Sing Unto the LORD a New Song

In 1696, author Nahum Tate, British poet and dramatist, who died on this day (August 12th) in 1715, wrote the New Version of the Psalms of David.  He is probably best known through his popular Christmas Carol “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.”

The title in the printed text adds the following words

“Fitted to the Tunes used in Churches by N.Brady, D.D. and N. Tate, Esq.”

I wonder what ‘tunes’ were being used in churches in 1696. I doubt we are singing many of them today.  

Let me cite the text to a well known psalm as rephrased by Nahum Tate.

Psalm 23

The Lord himself, the mighty Lord, vouchsafes to be my guide;

The shepherd, by whose constant care my wants are all supplied.

In tender grass he makes me feed, and gently there repose;

Then leads me to cool shades, and where refreshing water flows.

He does my wand’ring soul reclaim, and, to his endless praise,

Instruct with humble zeal to want in his most righteous ways.

I pass the gloomy vale of death, from fear and danger free;

For there his aiding rod and staff defend and comfort me.

In presence of my spiteful foes he does my table spread,

He crowns my cup with cheerful wine, with oil anoints my head.

Since God does thus his wondrous love through all my life extend,

That life to him I will devote, and in his temple spend.

Today, 320 years later, the LORD remains our Shepherd!  Rejoice!

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