1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Mant

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) 2:307-08.



In 1824, appeared "The Book of Psalms, in an English Metrical Version, founded on the basis of the authorised Bible Translation, and compared with the original Hebrew; with notes critical and illustrative. By the Right Rev. Richard Mant, D.D., M.R.I.A., Lord Bishop of Down and Connor." The leading merit of the Bishop's Version may be said to be its general agreement with the prose translation of the English Bible, and its freedom from the affectation of fine writing. The Dublin University Magazine pronounces this to be at once "the most instructive and the most poetical Version of the Psalms;" but there is more truth in the former than in the latter part of this unmeasured eulogy: the versification, indeed, is obviously less that of the professed Poet, than of a sound Divine and a Scholar. The learned Prelate has, however, constantly referred to the original Hebrew for the primitive import of certain terms and idiomatic expressions; for he very properly considered it "the chief part of a translator's duty, to be substantially faithful in the representation of his author's ideas; to exhibit fully and exactly those which he finds in his original, and not to exhibit those which his original does not contain." Speaking of the metaphorical language of the Psalms, in some portions of which the "taste for figurative decoration may appear to have been indulged in a degree, hardly consistent with our occidental notions of grace and fitness, and verging sometimes upon the very bounds of impropriety — still," he remarks, "to convey the image, intended by the original Poet, appears to be the duty of the translator. In the great majority of examples, however, the figurative language of the Psalms is as unexceptionable and as exquisite, as it is energetic and impressive: and here the business of the translator is no less pleasing than it is plain. Where the figure is of that more delicate and retiring kind, which is conveyed by a certain secret connexion and relation between particular Hebrew terms and things, rather than distinctly expressed, the translator must acquiesce in the necessity, which the want of such connexion in his own language imposes; and be content to exhibit the general sentiment of the original writer, at the loss of the peculiar force and excellence of his diction." A Version which exemplifies the foregoing principles of interpretation must obviously enhance the value of our available Psalmody.