PSALM 34

Through all the changing scenes of life

with WILTSHIRE

Text. This is a paraphrase of Psalm 34 by Nahum Tate (1652–1715) and Nicholas Brady (1659–1726) for the New Version of the Psalms (1696). In their methodology, they expressed a desire to keep “strictly to the text,” while also wanting to make their version “easy and intelligible,” in such a way as to “express the spirit and genius of every Psalm.” A pamphlet written anonymously by “a true son of the Church of England” and published in 1698 offered a bit more context into their process:

The undertakers at first proposed this pious design between themselves, but in a little time it was communicated, and as speedily received and nourished by persons of the highest rank, and principle authority in the nation, both in Church and in State. … Whereupon the late Queen of blessed and immortal memory [Mary II] was pleased to promise it her royal countenance. And the late Archbishop of Canterbury [John Tillotson], whose excellent endowments were so suitable to the dignity of his station, did freely acquaint the translators, that he was glad so useful a work was carrying on in his days. After the kingdom had sustained so considerable a loss by the death of those two eminent persons who were such ornaments to the nation, the present Archbishop [Thomas Tenison], who was chosen to succeed in the See of Canterbury, and acquits himself so well in that weighty charge which he has in the Church, was pleased to look favorably upon this religious design, and support that patronage which they had promised it. …

When the work was finished and had passed the censure of his grace the Archbishop, and several more of his brethren the Right Reverend Prelates, who vouchsafed to peruse it, and gave in their alterations and remarks, a petition was presented to His Majesty [William III] in council for allowing the liberty of a public reception of it in all churches, chapels, and congregations, which was accordingly granted.[1]

Tate & Brady had issued a trial version of their work, An Essay of a New Version of the Psalms of David, Consisting of the First Twenty (1695), for review, as stated above.

This rendition of Psalm 34 was crafted in 18 quatrains, numbered according to the biblical verse divisions so the correlation to the original text was clear (Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1. A New Version of the Psalms of David (London: M. Clark, 1696).

 

In spite of the general support of the throne and the clergy, this New Version was criticized to the extent the authors felt it necessary to revise their work, releasing a second edition in early 1698, published by M. Clark (Fig. 2). Psalm 34 contained a number of changes.

 

Fig. 2. A New Version of the Psalms of David, 2nd ed. (London: M. Clark, 1698).

 

The revisions of the 2nd ed. are generally improvements of language and flow. In the fourth verse, for example, the change from “Distress’d, to him I sought, he heard,” to “When in distress to him I call’d” is much simpler and smoother. In the sixth verse, they simplified “the supplicant” to read “behold the man.” The swapping of “experience” and “trial” in the eighth verse seems to result in a better sense. The original use of “hungry rapine” in the tenth verse, which created a rather muddled use of the term for plunder, was removed to create a much better representation of the biblical text. Adjustments at 13, 16, 21, and 22 are also improvements, except perhaps the last, in which the loss of “servants” and “trust” are a departure from the KJV.

The text was revised yet again and re-released in late 1698, this time published by T. Hodgkin (Fig. 3).

 

Fig. 3. A New Version of the Psalms of David (London: T. Hodgkin, 1698).

 

In this final revision, most of the second edition was retained, except the third line of verse six was restored to the original (“So dang’rously with woes beset”), as the end of verse nine was rephrased (“Your wants shall be his care”). The Hodgkin revision is regarded as the authoritative version of the text. Some hymnals use an additional doxology which had appeared in the back of the New Version.

Text: Analysis. This paraphrase covers the entirety of Psalm 34. It is mostly a faithful rendering, often borrowing words and phrases from the biblical text (see especially the King James Version, 1611, or the 1662 Book of Common Prayer). The poetry has been structured in a consistent ABCB rhyme, sometimes one verse per quatrain, otherwise two. Hymnologist J.R. Watson has noted how the authors’ liberty with the opening lines gave the paraphrase its memorable and enduring character:

The opening verse shows how Tate and Brady could take liberties with the original in order to produce mellifluous and effective verse. The Book of Common Prayer version is “I will alway give thanks unto the Lord: his praise shall ever be in my mouth.” By invoking the “changing scenes,” and by remembering that human life is often “in trouble and in joy,” the versifiers have provided a hymn that is a comfort to all those who suffer a time of unhappiness.[2]

Tune. The most common setting for this text is WILTSHIRE by George Thomas Smart (1776–1867), first published when Smart was hardly twenty years of age, in Divine Amusement: Being a Selection of the Most Admired Psalms, Hymns, and Anthems Used at St. James’s Chapel (London: G. Smart, ca. 1795). The original was arranged for three parts with figured bass and set to “The Lord, the only God is great,” a paraphrase of Psalm 48 by Tate & Brady, with a paraphrase of Psalm 122 as a secondary option, also by Tate & Brady.

Fig. 4. Divine Amusement: Being a Selection of the Most Admired Psalms, Hymns, and Anthems Used at St. James’s Chapel (London: G. Smart, ca. 1795).

Smart’s tune was frequently altered in other collections. One such alteration was said to have been approved by Smart for inclusion in Andrew Henderson’s Church Melodies (ca. 1865).[3] Near the end of his life, Smart included a revised version of the melody in his own Collection of Sacred Music (1863 | Fig. 5, image pending), set to “Through all the changing scenes of life,” which was then adopted into the Revised and Enlarged Edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1875).

by CHRIS FENNER
for Hymnology Archive
11 September 2019


Footnotes:

  1. A Brief and Full Account of Mr. Tate and Mr. Brady’s New Version of the Psalms (London: Joseph Wild, 1698), pp. 3-6.

  2. J.R. Watson, “Through all the changing scenes of life,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), p. 118.

  3. Kenneth Trickett, “WILTSHIRE,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), p. 75.

Related Resources:

A Brief and Full Account of Mr. Tate and Mr. Brady’s New Version of the Psalms (London: Joseph Wild, 1698): PDF

Robert Guy McCutchan, “Through all the changing scenes of life,” Our Hymnody, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1942), pp. 38-39.

James T. Lightwood, “WILTSHIRE,” The Music of the Methodist Hymn Book, 3rd ed. (London: Epworth Press, 1950), pp. 53-55.

Kenneth Trickett, “WILTSHIRE,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), p. 75.

J.R. Watson, “Through all the changing scenes of life,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), pp. 75-76.

J.R. Watson, “Through all the changing scenes of life,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), pp. 117-118.