The 23rd Psalm

The Psalms have been translated and paraphrased many times into Scots, and a few versions even exist in Ulster-Scots:

The Lord bees ma herd for aye, A winnae hae want o ocht

He gars me lay doon in green pasture-laun,

an airts me foment the lown waters.

In fact, an anthology of some 20 versions of Psalm 23 in Scots was compiled and published in 1987 (Psalm twenty-three: an anthology compiled by K H Strange and R G E Sandbach). As far back as 1857, Henry Scott Riddell published The Book of Psalms in Lowland Scotch from the Revised Version, and his version of the 23rd Psalm is as follows:

Ane Psalm o’ David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I sallna inlak.

He mak’s me til lye doun in green an’ baittle gangs; he leeds me aside the quaeet waters

He refreschens my saul; he leeds me in the peths o’ richteous-niss for his name’s sak’.

Yis, thouch I wauk throwe the vallie o’ the skaddaw o’ deaeth, I wull feaer nae ill: for thou art wi’ me; thy cruik an’ thy staffe thaye comfirt me.

Thou prepairist me ane tabel in the preesince o’ mine enimies: thou anaintist my heaed wi’ oolie; my cupp rins ower.

Shurelie guidniss an’ mercie sall follo me a’ the dayes o’ my liffe; an’ I wull dwall in the hous o’ the Lord forevir.

In 1871, P Hately Waddell published The Psalms frae Hebrew intil Scottis, a book which has been reprinted by Aberdeen University Press and is available today.

The LORD is my herd, nae want sal fa’ me:

He louts me till lie amang green-howes; he airts me atowre by the lown watirs:

He waukens my wa’-gaen saul; he weises me roun, for his ain name’s sake, intil right roddins.

Na! tho’ I gang thro’ the dead-mirk-dail; e’en thar, sal I dread nae skaithin: for yersel are nar-by me; yer stok an’ yer stay haud me baith fu’ cherrie.

My buird ye hae hansell’d in face o’ my faes; ye hae drookit my head wi’ oyle; my bicker is fu’ an’ skailin.

E’en sae, sal gude-guidin an’ guid-gree gang wi’ me, ilk day o’ my livin; an’ evir mair syne, i’ the LORD’S ain howff, at lang last, sal I mak bydan.

In 1924, William Wye Smith published another ‘Braid Scots’ version:

The Lord is my Shepherd; my wants are a’ kent; the pastur I lie in is growthie and green.

I follow by the lip o’ the watirs o’ Peace.

He heals and sterklie hauds my saul: and airts me, for his ain name’s sake, in a’ the fit-roads o’ his holiness.

Aye, and though I bude gang throwe the howe whaur the deid-shadows fa’, I’se fear nae skaith nor ill, for that yersel is aye aside me; yere road and yere cruik they defend me.

My table ye hae plenish’t afore the een o’ my faes; my heid ye hae chrystit wi’ oyle; my cup is teemin fu’!

And certes, tenderness and mercie sal be my fa’ to the end o’ my days; and syne I’se bide i’ the hoose o’ the Lord, for evir and evir mair!

Sam Allen from Killinchy has sent in this version of the 23rd Psalm in the Shetland Norn tongue, as broadcast from the Muckle Kirk in Lerwick on ‘Songs of Praise’ in 1985.

Da Loard’s my hird, I sanna want;

He fins me bols athin

Green modoo girse, an ledds me whaar

Da burns sae saftly rin.

He lukks my wilt an wanless sowl,

Stravaigin far fae hame,

Back ta da nairoo, windin gaet,

Fir sake o His ain name.

Toh I sood geng doon Death’s dark gyill,

Nae ill sall come my wye,

Fir He will gaird me wi His staff,

An comfort me forbye.

My table He has coosed wi maet,

Whin fantin god da fremd;

My cup wi hansels lippers ower,

My head wi oil is sained.

Noo shorly aa my livin days

God’s love sall hap me ower,

Until I win ta His ain hoose

Ta bide fir evermore.

In 1903, John Stevenson’s published Pat McCarty, Farmer of Antrim, His Rhymes and his version of the 23rd Psalm was as follows:

My Shepherd is the Lord, His hand

Shall a’ my wants supply;

In mony a green and pleasant land

He mak’s me doon to lie.

Alang the burn, the wimplin’ burn,

That bubbles ow’r the stanes,

He leadeth me roon’ mony a turn;

By richt ways me constrains.

Tho’ in the fearsome vale of woe

I walk and see death near,

Thy rod and staff before me go,

And tak’ awa’ my fear.

A table weel laid oot for me

My ill-wishers see spreed;

My cup is brimmin’ ow’r; by Thee

Anointed is my heid.

Gudeness and mercy a’ my days

Shall surely follow me,

And ow’r my gratefu’ heid always

God’s holy roof shall be.

Bringing us right up to date, our own Ernie Scott rendered the following version of ‘The Good Shepherd’ at a recent meeting of our Society in Ballyclare Town Hall:

Wha is my Shephard wel A ken

The Lord hisel is he

He leads me whaur the girse is green

An’ burnies quaet that be

Aft times A fain astray wud gang

An’ wann’r far awa

He fin’s me oot, He pits me richt

An brings me hame an’ a’

Tho’ I pass through the gruesom sheugh

Fin’ A ken that He is near

His muckle cruk wull me defen’

Sae A hae nocht tae fear

Ilk comfort whilk a sheep cud need

His thochtfu care provides

Tho’ wolves an’ dugs may prowl aboot

In safety me He hides

His guidness an’ his mercy, baith

Nae doot wull bide wi’ me,

While faulded on the fields o’ time

His hame ma dwellin’ be.

We invite our readers to translate or paraphrase any portion of the Guid Buik into Ulster-Scots and submit it to the editors for future issues of Ullans.

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