The Whole Psalter Translated (1567)

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General Information

Title: The Whole Psalter Translated, also known as Archbishop Parker's Psalter
Citation: Parker, Matthew. 1567. The Whole Psalter Translated Into English Metre, Which Contayneth an Hundred and Fifty Psalmes. London, John Daye. 546 pp.
Publication Date: 1567

External Links

The Whole Psalter Translated Into English Metre

Description

Archbishop Matthew Parker translated the entire psalter, a number of canticles and some other texts into English rhyming verse. The translation was published in 1567.

Music Included in Publication, by Thomas Tallis

No. Title First Line
1 Psalm 1 Man blest no doubt
2 Psalm 68 Let God arise
3 Psalm 2 Why fumeth in sight
4 Psalm 95 O come in one
5 Psalm 42 When like the hunted hind
6 Psalm 5 Expend, O Lord
7 Psalm 52 Why brag in malice high
8 Psalm 67 God grant with grace
9 Veni Creator Come Holy Ghost, eternal God
(Please note that all quotations below are given in an unmodernised form. This is deliberate - it gives a flavour of the text of the time.)

The quality of Parker's verse may be judged by an extract from his preface "To the reader":

Accent in place: your voyce as needth,
note number, poynte, and time:
Both lyfe and grace: good reading breedth,
flat verse it reysth sublime.
Obserue the trayne: the ceasure marke,
To rest with note in close:
Rythmedogrell playne: as dogs do barke,
ye make it els to lose.
Reade oft inough: well spell the lyne,
less iarr to heare by vse:
If verse be rough: no fault is myne,
if ye the eare abuse.
But princepall thing your lute to tune,
that hart may sing in corde:
Your voyce and string: so fine to prune,
to loue and serue the Lorde.

Whether he was being consciously self-referential in his references to "flat verse" and "Rythmedogrell" is, of course, unknown.

Psalms: context

Each psalm in the psalter is preceded by a short "Argument" in verse. That for Psalm 1 is:

This Psalme in sence of men both good and bad:
Shewth difference of men both good and bad:
It shewth their fruites their endes both glad & sad
Their hartes pursuites their endes both glad & sad

Each psalm is also followed by a collect. For Psalm 1 we have:

The Collecte.

O Blessed father make vs to be as fruitfull trees before thy presence, so watered by the dewe of thy grace, that we may glorifie thee, by the plenteousnes of sweete fruite in our daily conuersation, thorough Christ our Lorde, Amen.

Meters

The psalms are in a number of different meters. Psalm 42 even has a bi-metrical translation:

Euen lyke (in chase) the hunted Hynde,
the water brookes: (doth glad) desire:
Euen thus my soule: that faintie is,
to thée (my God) would fayne aspire.

This can be sung to an 8888 tune or, by missing out the words in parentheses, to a 6686 tune like Tallis's.

Choice of tunes

At the end of the psalter advice is given on matching psalms to an appropriate tune. Each psalm and each tune is given an "accent": "the sharp [acute] accent to ioyfull songes and tunes, The graue accent to sad, The circumflect accent to indifferent."

To quote:

The nature of the eyght tunes.
~ 1 The first is méeke: deuout to sée,
\ 2 The second sad: in maiesty.
\ 3 The third doth rage: and roughly brayth.
/ 4 The fourth doth fawne: and flattry playth,
/ 5 The fyfth delight: and laugheth the more,
\ 6 The sixt bewayleth: it wéepeth full sore,
\ 7 The seuenth tredeth stoute: in froward race,
~ 8 The eyghte goeth milde: in modest pace.

Nowhere does Tallis or Parker remark on the need to ensure that the tune is of the same meter as the text!

Note on performance

"The Tenor of these partes be for the people when they will syng alone, the other parts, put for greater queers, or to suche as will syng or play them priuatelye."

The most obvious interpretation of that is that the tenor carries the "tune" and the other parts should be subsidiary. As a corollary, the tenor part needs to be within a comfortable congregational range.

It is interesting to note that Psalme. 2. THE THIRD TUNE is the the "theme" used in Ralph Vaughan Williams's popular "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis."