A Psalm from an Elizabethan Poet

Around the same time that Protestant scholars were refining and revising the translation that would eventually become the King James Bible, a young diplomat and poet named Philip Sidney (1554–1586) set to work producing a verse version of the book of Psalms, conforming to his own ideas about meter and prosody. Jospeh Bottum provides some background:

[Sidney’s] sonnet cycle Astrophel and Stella, with its experimental riffs on Petrarch’s rhyme scheme, helped to establish the sonnet in English as a flexible, innovative form.  He wrote a romance, Arcadia, and a Defence of Poetry. Yet it was left to his friend, biographer, and fellow poet, Fulke Greville (1554–1628), to instigate the posthumous publication of these works.

The versifying of the psalms has a long history in English verse, particularly in the making of metrical versions that could be sung by Protestant congregations. . . . In Sidney’s case, by the time of his death (from injuries in the battle of Zutphen), the 16th-century poet had completed only 43 verse psalms. His sister, Mary Sidney, finished the project and, in 1599, presented a copy to the queen.

Sidney’s “Psalm XIII,” which, according to Botttom, “reflects the experimental energy Sidney brought to the making of verse,” begins thus:

How long, O Lord, shall I forgotten be?
What, ever?
How long wilt Thou Thy hidden face from me

How long shall I consult with careful sprite
In anguish?
How long shall I with foes’ triumphant might
Thus languish?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: English literature, Poetry, Psalms


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus