Great Expectations

Miles Coverdale, Bob Dylan, and The Foot of Pride

Dylan has a song, released on the first of the outtakes collections falsely called "bootlegs" (it's not a bootleg if it's released by the record company), called "Foot of Pride." It was recorded for the Infidels album but not used, thereby making the album weaker than it might have been. To me Infidels is one of Dylan's many very-mixed-bag albums, half great and half so-so. At least that's the way I recall it--I haven't listened to it for many years. "Foot of Pride" might even have been my choice for best track on the album, had it been there. Or possibly second-best, if another outtake, maybe the most celebrated and lamented of them all, had been kept: "Blind Willie McTell." Here's "Foot of Pride":

Lyrics here.

It's a weird phrase, and I wondered exactly what it meant. The general idea seems clear enough: when the consequences of your actions come to pass. Reading the Coverdale translation of Psalm 36 a while back I was startled by this: "O let not the foot of pride come against me."

Had Dylan read the Coverdale Psalms (the translation done by Miles Coverdale in the early days of English Protestantism)? Surely not, as they are, or for several centuries were, the official liturgical translation for the Church of England and other Anglican bodies, and not much known outside those. But also not impossible, I thought. The mystery was cleared a little when I compared Coverdale to King James: the latter also has "foot of pride," and it would be considerably less surprising that Dylan had encountered it there. Either way, I have to consider it far more likely than not that he got it from the Bible; it's just too odd. And not from a more modern translation, most of which seem to go for the less obscure "foot of the proud."

You'll notice that the fairly clear meaning of either translation seems to be the opposite of what I took Dylan to be saying. He seems to be suggesting that the foot in question is a sort of nemesis of the proud, not a menace to the righteous. Oh well--I've always considered the business of trying to read Dylan as if he were Ezra Pound to be a waste of time.

The Coverdale Psalms, as I've mentioned before, have definitely become my favorite version, overall. I add that last qualifier because the King James version of the 23rd can never be replaced in my mind, if only because "still waters" touches me more than "waters of comfort."

Back to Dylan: "Say one more stupid thing to me before the final nail is driven in" sort of expresses the way I feel when reading the froth of journalism and entertainment on the internet. I wish I could break myself of the habit of reading so much of it.  


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I’ve haven’t posted here in a long time, but today I will.

The KJV used the Coverdale Psalms as a template. Coverdale couldn’t read Hebrew, and refused to use the Greek text, so he simply translated Luther’s German translation of the Masoretic Hebrew text of the psalms. So, the Anglicans asked the Lutherans who asked the 16th century Jews what the psalms said…all because it was too “Popish” to use the translation that Jesus used: the Greek Septuagint.

Hey, his Episcopal feast day is coming up: October 6. I should light a candle for his sorry schismatic soul. :-)

Coverdale started out as an Augustinian friar and by the time he died in 1565 was on the outs with the Anglican establishment because he was tending Puritan. I guess that didn't discourage the KJV translators from using his stuff, though. According to Wikipedia, "it appears that he has no living descendants." So we don't have to entertain the dreary possibility that David Coverdale is his descendant.


Hey now! You leave the golden mained Mr Coverdale alone!

That would be fair, as he has always left me alone--I'm not aware of ever having heard a note of his music. In light of that, it would also be fair to ask me how I know I don't like it. The answer is "I just know."

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