Legitimacy of a Metrical Translation

The argument from the Bay Psalter’s preface for the legitimacy of metrical translations:

“As for the scruple that some take at the translation of the Book of Psalms into metre, because David’s psalms were sung in his own words without metre: we answer—First, there are many verses together in several psalms of David which run in rhythms (as those that know Hebrew and as Buxtorf shows Thesau. pa. 629.) which shows at least the lawfulness of singing psalms in English rhythms.

Secondly, the psalms are penned in such verses as are suitable to the poetry of the Hebrew language, and not in the common style of such other books of the Old Testament as are not poetical; now no Protestant doubts but that all the books of scripture should by God’s ordinance be extant in the mother tongue of each nation, that they may be understood of all, hence the psalms are to be translated into our English tongue; and in it our English tongue we are to sing them, then as all our English songs (according to the course of our English poetry) do run in metre, so ought David’s psalms to be translated into metre, that so we may sing the Lord’s songs, as in our English tongue so in such verses as are familiar to an English ear which are commonly metrical: and as it can be no just offense to any good conscience to sing David’s Hebrew songs in English words, so neither to sing his poetical verses in English poetical metre: men might as well stumble at singing the Hebrew psalms in our English tunes (and not in the Hebrew tunes) as at singing them in English metre, (which are our verses) and not in such verses as are generally used by David according to the poetry of the Hebrew language: but the truth is, as the Lord has hid from us the Hebrew tunes, lest we should think ourselves bound to imitate them; so also the course and frame (for the most part) of their Hebrew poetry, that we might not think ourselves bound to imitate that, but that every nation without scruple might follow as the grave sort of tunes of their own country songs, so the graver sort of verses of their own country poetry.

Neither let any think, that for the metre sake we have taken liberty or poetical license to depart from the true and proper sense of David’s words in the Hebrew verses, no; but it has been one part of our religious care and faithful endeavour, to keep close to the original text.”

Why the Scottish Psalter?

In this article, Rev. David Silversides describes the history of the Scottish Psalter, and lists some reasons to continue using it today.

“Let us sing this accurate version of the Psalms. Let us memorise it and let us love this faithful translation of the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, breathed out by the Spirit of God. In this way may we indeed, by the blessing of God, be filled with the Spirit, and have the Word of Christ dwell within us richly.”

The Development of the Scottish Psalter

(Audio lecture on the same topic here)

Versification Compatible with Accuracy

John Anderson (1748?-1830): 

“As to the versification, it is only a circumstance used for the conveniency of singing; and by no means incompatible with a due care to retain the words of the Holy Ghost, or the form as now described. Take the first Psalm in the version authorised by the church of Scotland for an example. The first line of that version is a more adequate representation of the emphasis of the two first words of the original; it is a more strictly literal translation of them, than that which we have in prose. Whatever faults may be charged upon that translation, they are not such as arise from a designed neglect of the phraseology of the sacred original: a religious regard to the principles now laid down is manifest through the whole of it.”

A Discourse on the Divine Ordinance of Singing Psalms (Philadelphia: William Young, 1791), p. 32
(found here)