1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Slatyer

John Holland, in Psalmists of Britain. Records of upwards of One Hundred and Fifty Authors, who have rendered the Whole or Parts of The Book of Psalms, into English Verse (1843) 1:301-04.



Of this individual, Anthony Wood (Athen. Ox. II. p. 111.) records the following particulars: — "He was born in Somersetshire, matriculated in the University of Oxford as a gentleman's son of that county, and a member of St. Mary-hall, in Lent term 1600, aged 13. Whence translating himself to Brazenose College, in 1607, he took his degree in Arts; the next year he was made Fellow of the College, proceeded in that faculty 1611, entered into holy orders, was soon after beneficed, and in 1623 took the degrees in Divinity, being then in good esteem for his knowledge in English history, and his excellent vein in Latin and English poetry. I know not anything else of him, only that he, giving way to fate at Otterden, in Kent, where he was then beneficed, in the month of October or November, 1647, was there buried, leaving behind him a widow named Sarah." Wood appears to have been misinformed both as to the month and year of Slatyer's decease, and the name of his relict — their gravestones, with somewhat curious inscriptions, are still to be seen in Otterden Church. From these we learn that "Guliel. Slatyer, Ob. XIII. Feb. MDCXLVI. aet LIX.," and that he married Margaret, daughter of Luke Angel, and widow of Henry Potens: her monument presents a specimen of those punning epitaphs which we sometimes meet with above referred to:—

An Angel in her birth with Slatyer ends her dayes;
A Margarite wrapt in Earth till Christ our bodies rayes:
To live with Angels blest this more than Angel dies:
Thus Pottin sleeping rests; her Margaret Slatyer lies.

In 1621 Slatyr published in folio, a "History of Great Britaine, in English and Latin verse;" and in 1643, appeared in 12mo, "The Psalmes of David, in 4 Languages and in 4 Parts; Set to ye Tunes of our Church. By W. S." These four languages, are the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English: the whole book is printed from engraved copper plates, and was reprinted in 1652. It comprises, however, only, the first 22 Psalms. "He likewise published 'Psalmes, or Songs of Zion, turned into the language and set to the tunes of a Strange Land, by W. S. Intended, for Christmas Carols, and fitted to divers of the most noted and common tunes, every where in this land familiarly used and knowne." "Of the times," says a late writer, "I can say nothing; but the tongue is strange enough. For instance, a part of the 6th and 7th verses of the 52nd Psalm, — 'the righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him: Lo! this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches!' is thus versified:—

The righteous shall his sorrow scan,
And laugh at him and say, behold!
What has become of this here man,
That on his riches was so bold!

The occurrence of a single unfortunate expletive at the end of the third of the foregoing lines certainly produces a ludicrous effect: but after all, as there is nothing else so bad in the book, it seems almost as unfair to impale Slatyer's reputation on one stanza, as it has sometimes been thought disingenuous to suspend the reputation of Sternhold on another, namely, "The Lord descended from above," &c., Ps. xviii.

Upon a copy of this book in the British Museum, some one has written the names of certain tunes to which the Author intended his verses to be sung: for instance, Ps. 6 to the old tune of Jane Shore; Ps. 19, to Bar. Foster's Dream; Ps. 43, to Crimson Velvet; Ps. 47, to Garden Green; Ps. 84, to the fairest Nymph of the Valley, &c. The annexed specimen conveys a much less favourable notion of the Author's talent as a versifier than some other Psalms which I might have copied:—

PSALM CI.
Mercy I will and judgement sing,
to thee O Lord most holy:
And unto thee, O Lord, will bring
my song, and praier wholly,
Wisely I shall in perfect way,
untill thou, come in brightnessem
Do right, and in my house always
walk in my heart's uprightnesse.
No wicked thing mind eies shall see,
deeds hate I of back-sliders,
A froward heart shall part from me,
and slanderous lewd deriders:
A privie whisperer I'le not brooke,
'gainst neighbour to annoy him,
The proud heart, high and haughty looke,
I cannot but destroy him.
Unto the meek mine eies are bent;
who in the land are faithfull
Shall serve and dwell within my tent,
who's profit, not deceitfull.
The lyar shall my eie not pitie,
I'le spoil the wicked wholly,
And cut off sinners from the Citie
of God the Lord most holy.