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Tas want of A New Metrical Version of The Psalms, for Church singing, has long and repeatedly been expressed and still more generally felt. To endeavour at supplying this desideratum is what has here been in view.
Those now commonly in use, namely The OLD VERSION (by Sternhold and Hopkins) and The New Version (by Brady and Tate) tho both _ but more especially the latter – have some good points, yet are alike confessedly very defective; and require to be superseded by some one that, if not perfect, yet shall be less open to objection and more worthy of The Sacred Original.
*** In 1844 was published by Messrs. Hatchard, as Specimens of the present Version, “The Seven PENITENTIAL Psalms Etc:", announcing this for the then ensuing year; but which various unforeseen circumstances, and the enlargement of our Plan, have prevented from appearing until now. Of that Work A New and enlarged Edition has lately been put forth by the same House.
The most extensive circulation being desired for the Work, - along with this is published, both for portability and cheapness, a smaller Edition of it, without Notes, but containing all of the Text. In its Preface the reasons here following for undertaking the task, and the manner pursued in its execution, are also stated; only more generally and in brief, and without the correlative matter given in this.
The First, however suited it may have been, as it unquestionably was, to the times of its composition nearly three huudred years ago, yet is now avowedly and by common consent entirely unequal to the subject and unsuitable to represent it* : Tho generally faithful to the sense, and in many passages close even to the letter of the Text, it is studded with faults that are now impossible to be looked over, harshness of construction, meanness of language, defectiveness of rhyme, with a general commonness and vulgarity about it, and an entire want of every thing like poetical elegance or adornment. The few passages that might be quoted in exception are not at all of such weight as to detract from this as its general character, but only serve as foils to make its pervading deficiency the more apparent.
* Tho, generally speaking, and especially as to London and the larger and more public Towns, The OLD VERSION is now disused; yet it would seem to be by no means entirely laid aside, but still to keep a lingering hold on the People's affections in remoter and quieter places.
It appears, by a Return with which we have been favoured from both the Universities, that the average number of Copies annually printed (and it is to be assumed_sold) for the last ten years at Oxford is above 10,000, something less than a fifteenth part of the numbers of 'The New VERSION: Which seems a most unaccountably large number, considering how very seldom it is found in use : But many of the Copies, being bound up with The Common Prayer Book, are sent abroad by The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, and thus get circulated all over the World. At Cambridge, however, it is very considerably less, and apparently dwindling to nothing ; only one thousand having been printed in all that time-_in 1841, while of The New Version above 200,000.
As it is so rarely heard in our Episcopal Churches, it might be thought to be still used among the Dissenters : But there Hymns, especially Watts's, are almost exclusively the more favourite Psalmody.
The Second, tho altogether free from the faults generally imputable to its antecessor, is not without others and very great ones of its own. It is by no means close to The Original, thạt is._to the Text of the Authorised Prose Versions of whether The Bible or Liturgy; often rendering them by paraphrase rather than transcription; and more frequently still altering them both by addition and omission, and otherwise changing their sense ; besides in its language entirely departing from the simplieity of those, for which it substitutes finery and embellishment altogether at variance with both their character and the subject. In other respects it certainly has great merit ; having many good points, flowingness_harmony_and elegance; being for the most part tolerably faithful, and seldom departing very widely from the sense ; generally good as verse and always respectable, tho not often rising to beauty and to sublimity never ; while rarely offending by any blemish of importance or that would be excepted to_either by those acquainted with The Original or any but severe judges of poetical composition. Except as to fidelity, it is altogether immeasurably and beyond all comparison superior to its elder rival; tho, however of real excellence in parts, on the whole not to be deemed a perfect Work nor at all sufficiently good for its high place. Both these Versions will be found examined more in detail below.
It has been thought by some, partisans of whether the one or the other of those Versions, that they might respectively be made perfect (using the word in a comparative sense) or sufficiently good for their purpose, by merely altering what should seem to require change and correcting acknowledged defects. But this for the First is out of the question, and for the Second seems more than doubtful.
The mere fact of The OLD VERSION being a poetical or at least a rhymed Composition dating three centuries back, is surely quite a sufficient reason for it to be now laid aside : Not of course from merely the lapse of time, but -froin the especial circumstances of the case — the natural change of feeling and taste on such matters; not to speak of the unavoidable mutations of language to a more improved state, that must now render it obsolete ; which even if it were not so grossly disfigured as it is by the blemishes above mentioned, and that no partial change — however extensive_could remove: This could only be done by new writing it altogether, merely retaining here and there some of its passages; which would make it neither The OLD VERSION nor a New One, but something between both, with no distinctive character but incongruity. If indeed this had been done beretofore gradually until now, it might perhaps have answered the purpose : Like the Argo or the Bucentaur; tho, from successive repairs, with not a piece of their original timber in them, yet still retaining with their names their first mould dimensions and appearance : But here it would be, so to say, an entirely new Ship; tho called the same, yet of different scantling and construction, and with all her points at variance from the old. The thing is impossible; and cannot be thought of, as in all probability it never will.
With The New Version it might be more practicable, and perhaps could be done. But this would then also labour under the unavoidable defect of want of unity in its composition. Moreover its principal faults above-stated are of such a nature as little less than an entire recasting of it would correct : the hand of the mender would every where be seen clashing with that of the first maker; and it would