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TO MY LOVING AND LEARNED COUSIN,
MR. SAMUEL BURTON,
ARCHDEACON OF GLOUCESTER.
INDEED, my Poetry was long since out of date, and yielded her place to graver studies: but whose vein would it not revive, to look into those Heavenly Songs? I were not worthy to be a Divine, if it should repent me to be a Poet with David, after I shall have aged in the Pulpit.
This work is holy and strict, and abides not any youthful or heathenish liberty; but requires hands free from profaneness, looseness, affection. It is a service to God and the Church, by so much more carefully to be regarded, as it is more common. For, who is there, that will not challenge a part in this labour ? and that shall not find himself much more affected with holy measure rightly composed ?
Wherefore, I have oft wondered, how it could be offensive to our adversaries, that these divine ditties, which the Spirit of God wrote in verse, should be sung in verse ; and that a Hebrew Poem should be made English. For, if this kind of composition had been unfit, God would never have made choice of numbers, wherein to express himself.
Yea, who knows not, that some other Scriptures, which the Spirit hath indited in prose, have yet been happily and with good allowance put into strict numbers? If histories tell us of a wanton poet of old, which lost his eyes while he went about to turn Moses into verse ; yet every student knows, with what good success and commendation, Nonnus hath turned John's Gospel into Greek Heroics. And Appollinarius, that learned Syrian, matched with Basil and Gregory (who lived in his time) in the terms of this equality, that Basil's speech was 50Deputepos, but Appollinarius's adPOTEPOS, wrote, as Suidas reports, all the Hebrew Scripture in Heroics; as Sozomen, somewhat more restrainedly, all the Archaiology of the Jews, till Saul's government, in twentyfour parts ; or, as Socrates, yet more particularly, all Moses in Heroics, and all the other histories in divers metres : but, however his other labours lie hid, his Metaphrase of the Psalms is still in our hands, with the applause of all the learned : besides the labours of their own Flaminius and Arias Montanus, to seek for no more, which have worthily bestowed themselves in this subject.
260 Neither do I see how it can be offensive to our friends, that we should desire our English Metaphrase "bettered. I say nothing to the disgrace of that we have : I know how glad our adversaries are of all such advantages; which they are ready enough to find out without me, ever reproachfully upbraiding us with these defects. But, since our whole translation is now universally revised, what inconvenience or shew of innovation can it bear, that the verse should accompany the prose? especially since it is well known, how rude and homely our English Poesy was in those times, compared with the present ; wherein, if ever, it seeth her full perfection.
I have been solicited by some reverend friends to undertake this task ; as that, which seemed well to accord with the former exercises of my youth, and my present profession. The difficulties I found many ; the work, long and great : yet not more painful than beneficial to God's Church : whereto as I dare not profess any sufficiency; so I will not deny my readiness and utmost endeavour, if I shall be employed by Authority.
Wherefore, in this part, I do humbly submit myself to the grave censures of them, whose wisdoni manageth these common affairs of the Church; and am ready either to stand still or proceed, as I shall see their Cloud or Fire go before or behind me. Only, howsoever, I shall, for my true affection to the Chirch, wish it done by better workmen : wherein, as you approve, so further my bold, but not unprofitable motion, and commend it unto greater ears; as I do you to the Greatest.
Your loving Kinsman,
Who hath not walkt astray,
That scorners are,
Hath ever sate :
O Lord, sets his delight,
Oh, how that man
Set by the water-springs,
Whose boughs so greene
With comely shade.
All his designes shall thrive :
With every blast