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VIII. Spread of the Genevan Psalmody in France.

The practice of congregational Psalmody, begun at Geneva in 1542, had spread rapidly among the Swiss churches. In Lausanne it was introduced almost simultaneously;8686Viret to Calvin, 21 July, 1542. Opera, vol. xi, 412. at Grandson, in the Pays de Vaud, not until 1549.8787A. Ruchat, Histoire de la Réformation de la Suisse. Genève, 1727 seq., vol. vi, p. 452. For an error in the date as given in Vulliemin’s later ed. see Bovet, p. 47, note. In 1553, according to Garnier of Strassburg, the Psalms were sung in all the French speaking evangelical churches.8888Douen, vol. i, p. 557; vol. ii, p. 514 (bibliographie No. 47).

In France, as we have seen, Marot had originally surrounded Psalmody with an air of grace and charm. It had spread from court to people irrespective of Protestant affiliations, and there remained many within the Church who saw no harm in it. But since the condemnation of Marot’s Trente Pseaulmes, the singing of Psalms in the vernacular had been generally regarded by the authorities as an act of defiance and a sufficient evidence of heresy. Soon after Henry II had set up “la Chambre ardente,” the edict of Fontainebleau8989December 11, 1547. See H. M. Baird, The Rise of the Huguenots of France, N. Y., ed. 1896, vol. i, p. 275. 68 put the stamp of heresy upon the printing of books dealing with Holy Scripture, the importation of any books not first approved by the Theological Faculty of Paris, and even the possession of books which had been condemned. The edict of Chateaubriand, June 27, 1551,9090Baird, op. cit., vol. i, p. 279-281. was particularly aimed at the growing influence of Geneva. Intercourse with the refugees there, and importation of books printed there, were especially prohibited. The provisions of the edict for searching all packages from abroad, for an inspection thrice in a year of the great fairs at Lyons, and notably the prohibition of the sale by peddlers of any sort of books, serve to reveal the methods by which Psalm books and other Genevan publications were scattered through France.

The Protestants of France were not long wholly dependent upon Geneva for their Psalm books. Several reprints of Marot’s Psalms had appeared both at Paris and at Lyons before the edict of 1547. But in 1549, at Lyons, which was conveniently remote from the eyes of the Paris theologians,9191G. H. Putnam, Books and their makers in the Middle Ages, vol. ii, N. Y., 1897, pp. 8, 9. there appeared an edition which included the melodies, evidently printed with a view of competing with Geneva for the Protestant market,9292Ibid, pp. 93, 94. constantly enlarging through the formation of new congregations.

The many printings of Marot’s Psalms in varied form in these and the following years imply a wide diffusion of them among the Protestants and those more or less in sympathy with them. The Protestants did not confine their Psalm singing to the congregational meetings and the privacy of their homes. They sang in the streets and in other public places. At Bourges in the spring of 1559 it became the daily custom for a large company to assemble in the evening on the green and sing Psalms; the people thronging about them to listen and often to participate in the Psalmody. In spite of repeated 69 proclamations by the town-crier, this continued through all the summer, the singers gathering about a gallows erected on the green to warn them of their impending fate.9393Bulletin de la Soc. de l’Histoire du Protest., vol. v, p. 90: See Bovet, pp. 53, 54. The situation is even more clearly revealed by a well-authenticated incident occurring in the heart of Paris itself in the spring of 1558.9494Histoire Ecclésiastique, vol. i, p. 90: quoted by Bayle, Dictionary (art. “Marot”): and see Baird, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 314, 315.

A throng of the better classes of Paris was enjoying its customary promenade at the “Pré-aux-Clercs,” an open ground adjoining the university, when some voice, with whatever motive, happened to start the melody of one of the Genevan Psalms. At once other voices took it up, until the whole body of promenaders, students, ladies and gentlemen, and some exalted personages, were united in continuing the Psalm. The singular demonstration was repeated during the afternoons following, until the matter was taken notice of by the faculty of the neighboring college of the Sorbonne, officially investigated by the Parliament, and ordered to cease.

Such incidents show how great a part the Genevan Psalmody was playing in spreading the Genevan doctrines in France. The popular sympathy it awakened in the stress of the persecutions under Henry II did much toward developing the party of reform and toleration within the Church itself. In some places the ancient order of the Church worship was seriously threatened, as in the churches of Bas-Poitou, where for a time the old ritual and the popular Psalmody were intermingled.9595Bovet, p. 55. The Chronique du Langon relates how the curé Moquet accommodated the services to the new taste for congregational Psalm-singing;9696Ibid, pp. 55, 56. and at Valence, the bishop, Montluc, whose heart was perhaps with the Protestants, was accused of allowing them to sing their Psalms in the nave, even while he was saying mass in the choir.9797Ibid, p. 56, note. It 70 was he who at the Assembly of Notables at Fontainebleau in 1560, supported the plea for toleration made by the Protestants, henceforward to be known as Huguenots.9898W. Moeller, History of the Christian Church, Eng. tr., vol. iii, p. 193. He demanded that the ban upon Psalm-singing be lifted, and that the singing of Psalms and daily preaching of the Word be introduced into the king’s palace as an example to the whole nation. “To prohibit the singing of Psalms, which the Fathers extol,” Montluc urged, “would be to give the seditious a good pretext for saying that the war was waged not against men, but against God, inasmuch as the publication and the hearing of His praises were not tolerated.”9999Baird, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 418, 419. The spirit of concession advanced so far in this particular direction that the young king Charles IX and the Queen Mother, with other officers of Church and State, united in a memorial praying that the singing of Psalms in the vulgar tongue be introduced into all the churches of France, and this they placed in the hands of the Cardinal of Lorraine for presentation to the Council of Trent.100100Douen, vol. i, p. 571.

In reality no compromise of any sort between the Church and the Protestants was at all practicable. This became evident at the Colloquy of Poissy in the autumn of 1561, where Beza, who had been recalled to France, appeared as the leader and spokesman of the Huguenot delegation. But it became also evident, in view of the number of the Protestants and the friends they had gained at court, that there must be for a time some cessation of the hitherto relentless policy of repression and extermination. The Reformed cause had won a temporary footing in France. Beza had now finished his translation of the Psalms, and took advantage of the situation to secure on October 16, 1561, its approbation by the examiners.101101Douen, vol. i, p. 564. The royal “privilége” for the publication of “tous les Pseaumes du Prophete Dauid, traduits à la verité Hebraique, & mis en rime Françoise & bonne Musique,” was 71 executed on October 29th, and issued on December 26, 1561.102102Certificate in edition of 1564. It vested the sole right to print the Psalms for a term of ten years in Antoine Vincent, a publisher of Lyons who had embraced the Reformed faith.

The long-pent-up eagerness of many to read and to own the Psalms at once expressed itself in a demand for the new Psalter that must have been unprecedented in the annals of French printing, and which is very striking even now. Vincent farmed out his right among numerous applicants, and “a veritable avalanche of Psalters” covered France, Switzerland and the Pays-Bas. Twenty-five editions are known to have appeared within 1562, the year of first publication. In Geneva itself there were nine editions, or rather issues, bearing the imprint of six different printing houses; seven editions at Paris, three at Lyons, one at St. Loo, and five that bear no indication of the place of issue. Fifteen editions of 1563 are known, eleven of 1564 and thirteen of 1565: a total of sixty-four issues within four years of publication.103103The fullest list is in Douen, vol. ii, bibliographie: a few issues then unknown have since turned up. The first edition of the completed Psalter seems to have been that printed at Geneva for Antoine Vincent, whose title has already been given. No doubt the numerous Genevan editions of 1562 were issued mainly to meet the demand from France. There is some variance in the title of the 1562 editions; a few appearing as Les Pseaumes de Dauid; a few more as Les cent et cinquante (or CL.) Pseaumes de Dauid. The names of Marot and Beza appear in all.

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