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that, O Lord, not for any merits of ours, but only for the merits1 of thy Son, and our alone Saviour Christ Jesus; to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all glory, &c. Amen.
1 The original has "not for any merits of thy son: the omitted words have been supplied by an obvious conjecture; but I do not know by whom.
THE translation of certain Psalms into English verse (the only verses certainly of Bacon's making that have come down to us, and probably with one or two slight exceptions the only verses he ever attempted,) was made, as the collection of Apophthegms also was, during a fit of sickness in 1624. Had it been merely composed, fairly copied, and presented with a grateful and graceful dedication to his friend George Herbert, there would have been nothing in the matter to call for explanation. A full mind, accustomed to work under the excitement of an eager temperament and the consciousness of great purposes unaccomplished and the time fast approaching when no man can work, cannot find rest in inaction; but only in some other mode of activity, which may occupy without exciting or too deeply engaging it. For this purpose no exercises can be better than the turning over and reviewing of the miscellaneous stores of the memory, and the mechanical process of arranging words in metre.
But for the unquiet heart and brain
A use in measured language lies:
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
Bacon however not only composed these two little
works, but published them:1 a fact which, considering how little he had cared to publish during the first sixty years of his life, and how many things of weightier character and more careful workmanship he had then by him in his cabinet, (including the entire contents of the Miscellany works and the Resuscitatio,) is somewhat remarkable. My own conjecture is, that things of more serious import he did not like to publish in an imperfect shape as long as he could hope to perfect them, but that he owed money to his printer and bookseller, and if such trifles as these would help to pay it, he had no objection to their being used for the purpose.
In compositions upon which a a man would have thought it a culpable waste of time to bestow any serious labour, it would be idle to seek either for indications of his taste or for a measure of his powers. And yet as Bacon could not have gone on turning so many of the Psalms into verse without thinking a good deal about the way in which it should be done, there is some interest in watching his progress. At first he seems to have tried to keep close to the text: adding no more than the necessities of metre required. His two first experiments appear to be done on this principle, and the effect is flat enough. I fancy too that he felt it to be so. For as he advances he falls more and more into a kind of paraphrase; in which the inevitable loss of lyric fire and force is in some degree compensated by the development of meanings which are implied or suggested by the original, but not so as to strike the imagination of a modern reader; so that the translation serves for a kind of poetical com
1 In December 1624. See Court and Times of James I., ii. p. 486.