Piety and Poetry

Hannibal Hamlin

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Piety and Poetry

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



Psalm-translating was among the most popular exercises for English writers, in verse and prose. Metrical psalms, cast into English (or classical) metres, rhyme schemes, and stanza forms, were one of the most important literary ‘kinds’ in sixteenth-century England, no less than Petrarchan love lyrics. It is often possible to distinguish versions sung communally or read in church or domestic worship from those written as private devotional exercises (which often survive in manuscript), and both of these from versions written primarily as literary works — as poems. One can also distinguish more broadly between singing psalms, provided with tunes for use in church and at home, and psalms intended to be read, silently or aloud. This article describes sixteenth-century psalms in roughly these categories, which developed more or less chronologically: Tudor psalm translation began with efforts to produce English versions for public worship; devout Protestants then began producing metrical translations for personal use; increasingly, throughout the century, accomplished poets wrote psalm translations in their endeavours to produce an English literature matching both Continental rivals and classical models.

Keywords: psalm-translating; Tudor psalm translation; public worship; Protestants; English literature

Article.  8173 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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