« AnteriorContinuar »
This version has, therefore, Mr. Editor, many claims on our notice. It has long been an object of affectionate regard, and even veneration, to myself. I have consequently taken an interest in tracing the history of its origin and progress, and final adoption by the parent church in Scotland. And trusting that many of your readers feel towards this version as I do, I have been in. duced to lay before them, tbrough the medium of your excel. lent little work, the result of my inquiries and researches.
The subject will be best introduced by the following paragraph from “M•Crie's Life of Knox,”
“In every Protestant country, a metrical version of the Psalms, in the vernacular language, appeared at a very early period. The French version, begun by Clement Marot, and completed by Beza, contributed much to the spread of the Reformation in France. The Psalms were sung by Francis I. and Henry II. and by their courtiers; the Catholics Hocked for a time to the assemblies of the Protestants to listen to their Psalmody. It has been said that there was a Scot's version of the Psalms at a very early period. It is more certain, that before the year'1546, a number of the Psalms were translated in metre, for George Wishart sung one of them in the house of Ormiston, on the night in which he was apprehended. They were commonly sung in the assemblies of the Protes. tants, in the year 1556. John and Rubert Wedderburn, sons of a merchant in Dundee, appear to have been the principal translators of them. The version was not completed; and at the establishmept of the Reformation, it was supplanted in the churches by the version begun by Sternhold and Hopkins, and finished by the English Exiles at Geneva."
That version was therefore the first that was used by the Church of Scotland after the Reformation. It was publicly authorized both by the General Assembly and by the Parliament. Its reputed authors were natives of England. Thomas Sternhold was born in Hampshire before the year 1500. He was educated at Oxford, held a situation at court under Henry VIII. and Edward VI. and died at London in the year 1549. To supersede the worthless songs in use among the courtiers, he rendered into metre fifty-one of the Psalms, which he also set to music, each psalm to a separate tune. Of John Hopkins, who was united with him in this useful work, and who was one of the minor poets of that age, little is known. He versified fifty-eight psalms; and the remaining fortyone psalms were, as intimated by Dr. M'Crie, paraphrased by the English Protestants who had fled to Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary. This version being printed in England, and usually bound up with the English Liturgy, against which the Scottish Reformers had many serious
objections, they resolved to have it printed in Edinburgh, for the use of their own church. This object, after many difficulties, they at length accomplished in the year 1564. In the end of that year, the General Assembly ordered, that every Minister, exhorter, and reader, should
procure a copy of the new edition. And what is still more indicative of the spirit of those days, the Parliament, in 1569, enacted, “ That all gentlemen, householders, and others, worth 300 merks of yearly rent or above, and all substantial burgesses, who were likewise householders, and worth 500 pounds in land or goods, should be held bound to have a Bible and Psalm Book, in the vernacular language, in their houses, for the better instruction of themselves and their families in the knowledge of God: each person under the penalty of ten pounds (Scots.)” The great variety in the metres of this version, rendered a proportionable variety of tunes, and considerable skill in vocal music, necessary, in order to use it properly in public worship. Accordingly, the same parliament also turned its attention to the instruction of the youth in musie and psalmody. After observing that the art of singing was in danger of falling into decay, unless some seasonable remedy were provided, they required that all the principal towns, and all the patrons and provosts of colleges, should erect a singing school, with an adequate master, within their respective jurisdictions, under the penalty of forfeiting their privileges. In consequence of this enaetment, “sundry musicians of the best skill in music, set down proper and common tunes to the whole psalms, according to their various forms of metre;” and the people were diligent in learning these tunes, amounting probably to nigh fifty, and delighted in singing them not only in the church, but on various other occasions.
What a contrast, Mr. Editor, does the present state of psalmody, in many of our congregations, present to this state of things in the earliest and rudest stage of our church's reformation! Behold our venerable ancestors using above a dozen various metres, and singing above fifty various tunes in their religious assemblies, and still diligently aiming at a further improvement: and behold, in this enlightened age, most of our congregations content to use one or two, or at the utmost three varieties of metre—the short, long, and common--and the whole extent of their psalmody limited to six, eight, or perhaps a dozen tunes ! And what is more deplorable still, behold many of them obstinately resişting, as an intolerable in. novation, the introduction of any additional metres, though already existing in the authorized version, or any addi. tional tunes, though the same were used by their reforming forefathers. But I leave this topic to your valuable correspondent, “ The Reformer.” I trust he may take it up, and with a well-regulated prudence, labour, in this important respect, to carry forward the reformation of our church.
Sternbold and Hopkin's version is still in authorized ụse in the United Church of England and Ireland. It is scarcely ever seen in the parish churches in this country; but I believe it is still in frequent use under the name of " the old version,” in the coñntry churches in England. Dr. Beattie, in the "Letter" already quoted, thus speaks of its character:—“Its rudeness has become even proverbial. The verse is very incorrect, the sense not always clear, and the expression sometimes exceedingly vulgar. And yet, even in this version, there are few stanzas, particularly in the 18th and 103d psalms, which ro true poet would undertake to improve." To this just opinion of a deceased poet, I may subjoin that of a living one. Mr. Montgomery of Sheffield, in his preface to the “Christian Psalmist,” thus writes :-" The merit of faithful adherence to the original has been claimed for this version, and need not to be denied; but it is the resemblance which the dead bear to the living; and to hold such a version forth (which some learned men have lately done) as a model of standard psalmody for the use of Chrislian congregations in the nineteenth century, surely betrays an affectation of singularity or a deplorable defect of taste.”
As a specimen of its harmony, take the following passage from the 18th psalm :
“9 The Lord descended from above,
And bow'd the heavens high:
The darkness of the sky.
Full royally he rode;
Came fying all abroad.” Of the in.correctness of the rhyme, and the vulgarity of the expression alluded to by Beattie, take the following specimens:
78th Psalm, v. 46, “Nor how he did conimit their fruits
Unto the caterpillar;
He gave to the grasshopper.
And hide it in thy lap?
To give thy foes a rap.” The copy of this version, in my possession, was printed in 1633. ^ It has above fifty psalm.tunes interspersed; none of which, so far as I can find, are now used, with the exception of that solemn and beautiful air, the 100th psalm, long metre. The version of this psalm is very nearly the same with that in use at present. The 232 psalm, which is so literally, yet beautifully rendered in our version, stands thus in that of Sternhold :
“ The Lord is only my support,
And he that doth me feed;
Whereof I stand in need ?
The tender grass fast by:
Which run most pleasantly.
Then doth he me home take;
Ev'n for his own name's sake.
Yet would I fear none ill:
I am comforted still.
In despight of my foe;
My cup doth overflow.
Thy grace shall me defend;
My life for ever speña.” These verses may serve as a tolerably fair spécimen of this version, which may now be considered as almost obsolete. In your next Number, I shall pursue my inquiries into the variations through which the Psalmody of the Scottish Church passed, previous to the adoption of our present version. In the meantime,
7 I am, &c.
BEFORM IN THE EDUCATION OF YOUTH..
It is a general opinion, that education is making rapid progress.
More and better school.houses have been erected,-more and better school books have been pubir lished, -and more of the public money and public attention have been devoted to the subject than in former years. Cordially and thankfully do I coincide with this general opinion. But yet I am well convinced there is ample room for the hand of a Reformer. Let me begin at the foundation, and respectfully, yet earnestly, request the attention of school masters and parents to the system of teaching the alphabet and spelling. I have known a child some years, I dare not say how many, employed in learn. ing the alphabet, and mastering words of one syllable. I have since seen Mr. Gall, of Edinburgh, come into a school, take a little child, and teach him to spell, and even read, words of one syllable, in the space of half an hour; and I have since heard of so many instances of the same success, that I think the public mind cannot be directed to a department of education more likely to repay attention. Let me next entreat the attention of the Ministers of religion, and of all benevolent persons, to the multitudes of children who, in every neighbourhood, remain still uneducated. If you live in a town, take a street where the poor live, and examine it from house to house; if you live in the country, you must examine the poor of some considerable district; and in both I am, from experience, certain, you will find abundant room for increased exertions. Let none of us say with Cain, “Am I my brother's keeper?” This infidel and selfish question will form no excuse. If we are not the guardians of others, we are the keepers of our own talents; and if we profusely waste, or idly hoard the talent, how shall we l'ender an account of our stewardship to Him who requires us to be faithful!
The next point to which I would advert, is the frequent, and I fear almost general neglectrof prayer in the opening of daily schools. The morning prayer of the master has always appeared to me one of the loveliest features in the school system of Scotland.] Various reasons will, I know, be assigned for the neglect of prayer in Ireland. And