« PreviousContinue »
weaned child shall put his hand on ciety of New England as far suthe cockatrice's den.
perior to the society of the South, “ They shall not hurt nor destroy or of Old England. But when any in all my holy mountain, for the man or any set of men, attempts earth shall be full of the knowledge thoroughly to reform the world by of the Lord, as the waters cover human means and instrumentalities, the sea.”
without bringing the Christian reliIn spite of all the efforts of men, gion to their aid-leaving it entirely it still remains true that the Gospel out of mind as the Fourierites have of Jesus Christ is the sovereign rem. virtually done, they may be sure that edy for sin. Nor in saying this it will at last be said of them, would we be thought to undervalue " They have healed the hurt of the other agencies for the reformation daughter of my people slightly, sayof the world. We are well aware ing, peace, peace, when there is no that one social organization is better peace.” than another. We regard the so
To the eye of a critical inquirer, sions to which the Psalms belong. every particular department of lite. Metrical versions, moreover, labor rature presents materials to be ex under the disadvantage of inferior plored, and facts and principles to literary or poetical interest ; bebe ascertained, beyond his expecta. cause, instead of being original tions. The general reader will find compositions, they only give a new this to be especially true of the sub- and somewhat constrained form to ject to which the work we have matter which is at once familiar and named is devoted. The author has most impressive to us in the received confined himself not only to one prose translation. And while they kind of poetry, the sacred lyric, lack the interest of original poems, among the many that are included they are at the same time attended in the voluminous collections of with peculiar difficulties in the exe• British Poets,' but to one class of cution, according to the testimony such compositions—to metrical ver of all critics, and especially of au. sions of the Psalms. Ordinary thors who have tried their own skill readers are the less acquainted with upon them; so that in the result this subject, partly on account of they are generally too imperfect, their heedless familiarity with the considered as poems alone, to allure particular version to which they the ear or the taste of a common have been most accustomed, and reader. The book before us, how. partly from the repulsiveness that ever, will awaken a livelier interest many feel in the solemnity of the in its subject, whereever it is known. topics and the gravity of the occa. We are not acquainted with any other
work of the kind that is at once so * The Psalmists of Britain. Records,
extensive and so minute. The biographical and literary, of upwards of whole title, which we have given, one hundred and fifty authors, who have fairly describes the author's design. rendered the whole or parts of the Book In executing it he has shown the en. of Psalms into English verse.
With specimens of the different versions, and a
thusiasm which alone could have general introduction. By John Holland. moved him to such an undertaking, Two Vols. London, 1843.
and evidently used much patient dil.
igence. He must have disturbed at once graver and greater than venerable dust, thrusting his hand these, agree better with the themes, into many an unfrequented nook, and better deserve the name here poring over relics not before recog. allowed them of psalmists. One nized as sainted, and gathering up out of several paraphrases by Lord the fragments of psalmody as scru. Bacon is here given, and though ill pulously as a Mussulman is said to suited for a choir, it is not unworthy save every scrap of the Koran. of his powers. We extract two His criticisms are generally candid stanzas, on the first four verses of and discriminating, though the style the 90th Psalm. is not always as easy and simple as
O Lord, thou art our home, to whom we fly, it might be ; and he shows a liberal. And so hast always been from age to age : ity in his religious sympathies, such Before the hills did intercept the eye,
Or that the frame was up of earthly stage, as we might expect from a friend One God thou wert, and art, and still shalt be ; of Montgomery, and such as in this The line of time it doth not measure Thee. quarter of the world we know how
• Both death and life obey thy holy lore, to appreciate.
And visit in their turns as they are sent ; It will be observed that in this A thousand years with Thee they are no more
Than yesterday, which ere it is, is spent : compilation, a version is furnished or as a watch by night, that course doth keep, for each of the one hundred and And goes and comes unwares to them that
sleep.' fifty Psalms. The exact number of writers thus commemorated, is of
Milton too versified several Psalms course,' as the author says, 'an ar
which are often printed with his bitrary affair,' suggested by the other poems. One of them, the number of the Psalms themselves. 136th, though from obvious neces. Some of the versifiers, for example, sity altered for present use, is in Burns and Byron, have not made many recent collections, beginning, so many attempts in this way, nor • Let us with a gladsome mind.' with any such marked success, as
The roll of psalınists has encroachto deserve their place on his list, ed also on the ‘Catalogue of Noble but are introduced rather for the Authors. Loyal theologians and splendor of their reputation, and poets have ever taken care to refor the oddity of their appearance peat the kingly title of the great in such company. It is not less Hebrew psalmist, and in some in. surprising to find that Richard Cum. stances royal personages have them. berland, one of the most prolific selves been provoked by his fame writers of plays since the time of to emulate his genius as well as his Shakespeare, published versions of prerogative. A version
of one several Psalms, having rendered Psalm is ascribed to Queen Elizafifty into English metre ;' but then beth, besides .lwo little anthems, or he testifies of himself that he had things in metre ;' and James I. not
written at different times as many only versified some of the Psalms sermons as would make a large vol. in the collection that bore his name, ume, some of which have been de. but it would seem had a mind to livered from the pulpits.'*
Names claim more credit of this sort than
was clearly his due, though neither
his poetry nor his prerogative was Probably these sermons were adver- able to supplant the old version. tised in Latín, as so many have been, for The same list is graced with female established clergymen who were learned enough to read a dead language without names illustrious for rank or accomactivity enough to write their own. In. plishments or piety, and some of stead of borrowing their delivery from them for all these distinctions, as in play-actors, as they have been advised, the case of Sir Phillip Sidney's sisthey resorted to play-writers for their ser
ter, the Countess of Pembroke.. 10
Another class of authors the stu- conjecturally dated as early as the dent of English literature loves to reign of Henry the Second, or Rich. recognize here, in Sidney himself, ard the First;' another bears date Surrey, Phineas Fletcher, Herbert, early in the fifteenth century; but Sir John Denham, and several of nearly all are from the reign of the older Scotch poets, among whom Henry the Eighth onward, and they is William Alexander the Earl of seem to have multiplied more in the Stirling, to whom James's version is last forty years than in any other said to have been largely indebted ; period of ihe same length. Four with James Montgomery, also, of entire versions are the work of our own day. Devout readers will American writers; or five, if Prince's welcome too, in the same connec.
revision be reckoned a new one, as tion, the names of Bishop Hall, the labor he bestowed on it might Richard Baxter, Cotton Mather, and fairly claim. Mr. Holland does not Dwight. Most of these persons appear to have seen the old New have done much and done well, all England version, the · Bay Psalm things considered, in this depart- Book,' prepared by Richard Mather, ment of literary effort, showing their Weld and Elliot, and printed in 1640 own love and reverence for the at our Cambridge,' and soon after word of God, and cherishing the improved chiefly by President Dunsame dispositions in the readers of ster of Harvard College ; though their own time, though without ob- he gives some account of it from taining by this means, any consid. Prince. It was the first book print. erable place in the devotions of ed in this country, and we are here Christian assemblies, nor in popular informed of a singular coincidence esteem.
with the facts that the earliest speci. Most of the writers commemo. men of European typography extant, rated in this work have versified with a date, is also a Psalter, and only certain Psalms selected for some moreover that the printer of the first reason from the whole number; complete metrical version of the sometimes preferring those of one Psalms in England, as in New class or kind, as the penitential England, was a Mr. Day. Prince's Psalms,'* or the Psalms of de- laborious revision of that version, grees ;' and sometimes apparently finished in 1756, is here particumaking an experiment on a few, larly described and commended, and without encouragement enough to the specimen given as well as the attempt the rest.
Yet we are sur. use that was made of the book, jus. prised to find about seventy ver. tifies the compiler's judgment. Cotsions of the whole book here enu. ton Mather's Psalterium America. merated. Two or three of these num,' published in 1718, was all in have been wisely kept in manuscript, blank verse,' but fitted unto the and no doubt others in the same tunes commonly used in our churchcondition have been happily over
es ;' and notwithstanding his quaint looked by the compiler, if not de disparagement of a similis desi. stroyed by their authors. One is neutia, or a likeness of sound in the
* The earliest English metrical Psalms, bly executed. The author is British too in by any known author, which the com the same sense as some that are included piler has found, are the seven peniten in this compilation-writing the common tial Psalms,' ascribed to Brampton, A.D., British language. We could have in. 1414.
formed him of another-an original ver. + We could have informed the English sion, if we remember rightly, of part of compiler of at least one version of the en every Psalm—10 be found in an Ameri. tire 'Psalter, in the ordinary metres of can collection of Psalms and Hymns, church music, still in manuscript, the work which would bave riveted his eye if be of an American clergyman, and respecta- had seen it.
Jast syllables of the verse,' his work igently compared and revised. In
for very obvious reasons, if we only In order that the labor employed judge from the specimens he has and the success achieved in this de- given ; such as uncouth phraseology, partment may be fairly estimated, and unsuitable or defective struc. it should be borne in mind that three ture. While better could be had, they of the four American versions, and were not needed for the purposes of many if not most of all the versions Christian worship ; and for other enumerated in the work before us, purposes, every reader, whether are not merely metrical renderings learned or unlearned, must prefer of our received prose translation of our noble prose translation, especial. the Psalms, nor of that which is re- ly when arranged, as it is now in tained in the service of the English many of our Bibles, in parallelisms. established church ; but fresh trans. Besides those versions that must lations out of the original tongue, be considered in every sense unsuc. and with the former translations dile cessful, and of little value now ex.
cept to antiquarians or curious col. I wast and spill, lectors, there are others of undenia.
While still I longing grieve,
Grieve, longing for thy judgments still.' ble merit and high repute, which yet have never been employed, so
Another version, first published far as we can learn, in the worship in 1836, as the joint production of of Christian assemblies. Some of C. F. & E. C., which are interpre. these indeed are partly in metres un.
ted to mean Catharine Foster and fit for popular social use. We have Elizabeth Colling, is of more than already alluded to Sir Philip Sidney, respectable poetical merit, but not and his sister Mary, Countess of fitted in most of its metres, nor inPembroke, as among the British deed originally intended, for public Psalmists. It is not generally known worship.* that they composed one entire ver
It is obvious that a miscellaneous sion of the Psalms, and it is indeed assembly can not sing matter trans
somewhat remarkable,' as the com. lated, according to the title of the piler says, or rather unaccountable, Sidney version, into divers and that no (printed) edition of the sundry kinds of verse, more rare whole made its appearance till and excellent for the method and 1823,' though the brother died in varietie than ever yet hath been 1586. Their illustrious names give done in English.' Yet of late a fragrance of nobleness and worth years some metres have been adto every thing connected with them. vantageously used in psalmody, As some one has said, “ There is in which were not once thought practruth something inexpressibly pleas. ticable ; as the iambic 7s. and 6s. in ing and interesting in picturing to Heber's missionary hymn, and also ourselves this accomplished brother in some of Montgomery's versions, and sister, the beautiful, the brave, particularly that of the 72d Psalm, bethus conjointly employed in the ser. ginning · Hail to the Lord's Anoint. vice of their God, thus emulously ed ;' and the trochaic 7s. not used endeavoring to do justice to the im. formerly, but now very common. perishable strains of divine inspira. And so far as versions are intended, tion. The work abounds, as its title as those of the Sidneys and several promises, in the greatest variety of others were, to be read rather than metres. More than two thirds of sung, it is certain that the Psalms the whole are ascribed to the sister; require, for their utmost effect in a and the specimen given in her name, poetical form, as great a variety of which is the 119th Psalm, coutains measure and stanza as is found sucstanzas of as many different kinds cessful in other English poems. as it has alphabetical portions. With Some Psalms might warrant the much sweetness and delicacy of use of English pentameters or the style, there is just enough of quaint. heroic couplet; the Spenserian ness in the composition to make it stanza might occasionally be the pleasant reading for the curious. most appropriate strain, and there For an example, taken at random, are passages in which that of Campverses 17-20, of the 119th Psalm bell's · Battle of the Baltic,' would are thus rendered :
best carry the Psalmist's vehement
or exulting sentiment. The various "Conferre, O Lord !
forms of blank verse allow still This benefitt on me, That I may live and keep thy word. Open mine eyes,
* In connection with these females, it They may the riches see,
may be mentioned that the work before Which in thy word enfolded lies. us singles out Miss Margaret Patullo,
whose work appeared in Edinburgh in • A pilgrim right
1828, as having been the only individual On earthe I wandring live,
of her sex who single handed, has versiO barre me not thy statute's light. fied the whole book of Psalms.