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His startled eyes with wonder see
His wakening arms, to her those eyes
Another copartnership in letters, closer than that of Surrey and Wyatt, and suggesting another kind of associations, may be noticed in that part of the sixteenth century which belongs to the reign of Edward VI. I refer to the first version of the Psalms of David in English metre, produced by two writers-whose names have become the symbols of dulness and clumsy versification-Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins. Undoubtedly the grandeur of the Hebrew Psalmody is very inadequately represented in the flat and prosaic diction and the awkward metres of these two good men; but it should be remembered that a worthy translation of the Psalms into English metre has never yet been achieved; and, indeed, the best judges make question of the possibility of such version. If this old version, three hundred
*Mr. Landor's poems are so scattered, and in their modes of publication so fugitive, that they must often be quoted at second-hand. I find these verses marked with my brother's pencil in a little French volume called, "La Petite Chouannerie, ou Histoire d'un Collége Breton sous l'Empire, par A. F. Rio," p. 296. I am tempted to put on these pages the following lines, by Landor, on Charles Lamb, which appeared during the present year in the Examiner newspaper:
"Candid old man! what youth was in thy years!
In every utterance of that purest soul!
Few are the spirits of the glorified
I'd spring to earlier at the gates of heaven!" W. B. R.
years ago, is rude and uncouth, honourable testimony has been borne to its fidelity to the Hebrew original. The version of later times, now most in use, is at once tame and tawdry, (worse faults than rudeness,) taking, too, larger license with the original, and "generally," it is said, "sacrificing altogether the direct, lightning-like force of the inspired sentences.”*
Much of Sternhold and Hopkins's version would certainly now so affect the dainty modern ear, as to give a sense of ridicule most incongruous to the theme; but the reproach that rests on the old version may be lightened a little, when we meet with a stanza like this:
"The Lord descended from above, and bowed the heavens most high, And underneath his feet he cast the darkness of the sky;
On cherub and on cherubim full royally he rode,
However rude this version was, it has a claim to respect as the first that fitted to English lips the music of the royal inspired singer; and as the homely verses were, years after, familiarized in the people's devotions, the imagery of the Hebrew poetry was sinking into the hearts of the men of England, and helping to form that sacred character which is the glory of all the highest inspirations of English poetry.
The progress of English prose, as it was slowly advancing to its best estate, appears, at the period I have been speaking of, in the sermons of him whose intrepid spirit and cheerful constancy sustained him in the hour of
† Psalm xviii. 9, 10. It is to be observed that more modern paraphrasers of the Psalms have generally shrunk from rendering these verses into their slender English. W. B. R.
martyrdom-Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester. was in a sermon preached before Edward VI. that he introduced, in accordance with the quaint pulpit-oratory of the times, the well-known illustration of the Goodwin Sands and Tenterden Steeple, in reply to a very common fallacy; and the passage may be quoted to show the character of the prose, which was then equal, at least, to simple purposes of natural narrative :
"Here was preaching," he says, "against covetousness all the last year in Lent, and the next summer followed rebellion; ergo preaching against' covetousness was the cause of rebellion. A goodly argument!
"Here, now, I remember an argument of Master More's, which he bringeth in a book that he made against Bilney; and here, by the way, I will tell you a merry toy. Master More was once sent in commission into Kent, to help to try out, if it might be, what was the cause of Goodwin Sands and the shelf that stopped up Sandwich Haven. Thither cometh Master More, and calleth the country afore him-such as were thought to be men of experience, and men that could, of likelihood, best certify him the matter concerning the stopping of Sandwich Haven. Among others, came in before him an old man with a white head, and one that was thought to be little less than an hundred years old. When Master More saw this aged man, he thought it expedient to hear him say his mind in the matter; for, being so old a man, it was likely he knew most of any man in that presence and company. So Master More called this old aged man unto him and said, 'Father,' said he, 'tell me, if ye can, what is the cause of this great arising of the sands and shelves here about this haven, the which stop it up that
no ships can arrive here? Ye are the eldest man that I can espy in all this company, so that if any man can tell any cause of it, ye, of likelihood, can say most in it, or, at leastwise, more than any other man here assembled.' 'Yea, forsooth, good master,' quoth this old man, for 1 am well-nigh an hundred years old, and no man here in this company any thing near unto mine age.' 'Well, then,' quoth Master More, 'how say you in this matter? What think ye to be the cause of these shelves and flats that stop up Sandwich Haven?' 'Forsooth,' quoth he, 'I am an old man; I think that Tenterden Steeple is the cause of Goodwin Sands. For I am an old man, sir,' quoth he, and I may remember the building of Tenterden Steeple, and I may remember when there was no steeple at all there. And before that Tenterden Steeple was in building, there was no manner of speaking of any flats or sands that stopped the haven; and, therefore, I think that Tenterden Steeple is the cause of the destroying and the decay of Sandwich Haven.' And even so, to my purpose, is preaching of God's word the cause of rebellion, as Tenterden Steeple was cause Sandwich Haven is decayed."
There is one sentence of English words uttered by this same divine, which has a deeper and more enduring interest, and that was when he and Ridley stood in their dread fellowship of martyrdom at the stake; when the fagot, kindled with fire, was brought and laid at Ridley's feet, Latimer, happy, as the martyr's crown was poised above his brow, on which four-score years had placed their crown of glory, spake in this manner: "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this
day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as, I trust, shall never be put out."*
The gentle Edward's reign had too quickly given place to his sister's-that hateful reign-when the palace of England's monarchs grew dark with the power of the detested Spaniard, and the long list of martyrs fastened forever the title of "blood" to the sweetest of female names. Just at the close of Queen Mary's reign, English literature produced one work, showing a force of imagination which would have placed its author in the highest rank of our poets, had he not turned his genius away from poetic study to devote it, during a very long life, to the political service of his country. "The Mirror of Magistrates" is the title of a work planned by Thomas Sackville-Lord Buckhurst-and intended to comprise a series of poetic narratives of the disasters of men eminent in English story. The first of these, on the Duke of Buckingham, with the preface, or "Induction," as it is styled, was all that was accomplished; but those four hundred lines displayed an inventive energy which was a foreshadowing of the allegorical imagination which soon after rose in "The Faery Queen." Sackville's Induction stands as the chief, the only great poem between the times of Chaucer and of Spenser. Allegorical poetry presents no more vivid imagination than his personification of war, or of old age, in that single line
"His withered fist still striking at death's door."
What a gloomy conception was the plan of the poem ! It has been likened to a landscape which the sun never shines on. More than that might be said, when we think
* Life of Latimer, prefixed to his Sermons, vol. i. p. clvii.