Psalm 19: Coeli enarrant

    The heavenly frame sets forth the fame
    Of him that only thunders;
    The firmament, so strangely bent,
    Shows his handworking wonders.

    Day unto day doth it display,
    Their course doth it acknowledge,
    And night to night succeeding right
    In darkness teach clear knowledge.

    There is no speech, no language which
    Is so of skill bereaved,
    But of the skies the teaching cries
    They have heard and conceived.

    There be no eyen but read the line
    From so fair book proceeding,
    Their words be set in letters great
    For everybody's reading.

    Is not he blind that doth not find
    The tabernacle builded
    There by His Grace for sun's fair face
    In beams of beauty gilded?

    Who forth doth come, like a bridegroom,
    From out his veiling places,
    As glad is he, as giants be
    To run their mighty races.

    His race is even from ends of heaven;
    About that vault he goeth;
    There be no realms hid from his beams;
    His heat to all he throweth.

    O law of His, how perfect 'tis
    The very soul amending;
    God's witness sure for aye doth dure
    To simplest wisdom lending.

    God's dooms be right, and cheer the sprite,
    All His commandments being
    So purely wise it gives the eyes
    Both light and force of seeing.

    Of Him the fear doth cleanness bear
    And so endures forever,
    His judgments be self verity,
    They are unrighteous never.

    Then what man would so soon seek gold
    Or glittering golden money?
    By them is past in sweetest taste,
    Honey or comb of honey.

    By them is made Thy servants' trade
    Most circumspectly guarded,
    And who doth frame to keep the same
    Shall fully be rewarded.

    Who is the man that ever can
    His faults know and acknowledge?
    O Lord, cleanse me from faults that be
    Most secret from all knowledge.

    Thy servant keep, lest in him creep
    Presumtuous sins' offenses;
    Let them not have me for their slave
    Nor reign upon my senses.

    So shall my sprite be still upright
    In thought and conversation,
    So shall I bide well purified
    From much abomination.

    So let words sprung from my weak tongue
    And my heart's meditation,
    My saving might, Lord, in Thy sight,
    Receive good acceptation!

    Sir Philip Sidney(1554-1586)

Sir Philip Sidney was a model of Renaissance chivalry. English author and courtier. He was one of the leading members of Queen Elizabeth's court. Sidney exerted a strong influence on English poetry as patron, critic, and example. His literary efforts circulated only in manuscript during his lifetime.

An interesting phenomenon of the poetry Elizabethan and Jacobean times occurred between 1580 to 1660. During Elizabeth's reign, there were many English attempts to translate the Old Testament, but an "authorized" version had not yet been produced. It was a common practice for many writers to try to interpret the English translations, the Latin Vulgate or even ancient Hebrew texts in their own words. May aspired to make the Psalms of David into metrical and singable verse as opposed to literal translations. One possible reason may have been because the costs of printing were so prohibitively high that the goal of the composer was to make the Psalms memorable.

Psalm 19: Coeli enarrant is Sidney's interpretation of Psalm 19. Somewhat different from the King James Version, Bob Blair at the Poet's Corner expresses his opinion:

    "I don't know, but I'm guessing that he took as his starting point the translation in Tyndale's English Bible, perhaps augmented by reference to the Vulgate".
For comparison, I've put it here in this node with the Authorized (King James) translation because the authorized Version follows Tyndale closely in the Psalms.

None of Sidney's works was published in his lifetime, yet his influence was felt across the range of prose fiction, poetry, and drama for many years. He became the founding father of the great outburst of activity which produced the writing of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Spenser, Jonson, and John Donne. He retired from court for a time after incurring the queen's displeasure, but in 1583 was restored to favor and knighted. He served in several diplomatic missions on the Continent and in 1586 at the age of 32 he was fatally wounded at the battle of Zutphen fighting for the Protestant cause in the Netherlands.


Blair, Bob:

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.