Lamentations: Reading and recitation

Qinah de-mystified

The 3–2 qinah rhythm is vital to the first four chapters.

If you have ever recited nursery rhymes, or heard kids excitedly calling them out in the playground, then you already know how to do it. Here are some well-known examples and their respective rhythms. This first is in 4–3: in each line-pair the first line has four strong beats ("Ma-", "Ma-", "quite", "-tra-"), and the second has three strong beats ("how", "gar-", "grow"):

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
how does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
and pretty maids all in a row.
rhythm (line-pairs): 4–3, 4–3

This second is in 4–4: in each line-pair, both have four strong beats.

Hush little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's gonna buy you a mocking bird.
And if that mocking bird don't sing,
Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
rhythm (line-pairs): 4–4, 4–4

The rhythm is maintained and the varying number of words simply slot naturally into place. But that said, don't be too rigid about it; give it natural fluidity.

Here are the opening verses from this rendering of Lamentations 3 in its characteristic 3–2 qinah rhythm:

Agonies: I am the man seared
by the rod of his wrath;
Away me he drove, force-marched
in darkness, no light;
Against me, he turns his hand
from day-dawn to dusk;
rhythm (line-pairs): 3–2, 3–2, 3–2

And in the final chapter, where 3–2 qinah is largely replaced by 3–3, although not entirely so, a sense of rhythm is still entirely appropriate.

Recurring theme words and phrases

Be alert to particular words that recur. A few examples: