1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Timothy Dwight

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) 2:261-64.



It is somewhat remarkable, when we consider how popular the Psalms of. Dr. Watts have been from the moment of their publication, and when Versions of a number of the original compositions are altogether omitted from the metrical collection, that nearly a century should have elapsed before any one ventured to supply the lacking Versions — and then, that the experiment should have been made, not in England, but in America. The amiable Christian Poet little foresaw, when he entitled one of his sacred Paraphrases, "A Psalm for New England," that to a Minister of the Gospel in that very country, one of similar doctrines, and bearing the same titular degree with himself, the English language would be first indebted for the successful completion of that popular scheme of Psalmody which he left unfinished. It will be obvious to every one acquainted with the Psalm Book of Dr. Watts, that besides the omissions alluded to, there are many expressions, which, however beautiful and appropriate to the British Churches, became inapplicable to the American States after the Revolution. Consequently, certain Psalms were disused, or various alterations took place in the text, until 1797, when Dr. Dwight, late President of Yale College, in Connecticut, was requested by the General Association of that State, on behalf of the Churches generally, to revise the whole work, and at the same time to versify the Psalms omitted by Watts. The task was undertaken accordingly, and the whole was published in 1800, with an "Advertisement" explanatory of the design and execution of the work, and minutes of approval from the General Assembly and General Association of Connecticut. The additional Psalms comprised in the American Edition of Watts are upwards of twenty, including some aliters. The Versions are, for the most part, respectable; but the Independents of this country appear never to have considered the American and the English Poets as sufficiently coequal in merit and authority to induce, them to adopt those contributions of Dr. Dwight, which render the work of Dr. Watts more complete, if not more precious. Dr. Dwight died January 11, 1817, aged 65, leaving behind him a System of Theology, and other works.