A Review of “God’s Song: Psalms in Rhyming Meter” by Sandy Betgur
|March 5, 2014||Posted by webmaster under Christian book reviews, G.K. Chesterton, poetry, psalms|
Paid review provided by Christian Book Reviews, a service of Athanatos Christian Ministries. February 26, 2014.
SANDY BETGUR, GOD’S SONG: PSALMS IN RHYMING METER, BLOOMINGTON, IN: WESTBOW PRESS, 2014.
God’s Song is the 40th anniversary edition of the magnificent “psalm poems” of Thomas Seller (1902-1995), arranged and supplemented by Sandy Betgur. In it, the power and light of the Psalms shine through in fresh and insightful ways, inviting readers to reacquaint themselves with the grandeur of God’s character, and to respond to this vision with awe and thoughtfulness. By recasting the Psalms in English meter and rhyme, Seller, an intentional student of Hebrew, has given new voice to ancient and familiar texts.
Seller originally published the full collection in 1974 under the title Psalm Poems, now out of print. However, an excerpt from the original preface provides a rare glimpse into Seller’s thoughts about his work, which was prayerfully written in the hope of edifying its readers. It was his desire that these poems “will be used as an aid to the study of the Psalms, rather than as a substitute therefor.”
Seller’s poems are exegetical—what he called “paraphrase-with-commentary”—drawing out inherent meaning rather than offering new interpretations. His method of composition (described in the introductory “Note on Meter”) involved selecting lines in the Psalms which already had a beautiful lyrical sound, identifying similar patterns within that psalm, then crafting the poem using various metrical devices. He did this to avoid the “monotony” of a simple, recurring rhythm in lengthier poems.
Betgur has revived these compositions for contemporary readers. She has interspersed practical exercises and prompts to prayer or worship at the end of each poem, making this book useful, as well as engaging. As Betgur points out, the poems are best read alongside their scriptural counterparts. The entire volume is designed to facilitate easy incorporation into one’s devotional routine, as each poem is identified by its matching Psalm number and title, in biblical sequence.
As G.K. Chesterton famously asserted, “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.” Therefore, Seller’s choice of rhyme and meter over free verse as the setting for this poetic translation is noteworthy. The poems are composed in such a way that the author’s craftsmanship illumines, but never overshadows, the content of the message.
In short, God’s Song is a wonderful collection, highly recommended for those who find spiritual poetry both inspiring and intellectually satisfying. It is explicitly God-centered, offering a good segue into deeper conversations with anyone who appreciates the Bible as literature. The poems are easy to read, and the rhymes do not feel forced or unnatural—further evidence of the timelessness and memorability of Seller’s work.