 3 years, work was begun in earnest in 1607, the translators being
divided into 6 groups based at Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster.  The
translation of the King James Bible was finished in 1610 and put through
the press and published in 1611, acclaimed ever since to be the most
beautiful English prose in all our literature.

We know practically nothing about how these 54 men worked at this
prodigious labor. We might expect that someone would have kept notes of
the many conferences held during those several years, but no notice has
been left to us, nor do we have any correspondence between the groups.
Two or three small and slight anecdotes have been told, second-hand
stories of the smallest importance if we were to understand how this
magnificent work was achieved.  Nor is there a word left to us by the
translators themselves, neither in diary nor in letter, nor yet in attic
or archive has been found a jot of information to tell us how these 54
men set themselves to the task.  One man alone left some fragments of
linguistic quibbles, but that is all.  And not a single translator has
been remembered in epitaph for his part in this singular labor, nor was
there revel, nor reception by the crown, nor barely a murmur when the
work was done.

It's almost spooky, as if ghosts had been employed by King James.  We
know nothing about how these men settled the style and searched out the
poetry they left us, the grace of the Gospels, the Song of SoloMonday,
the Psalms, and the soul of the Prophets.  From the beginning of their
labor to the end, it seems that a shroud of silence was thrown over all.

"Direct evidence on the subject there is none," so wrote F.H.A.
Scrivener in THE AUTHORIZED EDITION OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE, 1910.  "For
never was a great enterprise like the production of our Authorized
Version carried out with less knowledge handed down to posterity of the
labourers, their method and order of working."

It is strange also that King James paid not a pound of gold to support
these men through the years of their great study and travail, nor did he
repay them by mention when this gigantic effort was laid to the press,
nor did he pay the printers the cost of the printing.  But at last was
published the result of this invisible effort, a book that ranks in the
top ten you take to a desert island, there on a bamboo bookshelf to rest
beside the poetry and plays of Shakespeare.  And it is a wonder-some say
it is a miracle-that a 54 man committee, as it were, could construct
such a beautiful and lofty tower to God, and not fall a-babbling and
a-scattering of words amongst themselves.  Here are some learned
opinions about
the matter.

                                        ********

The English Bible-a book which if everything else in our language should
perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and
power

                              T.B. Macaulay, --On John Dryden, 1828

The plays of Shakespeare and the English Bible are, and ever will be,
the twin monuments not merely of their own period, but of the perfection
of English, the complete expression of the literary capacities of the
language....

                   George Saintsbury, --History of Elizabethan
                   Literature, 1887

...It is probably the most beautiful piece of writing in all the
literature of the world.  Its English is extraordinarily simple, pure,
eloquent, and lovely.  It is a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry,
at once the most stirring and the most touching ever heard of.

                         H.L. Mencken, quoted in Paine (below)

The Authorized Version is a miracle and a landmark.  Its felicities are
manifold, its music has entered into the very blood and marrow of
English thought and speech...

                         Robinson, H. Wheeler, -- The Bible in its
                         Ancient and English Versions, 1940

For the Biblical style is characterized not merely by homely vigour and
pithiness of phrase, but also by a singular nobility of diction and by a
rhythmic quality which is, I think, unrivalled in its beauty.

          Lowes, John Livingston, --Essays in Appreciation,
          1936

...and it is curious that such an unmatched result should have been the
result of labours thus combined, and not, as far as is known, controlled
by any one guiding spirit.  ...no known translator under James has left
anything which at all equals in strictly literary merit the Authorized
Version.

                                                    Saintsbury, George,
op.cit.

How did this come to be?  How explain that sixty or more men, none a
genius, none even as great a writer as Marlowe or Ben Jonson, together
produced writing to be compared with (and confused with) the words of
Shakespeare?

                       Paine, Gustavus S., --The Learned Men, 1959

...that a committee of forty-seven should have captured a rhythm so
personal, so constant, that our Bible has the voice of one author
speaking through its many mouths; that is a wonder before which I can
only stand humble and aghast.

          Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, quoted in Opfell (below).

It is a miracle and a mystery, since group writing seldom achieves great
heights.  Individual writings of the committeemen show no trace of the
magnificent style...

                                   Opfell, Olga S.  --The King James
Bible
                                   Translators, 1982

In their general effect, the six sections of the 1611 Bible show a
remarkable uniformity of style, considering that in the English
backgrounds of each there were differences not only between the
sections, but also within each section.

                 Butterworth, Charles C.  --The Literary Lineage of
                 the King James Bible, 1971

To know that the Bible words were beyond the choosing of the best of
them, we have only to look at their individual writing.

Because he was the final critic who looked for flaws and smoothed out
the whole translation, there is perhaps more of Dr. Miles Smith in the
King James version than of any other man.  Some critics said that his
own style was heavy, involved, rough.

Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, with Miles Smith, at the end
revised all that the rest had done.  We may well ask how his style
fitted him to burnish the whole final draft, but if we use this
criterion we may ask in vain.  Bishop Bilson was for the most part a
dull writer.

                                                        Paine, Gustavus
S., op.cit.

The Authorized Version, setting a seal on all, set a seal on our
national style, thinking and speaking.  It has cadences homely and
sublime, yet so harmonises them that the voice is always one.

        Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, --On the Art of Writing,1914.

Perhaps the greatest of literary mysteries lies in the unanswered
question of how fifty-four translators managed to infuse their work with
a unity of effect which seems the result of one inspired imagination.
The mystery will never be solved.

                    Chase, Mary Ellen, --The Bible and the Common
                    Reader, 1960

...all is clear, correct, lucid, happy, awaking continual admiration by
the rhythmic beauty of the periods, the instinctive art with which the
style rises and falls with the subject, the skilful surmounting of the
difficulties the most real, the diligence with which almost all which
was happiest in prededing translations has been retained and embodied in
the present; the constant solemnity and seriousness which, by some
nameless skill, is made to rest on all.

                      Trench, Richard Chenevix, --On the Authorized
                      Version of the New Testament, 1858
 

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