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Le Laboureur a sa charruë,
rochers et estangs,
Marot's Psalms soon eclipsed the brilliancy of his madrigals and fonnets. Not suspecting how prejudicial the predominant rage of psalm-singing might prove to the antient religion of Europe, the catholics themselves adopted these sacred songs as serious ballads, and as a more rational species of domestic merriment. Thy were the common accompaniments of the fiddle. They were sold so rapidly, that the printers could not supply the public with copies. In the festive and splendid court of Francis the first, of a sudden nothing was heard but the psalms of Clement Marot. By each of the royal family and the principal nobility of the court a psalm was chosen, and fitted to the ballad-tune which each liked best. The dauphin prince Henry, who delighted in hunting, was fond of Ainsi qu'on oit le cerf bruire, or, Like as the Hart desireth the water-brooks, which he constantly sung in going out to the chase. Madame de Valentinois, between whom and the young prince there was an attachment, took Du fond de ma pensée, or, From the depth of my heart, O Lord. The queen’s favorite was, Ne vueilles pas, O Sire, that is, O Lord, rebuke me not in thine indignation, which she sung to a fashionable jig. Antony king of Navarre sung, Revenge moy, pren le querelle, or, Stand up, O Lord, to revenge my quarrel, to
a Les Oevvres de Clement Marot de Cahors, valet de chambre du roy, &c. A
Lyon, 1551. 12mo. See ad calc. TRA.
the air of a dance of Poitou b. It was on very different principles that psalmody flourished in the gloomy court of Cromwell. This fashion does not seem in the least to have diminished the gaiety and good humour of the court of Francis.
At this period John Calvin, in opposition to the discipline and doctrines of Rome, was framing his novel church at Geneva : in which the whole substance and form of divine worship was reduced to praying, preaching, and singing. In the last of these three, he chose to depart widely from the catholic usage : and, either because he thought that novelty was sure to succeed, that the practice of antiphonal chanting was superstitious, or that the people were excluded from bearing a part in the more solemn and elaborate performance of ecclesiastical music, or that the old papistic hymns were unedifying, or that verse was better remembered than prose, he projected, with the advice of Luther, a species of religious song, consisting of portions of the psalms intelligibly translated into the vernacular language, and adapted to plain and easy melodies, which all might learn, and in which all might join. This scheme, either by design or accident, was luckily seconded by the publication of Marot's metrical psalms at Paris, which Calvin immediately introduced into his congregation at Geneva. Being set to simple and almost monotonous notes by Guillaume de Franc, they were foon established as the principal branch in that reformer's new devotion, and became a characteristical mark or badge of the Calvinistic worship and profession. Nor were they sung only in his churches. They exhilarated the convivial assemblies of the Calvinists, were commonly heard in the streets, and accompanied the labours of the artificer. The weavers and woollen manufacturers of Flanders, many
of whom left the loom and entered into the ministry, are said to have been the capital performers into this science. At length Marot's psalms formed an appendix to the catechism of Geneva, and were interdicted to the catholics under the most
• See Bayle's Dict. V. MAROT.
severe penalties. In the language of the orthodox, pfalm-singing and heresy were synonimous terms.
It was Calvin's system of reforination, not only to strip religion of its superstitious and ostensible pageantries, of crucifixes, images, tapers, superb vestments, and splendid processions, but of all that was estimable in the fight of the people, and even of every simple ornament, every significant symbol, and decent ceremony; in a word, to banish every thing from his church which attracted or employed the senses, or which might tend to mar the purity of an abstracted adoration, and of a mental intercourse with the deity. It is hard to determine, how Calvin could reconcile the use of singing, even when purged from the corruptions and abuses of popery, to so philosophical a plan of worship. On a parallel principle, and if any artificial aids to devotion were to be allowed, he might at least have retained the use of pictures in the church. But a new sect always draws its converts from the multitude and the meanest of the people, who can have no relish for the more elegant externals. Calvin well knew that the manufacturers of Germany were no judges of pictures. At the same time it was necessary that his congregation should be kept in good humour by some kind of pleasurable gratification and allurement, which might qualify and enliven the attendance on the more rigid duties of praying and preaching. Calvin therefore, intent as he was to form a new church on a severe model, had yet too much fagacity to exclude every auxiliary to devotion. Under this idea, he permitted an exercise, which might engage the affections, without violating the simplicity of his worship: and sensible that his chief resources were in the rabble of a republic, and availing himself of that natural propensity which prompts even vulgar minds to express their more animated feelings in rhyme and music, he conceived a mode of universal psalmody, not too refined for common capacities, and fitted to please the populace. The rapid propagation of Calvin's religion, and his numerous profelytes, are a strong proof of his address in planning such a sort of service. France
and Germany were instantly infatuated with a love of psalmsinging: which being admirably calculated to kindle and diffuse the flame of fanaticism, was peculiarly serviceable to the purposes of faction, and frequently served as the trumpet to rebellion. These energetic hymns of Geneva, under the conduct of the Calvinistic preachers, excited and supported a variety of popular insurrections ; they filled the most flourishing cities of the Low-countries with sedition and tumult, and fomented the fury which defaced many of the most beautiful and venerable churches of Flanders.
This infectious frenzy of sacred song soon reached England, at the very critical point of time, when it had just embraced the reformation : and the new psalmody was obtruded on the new English liturgy by some few officious zealots, who favoured the discipline of Geneva, and who wished to abolith, not only the choral mode of worship in general, but more particularly to suppress the Te Deum, BENEDICTUS, MAGNIFICAT, JUBILATE, NUNC DIMITTIS, and the rest of the liturgic hymns, which were supposed to be contaminated by their long and antient connection with the Roman miffal, or at least in their prosaic form, to be unsuitable to the new system of worship.
Although Wyat and Surrey had before made translations of the Psalms into metre, Thomas Sternhold was the first whose metrical version of the Psalms was used in the church of England. Sternhold was a native of Hampshire, and probably educated at Winchester college. Having passed some time at Oxford, he became groom of the robes to king Henry the eighth. In this department, either his diligent services or his knack at rhyming so pleased the king, that his majesty bequeathed him a legacy of one hundred marks. He continued in the same office under Edward the sixth, and is said to have acquired some degree of reputation about the court for his poetry. Being of a serious disposition, and an enthusiast to reformation, he was much offended at the lascivious ballads which prevailed among the courtiers : and, with a laudable design to check these indecencies, un
dertook a metrical version of the Psalter, “ thinking thereby, “ says Antony Wood, that the courtiers would fing them instead “ of their fonnets, but did not, only some few excepted.” Here was the zeal, if not the success, of his fellow labourer Clement Marot. A singular coincidence of circumstances is, notwithstanding, to be remarked on this occasion. Vernacular versions for general use of the Psalter were first published both in France and England, by laymen, by court-poets, and by servants of the court. Nor were the respective translations entirely completed by themselves : and yet they translated nearly an equal number of psalms, Marot having versified fifty, and Sternhold fifty-one. Sternhold died in the year 1549. His fifty-one psalms were printed the same year by Edward Whitchurch, under the following title. « All such Psalms of David as Thomas Stern“ holde late grome of the kinges Maiestyes robes did in his lyfe
tyme drawe into Englysshe metre.” They are without the musical notes, as is the second edition in 1552. He probably lived to prepare the first edition for the press, as it is dedicated by himself to king Edward the sixth.
Cotemporary with Sternhold, and his coadjutor, was John Hopkins : of whose life nothing more is known, than that he was a clergyman and a schoolmaster of Suffolk, and perhaps a graduate at Oxford about the year 1544.
Of his abilities as a teacher of the classics, he has left a specimen in some Latin stanzas prefixed to Fox's MARTYROLOGY. He is rather a better English poet than Sternhold ; and translated fifty eight of the psalms, distinguished by the initials of his name.
Of the rest of the contributors to this undertaking, the chief, at least in point of rank and learning, was William Whyttingham, promoted by Robert earl of Leicester to the deanery of Durham, yet not without a strong reluctance to comply with the use of the canonical habiliments. Among our religious exiles in the reign of Mary, he was Calvin's principal
c Ath. Oxon. i. 76.