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able activity in urging the claims of versions already made, either in print or in manuscript, by persons recently dead or still living. Not to speak of other Versions, acknowledged or anonymous, there was one by no less public a person in England than the pious Francis Rous, member of the Long Parliament for Truro, and himself a lay-member of the Westminster Assembly (1st edit. 1641, 2d 1643). On the whole, Rous's Version had many friends; and a revised edition of it, carefully made, was recommended by the Westminster Assembly to the Parliament (Nov. 1645). With this Version, by one of themselves, the Commons were well satisfied; and it was again printed in its revised form in 1646. But, as the Lords, or some of them, had taken up a rival Version, "close and proper to the Hebrew," by a Mr. William Barton, M.A. of Oxford (published in 1644), they were slow to acquiesce in the preference for Rous; and, notwithstanding much urging of the subject by the Commons, and also by the Assembly, it stood over unsettled, so far as England was concerned.—That Milton, in his experiment in April 1648, had some view to the controversy then going on as to the national Psalter, and the rivalry between Rous and Barton, is rendered the likelier by the form his experiment took. He adopted the ordinary service metre of eights and sixes, only rhyming the first and third lines as well as the second and fourth; and he made it a punctilio to translate direct from the Hebrew, and to indicate every addition to the original by the use of italic type. With all his pains his Version of those nine Psalms is much inferior to what we should have expected from him. It is perhaps inferior to Rous's, and it is certainly inferior to the authorized Scottish Version of 1650, founded on Rous's.
PSALMS I.--VIII.: DONE INTO VERSE.
The former experiment of a close translation of Nine of the Psalms into ordinary Service metre had been made by Milton in April 1648, when he was living in High Holborn, not yet blind, and (Charles I. being still alive) not yet Latin Secretary to the Commonwealth, nor with any prospect of being such. More than five years had elapsed since then, and Milton was living in Petty France, quite blind, and occupied with the duties of his Secretaryship, when some
SCRAPS OF TRANSLATED VERSE. 79
On a few suc
thing led him to recur to Psalm-translation. cessive days of August 1653 he dictated metrical versions of the first Eight of the Psalms. These versions, however, were done on a new principle. They did not profess to be close to the original, nor were they in the ordinary service metre. On the contrary, very various metres were employed, some of them quite uncommon; and no two of the Eight Psalms were rendered in the same metre. Perhaps the main intention was to try the effect of such a freedom of metre.
SCRAPS OF TRANSLATED VERSE FROM THE PROSE
It was Milton's laudable habit, and one rather unusual in his day, not to trouble the readers of his English pamphlets and other writings with quotations in Latin and Greek, but, where he did have occasion to quote a Latin or Greek author, either to give the English sense of the passage, or to annex the English sense to the quoted bit of Latin or Greek. So with Italian. Hence, when he wanted to quote a line or two from a Latin, Greek, or Italian poet, or a passage of Latin verse occurring in a prose author, he generally took the trouble to translate it offhand himself at the moment. In such cases blank verse came easiest, and all the scraps of the kind in his prose writings are in blank verse. He did not think it worth while to collect these for either the first or the second edition of his Poems; but they have very properly been sought out and placed in later editions.