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The poetical annals of this reign are almost intirely filled with metrical translations from various parts of the Holy Scriptures. Wyatt and Surrey had translated some of the Psalms; but THOMAS STERNHOLD, an enthusiast in the cause of the reformation, taking offence at the indecent ballads which were current among the courtiers, and hoping to substitute a set of more holy subjects, undertook a translation of the Psalter. A similar attempt had been made in France by Clement Marot, and, strange to say, had been made with success : and though Sternhold did not possess the talents of Marot, his industry has been rewarded by still more permanent popularity. It is rather whimsical that the first versions of the psalms were made, in both countries, by laymen and court poets : and they translated nearly an equal number; Marot 50, and Sternhold 51. Sternhold died in 1549 ; and his psalms were printed in the same year, by Edward Whitchurch.
John HOPKINS, a clergyman and schoolmaster in Suffolk, rather a better poet than Sternhold, added 58 psalms to the list. Of the other contributors, the chief, in point of rank and learning, was WILLIAM WHYTTINGHAM, dean of Durham, whose translations are marked with the initials of his name. Thomas Norton, a barrister, and native of Sharpenhoe, in Bedfordshire, who is said to have assisted Sackville in composing the tragedy of Gorboduc, wrote 27. The intire collection was at length published by John Day, in 1562.
It certainly is not easy to discover the grand features of Hebrew poetry through the muddy medium of this translation, but it is a curious repertory, and highly characteristic of the time in which it was written. Metre was the universal vehicle of devotion. Our poets were inspired with a real and fervent enthusiasm; and though the tameness and insipidity of the language in which they vented this inspiration may surprize and disgust a modern reader, it was probably once thought to derive grandeur and sanctity from its subject.
The most notable versifiers of this reign were, John Hall, who is noticed more particularly in the next page but one; WILLIAM HUNNIS, a gentleman of the chapel under Edward VI. afterwards chapel-master to Queen Elizabeth, and a most tedious contributor to the Paradise of Dainty Devices ; archbishop PARKER, and ROBERT CROWLEY, a preacher and printer in Holborn ; each of whom undertook a version of the Psalter ; WILLIAM BALDWIN and Francis Seagur, both publishers of devotional poems; and CHRISTOPHER Tye, doctor of music at Cambridge, 1545, and musical professor to prince Edward, and probably to the princesses Mary and Elizabeth, who translated and set to music the Acts of the Apostles.
In the new edition of Phillips's “Theatrum Poetarum" this author is said to have been a surgeon at Maidstone in Kent, and to have written many tracts on the subject of his profession. Besides his “Court of Virtue" (printed by Marshe in 1565,12mo.), from which the following specimens are extracted, he published in metre “The proverbs of Salamon“ and certain psalmes of David," printed by Whitchurch, 8vo. n. d. His birth may perhaps be placed about 1520. Vide Ritson's Bibliographia for farther information.
Named “ Blame not my Lute;" which under that
title toucheth, replieth, and rebuketh the wicked state and enormities of most people in these present miserable days.
Blame not my lute, though it do sound
The rebuke of your wicked sin;
To know what case that ye are in.
Blame not my lute!
If my lute blame the covetise,
The gluttons, and the drunkards vile, The proud disdain of worldly wise,
And how Falsehood doth Truth exile ; Though Vice and Sin be now in place, In stead of Virtue and of Grace ;
Blame not my lute !
Though Wrong in Justice' place be set,
Committing great iniquity;
That maintain still idolatry;
Blame not my lute!
Blame not my lute 1 you desire,
But blame the cause that we thus play: For burning heat blame not the fire,
But him that blow'th the coal alway. Blame ye the cause, blame ye not us, That we men's faults have touched thus ;
Blame not my lute!. Lilin