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Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature


  • 10 b/w illus. 5 music examples
  • Page extent: 304 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.464 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521037068)

Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature examines the powerful influence of the biblical Psalms on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature. It explores the imaginative, beautiful, ingenious and sometimes ludicrous and improbable ways in which the Psalms were 'translated' from ancient Israel to Renaissance and Reformation England. No biblical book was more often or more diversely translated than the Psalms during the period. In church psalters, sophisticated metrical paraphrases, poetic adaptations, meditations, sermons, commentaries, and through biblical allusions in secular poems, plays, and prose fiction, English men and women interpreted the Psalms, refashioning them according to their own personal, religious, political, or aesthetic agendas. The book focuses on literature from major writers like Shakespeare and Milton to less prominent ones like George Gascoigne, Mary Sidney Herbert and George Wither, but it also explores the adaptations of the Psalms in musical settings, emblems, works of theology and political polemic.

• Provides a sense of how the Bible was read, interpreted and put to use by its early modern readers • Establishes the Psalms as one of the foundational texts of the common culture of early modern English • Offers alternative interpretations of major literary works (Hamlet, Paradise Lost, Herbert's Poems, Pilgrim's Progress)


List of figures; Acknowledgements; Note on the text; Introduction; Part I. English Metrical Psalmody; 1. 'Very mete to be used of all sortes of people': the 'Sternhold and Hopkins' psalter; 2. 'Out-Sternholding Sternhold': some rival psalters; 3. The Psalms and English poetry I: 'Greece from us these Arts deriv'd': psalms and the English quantitative movement; 4. The Psalms and English Poetry II: 'The highest matter in the noblest forme': psalms and the development of English verse; Part II. Case Studies in Psalm Translation: 5. 'Happy me! O happy sheep!': Renaissance pastoral and Psalm 23; 6. Psalm 51: sin, sacrifice and the 'Sobbes of a Sorrowfull Soule'; 7. Psalm 137: singing the Lord's song in a strange land; Conclusion; Appendix: Psalms 23, 51, and 137 (Coverdale translation); Bibliography; Index.


'… highly engaging … will be warmly received by anyone interested in the reception and cultural impact of the Bible.' Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

'Hamlin's book is a valuable first step in the scholarly study of the relationship between psalms and canonical literary culture, and its thoroughness as well as its attention to the formal publication qualities of early modern devotional language are exemplary …' Reformation

'… good-natured … study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century psalm translations into English.' MLR

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