Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Elisha's Vision

For my sonnet I did a rendition of 2 Kings 6:13-17, which reads:

13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

The sonnet:

The king, who had no sight for truth
And feared Elisha's piercing eyes and tongue
Sent shadowed armies, full of blood and youth,
And strength and limb afforded to the young.
Then early rose the servant, walked about
Who saw the force of night along the hills
So fear waylaid his heart, his Lord sought out
We flight must take, our blood will swiftly spill!
So prophet's voice with certain mind did pray
That those with lesser heart may share his sight.
In swift response, the servant's scales gave way
And saw bless'd peaks bathed in angelic light;
Noble host with gold steed and flaming sword
Whose swift descent but hinged on holy word.

I took several creative liberties with the translation, trying to create a double meaning in which Elisha is symbolic not only of the Lord's representative, but also of an enlightened poetic voice in an increasingly illiterate world. It really made me think how much accuracy can conflict with artistic license and ponder to what extent that bothered Milton.


  1. Awesome sonnet! It is a beautiful representation of the passage. I think accuracy isn't really as big of a question as we make it out to be sometimes. In taking creative liberties with your translation you still sought to tell the heart of the story. And whose to say the scripture itself captures the event perfectly? Translation is an interesting topic when it comes to scripture, especially from an LDS perspective. It is interesting to think about how much Milton thought about the liberties he was taking, especially with a work as grand as Paradise Lost. The record of Adam and Eve and the fall is pretty short. He didn't even get the POGP for a second reference!

  2. I completely agree with the fact that "accuracy" in terms of authorial intent can conflict with artistic license. But one beautiful thing about art is that when it changes hands, it changes eyes. Even in the Church, there are different departments for "normal" translation and "scriptural" translation. I think our Church may be unique in the fact that it asks for God's opinion in that way. Recently, I ran across an internet effort in translating an Ebonics Bible. Anyone was welcome to translate. If we think of the Bible as literature, that can be beautiful; if, however, it's God's definitive word, that work can be a little more daunting. One thing to keep in mind is this question: is it art or are we speaking in behalf of God? To kind of echo Jonathan, I don't think it was Milton's intent to speak in behalf of God, but to be a third party in "justifying the ways of God to man," and in that way, it performs its function, as does your wonderful sonnet.