‘Old Version’

Sternhold & Hopkins

Thomas Sternhold
John Hopkins
William Whittingham
William Kethe
Robert Wisdom
Thomas Norton
John Marckant
John Pullain


Thomas Sternhold, Certayne psalmes chosen out of the Psalter of Dauid (ca. 1548).

Thomas Sternhold. He was born in 1500. The place of his birth is doubtful, but it was either in Gloucestershire or Hampshire. He was Groom of the Robes to Henry VIII and Edward VI. To the latter monarch he dedicated his first small volume of Nineteen Psalms. He died in 1549. He is credited with the authorship of thirty-nine psalms in the Old Scottish Psalter [1564].

John Hopkins. The date of his birth is uncertain, but he was born probably at Awre in Gloucestershire. Very little is known about him except that he was a clergyman and schoolmaster in Suffolk. He seems to have become an exile during the reign of Queen Mary, but his place of refuge is not mentioned. He returned, however, to England, and in 1570 he died, as rector of Great Waldingfield, Suffolk. His contributions to the books were thirty-seven psalms. It has been said of his psalms and those of Sternhold: “They are very faithful, but somewhat coarse and homely in phraseology.” As Fuller well said, “their authors’ piety was better than their poetry, and they had drunk more of Jordan than of Helicon.”

William Kethe. He is supposed to have been a native of Scotland, but the dates of his birth and death are unknown. He also had to leave England during the reign of Queen Mary. He joined the exiles at Geneva in 1556. Whilst there he was one of the translators of the Genevan Bible, and was also engaged with others in the metrical translation of the psalms. Lord Wharton called him “a no unready rhymer.” He wrote some popular religious ballads, the most noted of which was “A Ballad on the whore of Babylon, called Tye thy Mare Tom Boy.” On his return to England in 1563 he became Chaplain to the Forces under the Earl of Warwick, and was praised for his courage, steadfastness and laboriousness. He appears to have been in this capacity with the army in Newhaven, and also in “the North parts.” He became a settled minister at Child-Ockford in Dorsetshire. It was in 1558 that there was first published, on a page attached to a tract by John Knox, his rendering of Psalm xciv., which began thus:

Lord, since vengeance doth to Thee,
And to none else belong:
Now show Thy self, Lord our God,
With speed avenge our wrong.

But Kethe’s best and most enduring memorial is his rendering of Psalm c., which we still sing. He contributed twenty-five psalms to the Psalter. They were notable for the easy flow and variety of their metres, and must have given brightness to the congregational singing.

William Whittingham. He was born in the county of Chester in 1524, and was educated at Oxford. He had a high repute for learning and intellectual ability; and he also, during his residence among the English exiles at Geneva, was one of the translators of the Genevan Bible. He married whilst there the sister of Calvin, and became the successor of Knox as pastor of the congregation. He returned to England in 1560, and afterwards was in France for three years with the Earls of Bedford and Warwick. Subsequently, through the influence of the latter, he was made Dean of Durham, although he still adhered to his Puritan views. He has been charged with certain acts of vandalism when Dean, but it is admitted that he was well skilled in sacred music, and that the choir of his church at Durham was provided with the best anthems. He died in 1579. He contributed sixteen psalms to the Psalter. They were written in a great variety of metres.

John Pullain. He was born in Yorkshire, and was admitted as a senior student of Christ Church in 1547, at the age of thirty. He embraced the Reformation doctrines and preached them privately at St. Michael’s, Cornhill, in 1556. But he also had to flee from England, and he likewise joined the exiles at Geneva. In the happier time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign he returned and was made Archdeacon of Colchester. It is said of him that he was opposed to the use of organs in public worship, and was in favour of insisting “that the psalms at common prayer be sung distinctly by the whole congregation.” He died in 1565. He contributed only two psalms to the Scottish Psalter. These were Psalms cxlviii. and cxlix.

Thomas Norton. He was born in Bedfordshire, and became a Barrister-at-Law. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. Some called him a “forward and busy Calvinist.” He wrote several tracts on the religious controversies of the age. He is said to have enjoyed in his day a considerable poetical reputation. Only eight out of the twenty-six psalms which he contributed to the Old English Psalter found a place in the Old Scottish Psalter.

by Thomas Young
The Metrical Psalms and Paraphrases

Featured Texts & Tunes:

All people that on earth do dwell


Collections of Psalms:

Certayne psalmes chosen out of the Psalter of Dauid (19 psalms / London, ca. 1548): WorldCat

Al such psalmes of Dauid (44 psalms / London, 1549): WorldCat

Psalmes of Dauid in metre (52 psalms / Wesel, 1556): WorldCat

One and Fiftie Psalmes of David in Englishe metre (51 psalms / Geneva, 1556): WorldCat

Psalmes of Dauid in Englishe metre (62 psalms / Geneva, 1558): WorldCat

Foure score and seuen Psalmes of Dauid in Englishe metre (87 psalms / Geneva, 1560): WorldCat

Psalmes of Dauid in Englishe metre (65 psalms / London, 1560): WorldCat

Psalmes. Of David in Englishe metre (83 psalms / London, 1561): WorldCat

Foure score and seuen Psalmes of Dauid in English mitre (87 psalms / London, 1561): WorldCat

The residue of all Dauids Psalmes in metre (77 psalms / London, 1562): WorldCat

The whole booke of Psalmes, collected into Englysh metre (151 psalms / London, 1562): WorldCat

This list is based on Quitslund (2008), pp. 275-276.

Related Resources:

William Beveridge, A Defense of the Book of Psalms, Collected into English Metre, by Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and others. With critical observations on the late New Version with the Old (London: R. Smith, 1710): Google Books

Henry Alexander Glass, The Story of the Psalters: A History of the Metrical Versions of Great Britain and America, from 1549 to 1885 (London: Kegan Paul, 1885): Archive.org

H. Leigh Bennett & John Julian, “Old Version,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 857-866: Google Books

Thomas Young, The Metrical Psalms and Paraphrases: A Short Sketch of Their History with Biographical Notes of Their Authors (London: A&C Black, 1909): Archive.org

Maurice Frost, English & Scottish Psalm & Hymn Tunes, ca. 1543–1677 (Oxford: University Press, 1953): WorldCat

Kirby Rogers, An Index to Maurice Frost’s English & Scottish Psalm & Hymn Tunes (Ann Arbor: The Association, 1967): WorldCat

C.L. Oastler, John Day, the Elizabethan Printer (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, Bodleian Library, 1975): WorldCat

Rivkah Zim, English Metrical Psalms. Poetry as Praise and Prayer, 1535-1601 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987): WorldCat

Robin A. Leaver, ‘Goostly Psalmes and Spirituall Songes’: English and Dutch Metrical Psalms from Coverdale to Utenhove, 1535-1566 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991): WorldCat

Susan Ranson, John Hopkins, Metrical Psalmist and Rector of Great Waldingfield (Norwich: Border Editions, 2004): WorldCat

Beth Quitslund, The Reformation in Rhyme: Sternhold, Hopkins, and the English Metrical Psalter, 1547–1603 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008): WorldCat

Beth Quitslund & Nicholas Temperley, The Whole Book of Psalms: A Critical Edition of the Texts and Tunes (Tucson, AZ: 2013): WorldCat

Dan Kreider, “The enduring success of the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter,” Grace Music (2017):

Nicholas Temperley, Howard Slenk, et al. “Metrical psalms,” Grove Music Online:

Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
Thomas Sternhold | John Hopkins | William Kethe | William Whittingham | John Day | Old Version

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
Thomas Sternhold | John Hopkins | William Kethe | William Whittingham | John Day | Robert Wisdom | Thomas Norton | John Marckant | John Pullain

Thomas Sternhold | John Hopkins | William Kethe | William Whittingham | Robert Wisdom | Thomas Norton | John Marckant

Hymn Tune Index: