The Preface
(of The Bay Psalm Book)

(Exerpts only, spelling not modernized)

Isaiah foretells in the dayes of the new Testament that Gods watchmen and desolate lost soules (signified by waft places) should with their voices sing together, Isa. 52. 8, 9. and Reu. 7, 9, 10. the song of the Lamb was by many together, and the Apostle expresly commands the singing of Psalmes, Himnes, &c not to any select christians, but to the whole Church Eph. 5.19 coll. 3. 16. Paule & Silas sang together in private Acts. 16.25. and must the publick heare only one man sing? to all these wee may adde the practise of the primitive Churches; the testimony of ancient and holy Basil is in stead of many Epist. 63 When one of us (faith he) hath begun a psalme, the rest of us set in to sing with him, all of us with one heart and one voyce; and this faith he is the common practise of the Churches in Egypt, Lybia, Thebes, Palestina, Syria and those that dwell on Euphrates, and generally every where, where singing of psalmes is of any account.

As for the scruple that some take at the translation of the book of psalmes into meeter, because Davids psalmes were sung in his owne words without meeter: wee answer- First. There are many verses together in several psalmes of David which run in rithmes (as those that know the hebrew and as Buxtorf shews Thesaro. pa. 629.) which shews at least the lawfullnes of singing psalmes in english rithmes.

Secondly. The psalmes are penned in such verses as are sutable to the poetry of the hebrew language, and not in the common style of such other bookes of the old Testament as are not poeticall; now no protestant doubteth but that all the bookes of the scripture should by Gods ordinance be extant in the mother tongue of each nation, that they may be understood of all, hence the psalmes are to be translated into our english tongue; and it is in our english tongue wee are to sing them, then as all our english songs (according to the course of our english poetry) do run in metre, soe ought Davids psalmes to be translated into meeter, that soe wee may sing the Lords song, as in our english tongue soe in such verses as are familar to an english eare which are commonly metricall: and as it can be no just offence to any good concience to sing Davids hebrew songs in english words, soe neither to sing poeticall verses in english poeticall metre: men might as well stumble at singing the hebrew psalmes in our english tunes (and not in the hebrew tunes) as at singing them in english meeter, (which are our verses) and not in such verses are generally used by David according to the poetty of the hebrew language: but the truth is, as the Lord hath hid from us the hebrew tunes, wee should think our selves bound to them; soe also the course and frame (for the most part) of their hebrew poetry, that wee might not think our selves bound to imitate that, but that every nation without scruple might follow as the graver sort of tunes of their owne country songs, soe the graver sort of verses of their owne country poetry.  (Webmaster's note: is this the "mother of all run-on sentences?")

Neither let any think, that for the meetre sake wee have taken liberty or poeticall licence to depart from the true and proper sence of Davids words in the hebrew verses, noe; but it hath beene one part of our religious care and faithfull indeavour, to keepe close to originall text.

As for other objections taken from the difficulty of Ainsworths tunes, and the corruptions in our common psalme books, wee hope they are answered in this new edition of psalmes which wee here present to God and his Churches. For although wee have cause to blesse God in many respects for the religious indeavours of the translaters of the psalmes into meetre usually annexed to our Bibles, yet it is not unknowne to the godly learned that they have rather presented a paraphrase then the words of David translated according to the rule 2 chron. 29. 30. and that their addition to the words, detractions from the words are not seldome and rare, but very frequent and many times needles, (which we suppose would not be approved of if the psalmes were so translated into prose) and that their variations of the sense, and alterations of the sacred text to frequently, may justly minister matter of offence to them that are able to compare the translation with the text; of which failings, some judicious have oft complained, others have been grieved, wherupon it hath bin generally desired, that as wee doe injoye other, soe (if it were the Lords will) wee might injoye this ordinance also in its native purity: wee have therefore done our indeavour to make a plaine and familiar translation of the psalmes and words of David into english metre, and have not soe much as presumed to paraphrase to give the sense of his meaning in other words; we have therefore attended heerin as our chief guide the originall, shuning all additions, except such as even the best translators of them in prose supply, avoiding all materiall detractions from words or sense.

As for our translations, wee have with our english Bibles (to which next to the Originall wee have had respect) used the Idioms of our owne tongue in stead of Hebraismes, lest they might seeme english barbarismes. Synonimaes wee use indifferently: as folk for people, and Lord for Jehovah, and somtime (though seldome) God for Jehovah; for which (as for some other interpretations of places cited in the new Testament) we have the scriptures authority ps. 14. with 53. Heb 1.6. with psalm 97.7. Where a phrase is doubtfull wee have followed that which (in our owne apprhension) is most genuine & edifying:

Sometime wee have contracted, sometime dilated the same hebrew word, both for the sence and the verse sake: which dilatation wee conceive to be no paraphrasticall addition no more then the contraction of a true and full translation to abe any unfaithfull detraction or diminution: as when wee dilate who healeth and say he it is who healeth; so when wee contract, those that stand in awe of God and say Gods fearers.

Lastly. Because hebrew words have a more full and emphaticall signification then any one english word can or doth somtime expresse, hence wee have done that somtime which faithfull translators may doe, viz. not only to translate the word but the emphasis of it....

As for all other changes of numbers, senses, and characters of speech, they are such as either the hebrew will unforcedly beare, or our english forceably calls for, or they no way change the sence; and such are printed usually in an other character.

If therefore the verses are not alwayes so smooth and elegant as some may derive or expect; let them consider that Gods Altar needs not our pollishings: Ex. 20. for wee have respected rather a plaine translation, then to smooth our verses with the sweetnes of any paraphrase, and soe have attended Conscience rather then Elegance, fidelity rather then poetry, in translating the hebrew words into english language, and Davids poetry into english meetre;

Note: This website includes many of the 
Psalms from the Bay Psalm Book

Note: as time permits we may provide the remainder of the preface, but this is the part that seemed germane to the purposes of this web site. -- webmaster.


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