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Captain Middleton

Even while he was writing thus, another religious patriot, in another part of the world, was making leisure for himself to 'begin the sacred labour.'

This was Captain WILLIAM MIDDLETON, who joined to the congenial task of fighting the Spaniards this gentler exercise of translating the Psalms into the language of his beloved motherland, 'keeping as near as he could to the mind of the Holy Ghost.' No doubt the warlike tones of many of these sacred ballads of the Hebrew nation found a ready response in his heart, as he pursued those whom the theology of the day classified as enemies of the Lord. In 1591, six ships were told off under the command of Admiral Howard to go and plunder a portion of the Spanish fleet on its return with large booty from America. Captain Middleton's ship was one of the six, and he was charged to watch the arrival of the enemy. He found, however, that the Spaniards had obtained large reinforcements to defend their treasure, and the mission of plunder had to be abandoned. The captain, we are told, was worthy of a place, even 17 among the brilliant array of brave soldiers that made England's name a terror to the terrible Armada. But in the midst of his naval duties his heart was secretly devoted to a far nobler purpose. He wanted to give his country the Book of Psalms in verse, that the praise of God might no longer be silent. The work was finished at the Island of Scutum, in the West Indies, on the 24th day of January, 1595. But, alas, for good intentions without due regard to practical results! His metres were all so intricate that no music could fit them, and no mouth could sing them. So the book has always remained a pious failure; one of the many fruitless works of well-meaning devotion which lie on the road to heaven, like broken columns of white marble, covered with dust--of very little value here, but in heaven surely remembered 'for the Name that is dear.'

While the sailor-poet was finishing his version in the West Indies, another kindred spirit at home--EDWARD KYFFIN, supposed by some to be a brother of Maurice--was preparing some of the Psalms 'for such of his beloved countrymen as love the glory of the Lord and the cherishing of their own mother tongue.' In his introduction he is careful to explain, with a touch of true Elizabethan 'sea-divinity,' that Englishmen were not only zealous to rob and kill the Spaniards, but bad also an anxious desire to save their souls; for had they not printed a large number of religious books in Spanish, and distributed them very 18 diligently--when not otherwise engaged? If a foreign nation merited so much Christian consideration, how much more his own nation? for assuredly no people bad been so favoured of God for long centuries, and were they to be last and latest in speaking of His glory?

He only versified thirteen Psalms; but he prays most earnestly that this may be an incitement to some other mind to finish the work: 'hoping that since God has kept us so long, He may have in His thought some chef d'oeuvre and mighty conquest for the increase of His own glory among the ancient Britons, whom He has so miraculously preserved until now in liberty and safety.' The introduction breathes throughout a spirit of exalted devotion: and after three hundred years every sentence seems as if the touch of Heaven were fresh upon it. 'Let no true Welshman give sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids, as the prophet David said, until he has seen the glory of the Lord, by facilitating the completion of this godly task in the language of his own country!'

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