Thomas Sternhold

(? - 1549)

English psalmist. Attended Oxford, but did not graduate. He became the "Groom of the Robes" of Henry VIII, and retained this office under Edward VI. Sternhold first began his work on the Psalms for his own "Godly Solace" and is said to have sung them while accompanying himself on the organ. Apparently the young Edward VI heard them and asked for them to be repeated in his presence. Edward later provided patronage for Sternhold to work on his Psalms. Sternhold set his translations of the Psalms to be sung as ballads, which he hoped would replace the "amorous and obscene" songs commonly sung by the courtiers. To the extent that Sternhold's psalms were intended for court circles they are comparable to those of Marot, but they are by no means comparable in poetic quality.

The Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter (as it was subsequently knownč-it remained the standard version in England for almost two hundred years) actually had its beginning about 14 years before it was published in its final form. The exact date is not known for certain, but 1548 is generally accepted as the year when Thomas Sternhold published his first collection of 19 Psalms (Ps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 20, 25, 27, 29, 32, 33, 41, 49, 73,† 78, 103,† 120, 122, and 138). † This collection was dedicated to King Edward VI and was titled "Certayne PSALMES chose out of the PSALTER OF DAVID, and drawe into English metre, by Thomas Sternhold grome of Ye Kynges Maiesties roobes." Sternhold had expressed his intent to versify more of the Psalms, but he died shortly after the first edition was published. It quickly became the standard English psalter. A second, posthumous edition appeared in 1549, containing containing thirty-seven Psalms by Sternhold and an additional seven translations by John Hopkins. This edition was titled "Al suche Psalmes of DAVID as Thomas Sternholde, late grome of ye Kinges Maiesties Robes didde in hys lyfe tyme draw into English metre." In the same year The Psalter of David newely translated into Englysh metre with translations by Robert Crowley offered a single setting à 4 of all 150 psalms, but it was the Sternhold-Hopkins psalms, rather than those of Crowley, that were destined to survive.

In 1553. the Sternhold-Hopkins collection was augmented by seven psalms translated by William Whittingham (still without music), and a psalter by Francys Seager was printed, containing nineteen versified psalms and two four-part settings, one serving for twelve psalms, one for two. Also in 1553 Mary became Queen, and many Protestants fled to Geneva where they came into contact with John Calvin and the French tradition Psalms and music. The refugees brought the Sternhold-Hopkins collection with them, although it would appear that John Hopkins did not join them there because we do not see any new Psalms by him in any of the Geneva editions. The four Geneva editions all contained Sternhold's and Hopkins' original 44 Psalms. The first Genevan edition appeared in 1556. It contained a total of 51 Psalms, consisting of Sternhold's original 37, Hopkins original seven and an additional seven by William Whittingham. (Ps. 23, 51, 114, 115, 130, 133, 137) This edition was the first to be published with music.

A second Genevan edition was published in 1558 which contained 62 Psalms. Nine of the new Psalms were by Whittingham and the other two were by his friend John Pullain. The 1560 edition contained three additional Psalms.There was one further edition published in Geneva in 1561 but it had a much greater influence on the Scottish Psalter than on the English one we are considering here. The 1561 edition saw an additional 25 Psalms, all by†William Kethe. Many of these were dropped in favor of other versions in the later English editions. With respect to both texts and tunes the Anglo-Genevan Psalter was heavily indebted to the French Psalter of 1551-1554. Who prepared the music is unknown.

Millar Patrick reports that John Daye printed an English Psalter as early as 1559, the year after Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne, but that it was never released. Daye did publish a Psalter based on the Genevan work in 1560, the first with music, that was very similar to the 1560 Genevan Psalter, then he published a second edition in 1561 which contained a total of 87 Psalms. This version had begun to drop some of the Genevan additions to Sternhold and Hopkins original work. Daye published the first complete English Psalter in 1562. This version dropped twenty-three of the fourty-three Psalms that had been added in Geneva. It contained eighty-six new Psalms, mostly by John Hopkins, but it also included four new Psalms by Sternhold, which were apparently discovered after his death.

Daye's 1562 edition remained in use in England, with only a few changes, until well into the nineteenth century. The Sternhold and Hopkins version was brought to the American colonies and saw considerable use there. According to "American Hymns, Old and New" it was used extensively in the American south until the close of the eighteenth century. Even after the New Version (Brady and Tate) appeared in 1696, Sternhold and Hopkins continued to be printed and reprinted through more than six-hundred editions. The final edition was printed in 1828, two hundred and sixty-six years after the first edition.†

Sternhold's translation of Psalm 23:
1 My Shepherd is the living Lord, nothing therefore I need:
In pastures fair, near pleasant streams, he setteth me to feed.

2 He shall convert and glad my soul, and bring my mind in frame
To walk in paths of righteousness for his most holy Name.

3 Yea, though I walk in vale of death, yet will I fear no ill:
Thy rod and staff do comfort me, and thou art with me still.

4 And in the presence of my foes My table thou shalt spread
Thou wilt fill full my cup, and thou anointed hast my head.

5 Through all my life thy favor is so frankly showed to me
That in thy house for evermore my dwelling place shall be.

Illustration: "The whole booke of psalmes"

IVM:England Through 1635