The Book of Praises
Conversations on the Psalms with Malcolm Guite
'Here is a real treasure. Roger Wagner offers us not one translation but two. His gift as an artist for translating words into images is as important as his gift as a poet with the words themselves. The original setting of the psalms was the worship in the Temple, but for Jews in the diaspora and for every generation of Christians, the Psalter has itself become a kind of temple of the heart, inviting us through its poetry into a sacred space for worship. The Book of Praises gives that temple of the heart both new songs and new icons'.
This book is excellent beyond all expectation. It recalls the work of the finest printers in this century, and it
could not have achieved such a perfect coherence of design if it were not the work of an individual artist of
great distinction. The small wood engravings are as lyrical as Blake's for Virgil, and the printing in black for
English and in red for Hebrew is perfectly balanced. I had long known that Roger Wagner was an interesting
poet as well as a striking and brilliant painter, but I had not dreamed of such a coming together of his talents
as this. The pamphlet he has first produced makes one purr with pleasure.
It contains the first forty one psalms, its pages vary in mood and design. Sometimes the Hebrew and English
swarm across their page in an interlineal embrace, but mostly they trickle down their columns as chastely as
waterfalls. On two pages the engraving fills the double spread and the text is islanded, that occurs in the
course of Psalm Eighteen. Usually the images are small vignettes in an English tradition that still recalls
Palmer. I noticed an angel related to one of Roger Wagner's oil paintings: no doubt other analogies will be
found. This is a book of an extraordinary and coherent beauty. Peter Levi
In the Book of Praises (Book One) that appeared some years ago, Roger Wagner gave us much more than
a new translation of the Psalms. In the first forty one psalms English and Hebrew texts are meshed
together, beautifully laid out on the page and accompanied by strange and very lovely wood-engravings.
We are now promised Book Two which follows the same format, but now the Hebrew text comes and goes,
and in the midst of the black and white engravings are small colour paintings. The psalms are both prayers
and songs, and in this Book of Praises the praise often takes off into song, as it does in earlier translation,
Coverdale and the Authorised Version. But the language here is direct, without archaisms, but still keeps
the penumbra of allusiveness and tradition. It is spare but uncluttered, and it speaks of marvellous things.
It is praise and prayer and song. The engravings and paintings open windows out of the text into lateral
worlds. Familiar words as in Psalm forty seven, are bright with new meaning without losing the old lustre.
This is a faithful rendering of old praises, but it is also, words and vision, a superb new creation.
There is something medieval, in a complimentary sense, about this project. Its detail, its completeness, its scholarship..are extraordinary. The reader may use it as a work of devotion: if he does so he will be inspired in part, by the far greater devotion of the author. Charles Moore The Daily Telegraph 2/23/10
We all have our favourites among translations of the Psalms. Wagner is a recognised poet of lapidary quality, and the very act of translation brings with it a fresh understanding of the universal application of these profound hymnsâ¦They cannot be translated or depicted too often if an artist and linguist of Roger Wagnerâ™s capacities is around to do it. That will never be often. Pamela Tudor CraigThe Church Times 23/6/10
A conversation with Malcolm Guite on Psalm One https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKgz5RzELH4
A conversation with Malcolm Guite on Psalms 3 and 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frtUMFbesdQ