The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland Volume II Part 9

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Footnotes: 1. Gond. b. iii. cant. 3. stanz. 31.

2. Athen. Oxon. vol. ii, col. 412.

3. Histories Tragiques, Tom. IV. No. XIX.

HENRY KING, Bishop of Chichester,

The eldest son of Dr. John King lord bishop of London, whom Winstanley calls a person well fraught with episcopal qualities, was born at Wornal in Bucks, in the month of January 1591. He was educated partly in grammar learning in the free school at Thame in Oxfords.h.i.+re, and partly in the College school at Westminster, from which last he was elected a student in Christ Church 1608[1], being then under the tuition of a noted tutor. Afterwards he took the degrees in arts, and entered into holy orders, and soon became a florid preacher, and successively chaplain to King James I. archdeacon of Colchester, residentiary of St. Paul's cathedral, canon and dean of Rochester, in which dignity he was installed the 6th of February 1638. In 1641, says Mr. Wood, he was made bishop of Chichester, being one of those persons of unblemished reputation, that his Majesty, tho' late, promoted to that honourable office; which he possessed without any removal, save that by the members of the Long Parliament, to the time of his death.

When he was young he delighted much in the study of music and poetry, which with his wit and fancy made his conversation very agreeable, and when he was more advanced in years he applied himself to oratory, philosophy, and divinity, in which he became eminent.

It happened that this bishop attending divine service in a church at Langley in Bucks, and hearing there a psalm sung, whose wretched expression, far from conveying the meaning of the Royal Psalmist, not only marred devotion, but turned what was excellent in the original into downright burlesque; he tried that evening if he could not easily, and with plainness suitable to the lowest understanding, deliver it from that garb which rendered it ridiculous. He finished one psalm, and then another, and found the work so agreeable and pleasing, that all the psalms were in a short time compleated; and having shewn the version to some friends of whose judgment he had a high opinion, he could not resist their importunity (says Wood) of putting it to the press, or rather he was glad their sollicitations coincided with his desire to be thought a poet.

He was the more discouraged, says the antiquary, as Mr. George Sandys's version and another by a reformer had failed in two different extremes; the first too elegant for the vulgar use, changing both metre and tunes, wherewith they had been long acquainted; the other as flat and poor, and as lamely executed as the old one. He therefore ventured in a middle way, as he himself in one of his letters expresses it, without affectation of words, and endeavouring to leave them not disfigured in the sense. This version soon after was published with this t.i.tle;

The Psalms of David from the New Translation of the Bible, turned into Metre, to be sung after the old tunes used in churches, Lond. 1651, in 12mo.

There is nothing more ridiculous than this notion of the vulgar of not parting with their old versions of the psalms, as if there were a merit in singing hymns of nonsense. Tate and Brady's version is by far the most elegant, and best calculated to inspire devotion, because the language and poetry are sometimes elevated and sublime; and yet for one church which uses this version, twenty are content with that of Sternhold and Hopkins, the language and poetry of which, as Pope says of Ogilvy's Virgil, are beneath criticism.--

After episcopacy was silenced by the Long Parliament, he resided in the house of Sir Richard Hobbart (who had married his sister) at Langley in Bucks. He was reinstated in his See by King Charles II. and was much esteemed by the virtuous part of his neighbours, and had the blessings of the poor and distressed, a character which reflects the highest honour upon him.

Whether from a desire of extending his beneficence, or instigated by the restless ambition peculiar to the priesthood, he sollicited, but in vain, a higher preferment, and suffered his resentment to betray him into measures not consistent with his episcopal character. He died on the first day of October 1669[2], and was buried on the south side of the choir, near the communion table, belonging to the cathedral church in Chichester. Soon after there was a monument put over his grave, with an inscription, in which it is said he was,

Antiqua, eaque regia Saxonium apud Danmonios in agro Devoniensi, prosapia oriundus,

That he was,

Natalium Splendore ill.u.s.tris, pietate, Doctrina, et virtutibus ill.u.s.trior, &c.

This monument was erected at the charge of his widow, Anne daughter of Sir William Russel of Strensham in Worcesters.h.i.+re, knight and baronet.

Our author's works, besides the version of the Psalms already mentioned, are as follows;

A Deep Groan fetched at the Funeral of the incomparable and glorious Monarch King Charles I. printed 1649.

Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes, Sonnets, &c. Lond. 1657.

Several Letters, among which are extant, one or more to the famous archbishop Usher, Primate of Ireland, and another to Isaac Walton, concerning the three imperfect books of Richard Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, dated the 13th of November 1664, printed at London 1665.

He has composed several Anthems, one of which is for the time of Lent.

Several Latin and Greek Poems, scattered in several Books.

He has likewise published several Sermons,

1. Sermon preached at Paul's Cross 25th of November 1621, upon occasion of a report, touching the supposed apostasy of Dr. John King--late bishop of London, on John xv. 20, Lond. 1621; to which is also added the examination of Thomas Preston, taken before the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth 20th of December 1621, concerning his being the author of the said Report.

2. David's Enlargement, Morning Sermon on Psalm x.x.xii. 5. Oxon. 1625.


3. Sermon of Deliverance, at the Spittal on Easter Monday, Psalm xc.

3. printed 1626, 4to.

4. Two Sermons at Whitehall on Lent, Eccles. xii. 1, and Psalm lv. 6.

printed 1627, in 4to.

5. Sermon at St. Paul's on his Majesty's Inauguration and Birth, on Ezekiel xxi. 27. Lond. 1661. 4to.

6. Sermon on the Funeral of Bryan Bishop of Winchester, at the Abbey Church of Westminster, April 24, 1662, on Psalm cxvi. 15. Lond. 1662.


7. Visitation Sermon at Lewis, October 1662. on t.i.tus ii. 1. Lond.

1663. 4to.

8. Sermon preached the 30th of January, 1664, at Whitehall, being the Day of the late King's Martyrdom, on 2. Chron. x.x.xv. 24, 25. Lond.

1665, 4to.

To these Sermons he has added an Exposition of the Lord's Prayer, delivered in certain Sermons, on Matth. vi. 9. &c. Lond. 1628. 4to.

We shall take a quotation from his version of the 104th psalm.

My soul the Lord for ever bless: O G.o.d! thy greatness all confess; Whom majesty and honour vest, In robes of light eternal drest.

He heaven made his canopy; His chambers in the waters lye: His chariot is the cloudy storm, And on the wings of wind is born.

He spirits makes his angels quire, His ministers a flaming fire.

He so did earth's foundations cast, It might remain for ever fast:

Then cloath'd it with the s.p.a.cious deep, Whose wave out-swells the mountains steep.

At thy rebuke the waters fled, And hid their thunder-frighted head.

They from the mountains streaming flow, And down into the vallies go: Then to their liquid center hast, Where their collected floods are cast.

These in the ocean met, and joyn'd, Thou hast within a bank confin'd: Not suff'ring them to pa.s.s their bound, Lest earth by their excess be drown'd.

He from the hills his chrystal springs Down running to the vallies brings: Which drink supply, and coolness yield, To thirsting beasts throughout the field.

By them the fowls of heaven rest, And singing in their branches nest.

He waters from his clouds the hills; The teeming earth with plenty fills.

He gra.s.s for cattle doth produce, And every herb for human use: That so he may his creatures feed, And from the earth supply their need.

He makes the cl.u.s.ters of the vine, To glad the sons of men with wine.

He oil to clear the face imparts, And bread, the strength'ner of their hearts.

The trees, which G.o.d for fruit decreed, Nor sap, nor moistning virtue need.

The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland Volume II Part 9

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