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printed, though but very partially circulated, in 1567.
There are, undoubtedly, several passages of great beauty and sublimity in these previous translations, but, as a whole, they must be ranked, in vigour, dignity, and poetic spirit, as greatly inferior to the version of the Sidneys. I know not, indeed, that any subsequent entire metrical translation of the Psalms, from that of the royal James, in 1631, to the labours of bishop Mant, in 1824-not even that of Merrick-can be put in competition with the version of which I am about to offer a few specimens.
In making these extracts, however, I shall confine myself to that portion of the volume which has been attributed to the countess of Pembroke, as I cannot but think that she has, on this occasion, struck the lyre with a fuller and deeper inspiration than her brother.
From the forty-fourth psalm, the first she attempted in continuation of sir Philip's labours, a few stanzas will immediately place before us the extraordinary facility, harmony, and beauty of her versification; whilst a reference to the Bible translation, in general a faithful copy of the Hebrew
text, will sufficiently show, to readers of every description, how strictly she has adhered to the literal sense of the original.
Lorde, our fathers' true relation,
Often made, hath made us knowe
This to spring, noe verdure wanting.
Never could their sword procure them
Never could their force assure them
Right as sheepe to be devowred,
Helplesse heere we lie alone:
Scattringlie by thee outpowred,
Slaves to dwell with lords unknown.
By them all that dwell about us
All our neighbours laugh and flout us,
Oh, how fast in foraine places!
What head-shakings are forborne !
Soe rebuke before me goeth,
As my self doe daily goe:
Wrathful spight with out ward blow
All, this all on us hath lighted,
Were it not that the ancient mode of orthography had been adhered to, the above stanzas might, as to their metrical formation, be taken for modern productions, so correct and flowing is their structure, and so musical their cadence. There may be found, indeed, in this version almost every species of metre of which the language is susceptible; and as a
* Sidney Psalms, pp. 77, 78, 79.
striking contrast to the rapid movement of the passages just given, I shall quote the opening of the immediately succeeding psalm, the forty-fifth, which is rendered into lines of ten syllables in alternate rhyme.
My harte endites an argument of worth,
The praise of him that doth the scepter swaye:
Because high God hath blessed thee for ay,
Thie honor's sword gird to thy mightie side,
O thou that dost all things in might excell!
Since justice, truth, and meekness with thee dwell.
And terror, such as never erst befell
To mortall mindes at sight of mortall king*.
Of this translation, the second stanza cannot fail to be admired, as well for the force, and weight, and dignity of its language, as for the vigour of its versification. They are such, indeed, as may be
* Sidney Psalms, p. 80.
said to have done justice to the splendid and powerful imagery of the original.
In the same, or a somewhat similarly constituted stanza of eight lines, has the countess clothed several of her psalms; and not unfrequently has she exhibited in these pentameters some of the very cadences and constructions which we so much admire in the lines of Dryden and of Pope. As instances of this anticipation, I shall bring forward two passages from the opening of the seventy-eighth psalm, where the inspired bard commences an historical retrospect of the Almighty's dealings with his people in the land of Egypt, distinguishing the lines on which I would fix attention by Italics.
A grave discourse to utter I entend;
The age of tyme I purpose to renew.
That while the yong shall over-live the old,
By fretting time may never thence be worn,