1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Merrick

Anonymous, "James Merrick" Monthly Anthology [Boston] 7 (December 1809) 371.



James Merrick, A.M. Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, published, in 1763, a translation and paraphrase of the Psalms of David. The Critical Review for the month of February, in that year, remarks upon that publication as follows. "Such paraphrases of the scripture seldom succeed. It must be no ordinary genius that enters into the spirit and sublimity of the sacred writings. The poems before us fall in our opinion within the sphere of mediocrity; not bad enough to incur severe censure, nor good enough to deserve uncommon applause!" Notwithstanding this damnatory sentence of the Critical Reviewers, repeated editions of Merrick's Psalms have been given to the world, and favourably received. Indeed, there are lovers of sacred poetry, who think Mr. Merrick a versifier of a fine imagination and truly classical taste. Let the following passage from his translation of the 18th Psalm serve as a specimen of his manner:

Incumbent on the bending sky
The Lord descended from on high,
And bade the darkness of the pole
Beneath his feet tremendous roll.
The Cherub to his car his join'd,
And on the wings of mightiest wind,
As down to earth his journey lay,
Resistless urg'd his rapid way.
Thick-woven clouds, around him clos'd,
His secret residence compos'd,
And waters high-suspended spread
Their dark pavilion o'er his head.
In vain reluctant to the blaze
That previous pour'd its streaming rays,
As on he moves, the clouds retire,
Dissolv'd in hail and rushing fire:
His voice the Almighty Monarch rear'd,
Through heaven's high vault in thunders heard.