Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/773

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PSALTER.
757
 

part that these accents appear, (together with a rather ingenious system of red and black brackets, showing the rhyming structure of the verse,) we may perhaps conclude that the work was not all printed at once, and that it was only towards the end—possibly after the promulgation of Elizabeth's injunctions—that it was thought desirable to have tunes composed.

It seems certain that the first complete edition of this version, containing the whole Psalms, the Evangelical Hymns, and the Spiritual Songs, was published in 1562, and that another followed in 1563; but the earliest now in existence is the one of 1564, of which the title is as follows:

'The whole booke of Psalms collected into Englysh Meter, by Thomas Sternhold, J. Hopkins, and others, conferred with the Hebrew, with apt notes to sing them withal, faithfully perused and allowed according to thorder appoynted in the Queenes maiestyes Iniunctions. Very meet,' etc., as in the edition of 1560. 'Imprinted at London by John Daye, dwelling over Aldersgate. Cum gratia et privilegio regiæ Maiestatis per septenniuin. 1564.'

The number of tunes in this edition is 65; of which 14 had appeared in all the previous editions, 7 in the editions of 1560 and 1561 only, and 7 in the edition of 1561 only, and 4 in the edition of 1560 only. The rest were new. Nothing more had been taken from the French Psalter; but two tunes which Ravenscroft calls 'High Dutch' were adopted. One of them, set to Wisdome's prayer 'Preserve us, Lord, by thy dear word,' was identified by Burney with the so-called Luther Chorale set to similar words. It will have been observed that a considerable re-arrangement of the tunes had hitherto taken place in every new edition; the tunes which were taken on from previous editions generally remained attached to the same psalms as before, but the number of new tunes, as well as of those omitted, was always large. Now, however, the compilers rested content; and henceforward, notwithstanding that a new edition was published almost yearly, the changes were so gradual that it will only be necessary to take note of them at intervals. The tunes are printed without bars, and in notes of unequal length. Semibreves and minims are both used, but in what seems at first sight so unsystematic a way—since they do not correspond with the accents of the verse—that few of the tunes, as they stand, could be divided into equal sections; and some could not be made to submit to any time-signature whatever. In this respect they resemble the older ecclesiastical melodies. The idea of imitation, however, was probably far from the composer's mind, and the object of his irregularity was no doubt variety of effect; the destruction of the monotonous swing of the alternate eight and six with accents constantly recurring in similar positions. To the eye the tunes appear somewhat confused; but upon trial it will be found that the long and short notes have been adjusted with great care, and, taking a whole tune together, with a fine sense of rhythmical balance. The modes in which these compositions are written are such as we should expect to meet with in works of a popular, as opposed to an ecclesiastical, character. The great majority of the tunes will be found to be in the modes which have since become our major and minor scales. The exact numbers are as follows:—28 are in Modes XIII. and XIV., 23 in Modes IX. and X., 12 in Modes I. and II., one in Mode VII., and one in Mode VIII. All these modes, except the last two, are used both in their original and transposed positions.

A knowledge of music was at this time so general, that the number of persons able to sing or play these tunes at sight was probably very considerable. Nevertheless, in the edition of 1564, and again in 1577, there was published 'An Introduction to learn to sing,' consisting of the scale and a few elementary rules, for the benefit of the ignorant. The edition of 1607 contained a more elaborate system of rules, and had the sol-fa joined to every note of the tunes throughout the book; but this was not repeated, nor was any further attempt made, in this work, to teach music.

For competent musicians, a four-part setting of the church tunes was also provided by the same publisher:—

The whole psalmes in foure partes, which may be song to al musicall instrumentes, set forth for the encrease of vertue, and abolishyng of other vayne and triflyng ballades. Imprinted at London by John Day, dwelling over Aldersgate, beneath Saynt Martyns. Cum gratia et privilegio Regiæ Maiestatis, per septennium. 1563.[1]

Notwithstanding this title, only the first verse of each Psalm is given; enough to accompany the notes once, and no more: it is therefore only a companion to Sternhold; not, like almost all subsequent works of the kind, a substitute. But in other respects it was designed on a much larger scale than anything that appeared afterwards. It is in four volumes, one for each voice. Every composition, long or short, occupies a page; and at the head of each stands one of the fine pictorial initial letters which appear in all Day's best books about this time. But it is as regards the quantity of the music that it goes farthest beyond all other collections of the same kind. The composers of subsequent Psalters thought it quite sufficient, as a rule, to furnish each of the 65 church tunes with a single setting; but here, not only has each been set, but frequently two and sometimes three and four composers have contributed settings of the same tune; and as if this were not enough, they have increased the work by as many as 30 tunes, not to be found in Sternhold, and for the most part probably original. The total result of their labours is a collection of 141 compositions, of which 4 are by N. Southerton, 11 by R. Brimle, 17 by J. Hake, 27 by T. Causton, and 81 by W. Parsons. It is worthy of remark that while all the contemporary musicians of the first rank had already been employed upon contributions to the liturgical service, not only by way of MSS., but also in the printed work, 'Certayne notes,' etc. issued

  1. A second edition was published in 1565.