Kethe, William (DNB00)

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KETHE, WILLIAM (d. 1608?), protestant divine, is generally believed to have been a native of Scotland. He was one of the congregation of protestant exiles at Frankfort during the Marian persecution in December 1554 (Brieff Discours, p. 26). During the ritualistic controversies among the exiles in November 1556, Kethe, with William Whittingham [q. v.] and others, removed to Geneva (ib.) Here he was frequently employed by the English congregation as a delegate to the exiles in other parts of the country, and when Mary died (1558) was sent to visit and confer with various bodies of refugees, for the purpose of bringing about reconciliation and unity of action. He seems to have remained at Geneva till 1561 (cf. ib. p. 187; Livingston, p. 66). He returned to England in that year, and was at once instituted to the rectory of Okeford Superior, in the parish of Child Okeford, Dorset. He accompanied Ambrose Dudley, earl of Warwick [q. v.], on the expedition to Havre in 1563, as ‘minister and preacher’ of the English army, and in 1569 went to the ‘north partes’ as one of the preachers to the troops which were engaged in subduing the popish rebels. His sermon (on John xv. 22) ‘made at Blandford Forum … at the session holden there … 1571,’ was published by John Daye in 1572 (8vo), with a dedication to the Earl of Warwick. A successor was appointed at Okeford Superior in 1608, which may be assumed to be the date of Kethe's death.

Kethe is now remembered chiefly for his metrical psalms, especially for his version of the 100th psalm, ‘All people that on earth do dwell.’ The latter was in some carelessly revised early psalters ascribed to Hopkins (Warton attributes it to Whittingham), but the earliest published versions are signed with Kethe's initials, and all the later and best authorities agree in assigning it to him. Kethe wrote in all twenty-five metrical psalms; these were first printed in the English Psalter issued at Geneva in 1561, and were subsequently transferred to the complete Scottish Psalter (1564), ten only being adopted in the English Psalter (1562). A rendering by Kethe of the 94th psalm was published in 1558, attached to a tract called ‘The Appellation of John Knox.’ Kethe's 100th psalm appeared in the appendix of the first complete English metrical Psalter (1562), but was admitted into the text of the edition of 1565. Warton describes Kethe as ‘no unready rhymer;’ and if regard be had to the different elements of variety, fidelity, energy, and elegance, he is entitled to a high place among the psalter versifiers. His ‘long’ and ‘peculiar’ metres are superior to most of his day.

Besides his psalms he wrote some popular religious ballads; the most noted was ‘A Ballet, declaringe the fal of the Whore of Babylone, intytuled Tye thy Mare, Tom-boye, with other; and therunto annexid a Prologue to the Reders.’ A copy of this very rare tract, consisting of sixteen leaves in black letter, belonged to Heber. The ‘Ballet’ ends ‘Finis, quod William Kythe,’ and a concluding ‘exhortation to the papists,’ ‘Finis, quod Wyllyam Kith.’ Another of Kethe's broadside poems bore the title ‘Of Misrules contending with Gods Worde by name. … Quod Wyllym Kethe’ (London, by Hugh Singleton, n.d.), twenty-two four-line stanzas. While with the exiles he acted as one of the translators of the Geneva Bible. He also produced ‘William Kethe, his seeing Glasse, sent to the nobles and gentlemen of England, whereunto is added the Praier of Daniel in meeter’ (Maunsell's Cat.); and contributed an English poem to Christopher Goodman's ‘How Superior Powers oght to be obeyed of their Subjects’ (Geneva, 1558).

[Brieff Discours of the Troubles begoune at Franckford, &c., 1575; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 59, 170; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry; Heber's Cat. ed. Collier; Hutchins's Dorset, iv. 84; Strype's Annals; Holland's Psalmists of Great Britain, 1843; Notices regarding the Metrical Versions of the Psalms in Baillie's Letters and Journals, edited by Laing, iii. 527 (Bannatyne Club), 1841–2; Dissertation prefixed to Livingstone's reprint of 1635 Scottish Psalter (Glasgow, 1864); Julian's Dict. of Hymnology; Ames's Typogr. Antiq. ed. Herbert.]

J. C. H.