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rest had been. The 139th Psalm has been deservedly commended.

A third version, by the Rev. James Merrick, of Oxford, was published at a later period, for which the king's license to introduce it into the churches could not be obtained. It is only wonderful that the privilege should ever have been sought, on the recommendation of men of learning and taste, in behalf of a work of such immeasurable verbiage, as these paraphrases exhibit. Take a specimen from Psalm 85th: Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other:"

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"With mutual step advancing there,
Shall Peace and Justice, heavenly pair,
To lasting compact onward move,
Seal'd by the kiss of sacred love."

Here it must be evident, that the four words in italics, express the whole sense of the text, and that all the rest is garniture. Yet Merrick was an elegant scholar, and no mean poet. His version of Simeon's song, (page 107 in this collection) and the hymn, “Behold yon new-born infant grieved," (page 286) are creditable. There is a compactness and economy both of matter and words in some stanzas of the latter, which Pope himself never exceeded. An abridgment, or rather a series of extracts from Merrick's volume, might be made a truly valuable help to public devotion, as may be seen by reference to the 39th Psalm, given in the present Selection, (page 69) where five stanzas, culled from seventeen, form a most affecting funeral meditation.

Of modern imitations of the Psalms, it is not necessary to give an opinion here. Without disparagement to the living or the dead, and to borrow the

idea of an Italian poet,* in reference to the lyre of Virgil it may be said, that the harp of David yet hangs upon the willow, disdaining the touch of any hand less skilful than his own.

But turning more directly to the subject of these remarks, in connection with the contents of this volume-though our elder poets, down even to the Revolution, often chose to exercise their vein on religious topics; since that time there has been but one who bears a great name among them, who has condescended to compose hymns, in the commonly accepted sense of that word. Addison, who has left several which may be noticed hereafter, though he ranks in the first class of prose writers, must take a place many degrees lower in verse. Cowper therefore, stands alone among "the mighty masters" of the lyre, as having contributed a considerable number of approved and popular hymns, for the purposes of public or private devotion. Hymns, looking at the multitude and mass of them, appear to have been written by all kinds of persons, except poets; and why the latter have not delighted in this department of their own art, is obvious. Just in proportion as the religion of Christ is understood and taught in primitive purity, those who either believe not in its spirituality, or have not proved its converting influence, are careful to avoid meddling with it: so that, if its sacred mysteries have been less frequently and ostentatiously honoured by the homage of our poets within the last hundred and fifty years than formerly, they have been less disgraced and violated by absurd and impious associations. The of

* Angelo da Costanzo.

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fence of the cross has not ceased; nay, it exists, perhaps, most inveterately, though less apparently, in those countries where the religion of the state has been refined from the gross superstitions of the dark ages; for there the humbling doctrines of the Gospel are, as of old, a stumbling-block to the self-righteous, and foolishness to the wise in their own esteem. Many of our eminent poets have belonged to one or the other of these classes; it cannot be surprising, then, that they either knew not, or contemned "the truth as it is in Jesus."

There is an idle prejudice, founded upon the misapprehension of a passage in Dr. Johnson's life of Waller, and a hint of the like nature in his life of Watts, -that sacred subjects are unfit for poetry, nay, incapable of being combined with it. That their native majesty and grace cannot be heightened by any human art of embellishment, is most freely admitted; but that verse, as well as prose, may be advantageously associated with whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, in religion, we have the evidence of the Scriptures themselves, "in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms," where they testify concerning Christ and his sufferings, in strains the most exalted that poesy can boast. We have evidence to the same effect in many of the most perfect and exquisite compositions of uninspired poets, both in our own and in other countries. The Editor of "THE CHRISTIAN PSALMIST" hopes to have an early opportunity of showing that Dr. Johnson's assertion respecting the incompatibility of poetry with devotion, is not nearly so comprehensive as it has been ignorantly assumed to be; and that what

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he has actually asserted on this head, is invalidated by matter of fact, the only satisfactory test of the truth of such positions. At present it will be sufficient to affirm, in despite of this oracle of criticism,-which, when examined closely, will be found as ambiguous, and as capable of being explained to nothing, as other oracles were wont to be,-that, had our greatest poets possessed the religious knowledge of our humblest writers of hymns, they might have been the authors of similar compositions, not less superior to the ordinary run of these, than their own best poems are above the incorrigible mediocrity of their contemporaries. But in their default, we are not without abundant proof, that hymns may be as splendid in poetry as they are fervent in devotion; and in this volume will be found many popular pieces, the untaught workmanship of men who had no names in literature, but whose piety inspired them to write in verse, and sometimes with a felicity which the most practised masters of song might envy, but, unless the "Spirit gave them utterance," could not compass with their

utmost art.

Let us give an example from each of three favourite poets of the last generation, who, had they consecrated their talents to the service of the sanctuary, would have been of all others the most likely to have originated hymns, uniting the charms of poesy with the beauties of holiness::

"See the wretch, that long has tost
On the thorny bed of pain,

At length repair his vigour lost,

And breathe and walk again :

The meanest floweret of the vale,
The simplest note that swells the gale,

The common sun, the air, the skies,
To him are opening Paradise."

Gray's Fragment on Vicissitude. It cannot be questioned that this is genuine poetry; and the beautiful, but not obvious thought, in the last couplet, elevates it far above all common-place. Yet there is nothing in the style, nor the cast of sentiment, which might not be employed with corresponding effect on a sacred theme, and in the texture of a hymn. Indeed, the form of the stanza, and the tone that tells of personal experience in the fact which the writer mentions, remind one strongly of the vivid feeling and fluent versification of Charles' Wesley, in some of his happiest moods; while the concluding idea is precisely the same with that of Dr. Watts, in a hymn which would not have discredited Gray himself:

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"The opening heavens around me shine,
With beams of sacred bliss,

When Jesus shows his mercy mine,
And whispers, 'I am his.""

The following stanzas are almost unrivalled in the combination of poetry with painting, pathos with fancy, grandeur with simplicity, and romance with reality:— "How sleep the brave, who sink to rest, By all their country's wishes blest! When Spring, with dewy fingers cold, Returns to deck their hallowed mould, She there shall dress a sweeter sod Than Fancy's feet have ever trod. By fairy-hands their knell is rung, By forms unseen their dirge is sung; There Honour comes, a pilgrim gray, To bless the turf that wraps their clay; And freedom shall awhile repair, To dwell a weeping hermit there."

Collins. 1746.

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