Perfectly Imperfect — the Scottish Psalter of 1564 .
Languages of publication
The return to the original languages of the Bible was one of the key tenets of the Protestant reform and the embodiment of the Renaissance cry ad fontes. The circumvention of the Septuagint and the Vulgate was, therefore, not necessarily so much an outright expression of hostility towards Rome as an articulation of a desire for fidelity to the text; hence the emergence of a plethora of new Latin translations of the original Hebrew Psalter. The Scottish metrical Psalter of 1564, which is going to be the focus of this paper, however, was not based on the Hebrew source but either on its fresh Latin renditions or, most frequently, on German and French versifications. In addition to that, the incipient text was adapted to the pre-set tunes associated with individual Psalms. Consequently, the requirements of rhythm and rhyme — both these obtaining in English and those which had influenced the German and French versified Psalms — were prioritised over the fidelity of the rendition. In spite of that, the Scottish Kirk accorded it the status of the liturgical text, and members of the Congregation immediately embraced it, taking the psalms from the churches to their homes and meeting places, so psalm singing became a ubiquitous activity. At the same time, the text of the Scottish Psalter was felt to be imperfect and several attempts at improving it were undertaken, but the ministers demurred. The paper sets out to explain the popularity the Scottish Psalter enjoyed despite its manifold imperfections.
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