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THE WORLD BEFORE THE FLOOD," AND OTHER POEMS.
"The liveliest emblem of Heaven that I know upon earth is,
PRINTED FOR WILLIAM COLLINS;
WM. WHYTE & CO. AND WM. OLIPHANT, EDINBURGH;
AND G. B. WHITTAKER, LONDON.
SONGS and Hymns, in honour of their Gods, are found among all people who have either religion or verse. There is scarcely any pagan poetry, ancient or modern, in which allusions to the national mythology are not so frequent as to constitute the most copious materials, as well as the most brilliant embellishments. The poets of Persia and Arabia, in like manner, have adorned their gorgeous strains with the fables and morals of the Koran. The relics of Jewish song which we possess, with few exceptions, are consecrated immediately to the glory of God, by whom, indeed, they were inspired. The first Christians were wont to edify themselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; and though we have no specimens of these left, except the occasional doxologies ascribed to the redeemed in the Book of Revelation, it cannot be doubted that they used not only the psalms of the Old Testament, literally, or accommodated to the circumstances of a new and rising Church, but that they had original lays of their own, in which they celebrated the praises of Christ as the Saviour of the world. In the middle ages, the Roman Catholic and Greek churches statedly adopted singing as an essential part of public worship; but this, like the reading of the Scriptures, was too fre
quently in an unknown tongue, by an affectation of wisdom, to excite the veneration of ignorance, when the learned, in their craftiness, taught that "Ignorance is the mother of devotion;" and Ignorance was very willing to believe it. At the era of the Reformation, psalms and hymns, in the vernacular tongue, were revived in Germany, England, and elsewhere, among the other means of grace of which Christendom had been for centuries defrauded.
The translation of the Psalms by Sternhold, Hopkins, and others, in the reign of Edward VI. with some slight improvements, keeps its place to this day in many churches of the English Establishment. 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 Christian congregations, in the nineteenth century, surely betrays an affectation of singularity, or a deplorable defect of taste. A few nervous or pathetic stanzas may be found here and there, for it was impossible, in so long an adventure, to escape falling into a better way now and then.
Nearly as inanimate, though a little more refined, are the Psalms of Tate and Brady, which, about a century ago, were honoured by the royal authority to be sung in those churches which chose to receive them. But they have only partially superseded their forerunners; many people preferring the rude simplicity of the one to the neutral propriety of the other. There are, however, even among these, several passages of considerable worth, such as one would wish that all the