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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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7093. PSALMS, Estimate of the.—
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7093. PSALMS, Estimate of the.—

I acknowledge
all the merit of the hymn of Cleanthes
to Jupiter, which you ascribe to it. It is
as highly sublime as a chaste and correct imagination
can permit itself to go. Yet in the
contemplation of a Being so superlative, the
hyperbolic flights of the Psalmist may often be
followed, with approbation, even with rapture;
and I have no hesitation in giving him the
palm over all the hymnists of every language
and of every time. Turn to the 148th psalm,
in Brady and Tate's version. Have such conceptions
been ever before expressed? Their
version of the 15th psalm is more to be esteemed
for its pithiness than its poetry. Even Sternhold,
the leaden Sternhold, kindles, in a single
instance, with the sublimity of his original, and
expresses the majesty of God descending on
the earth, in terms not unworthy of the subject:

“The Lord descended from above,
And bowed the heav'ns most high,
And underneath His feet He cast,
The darkness of the sky.
On Cherubim and Seraphim
Full royally He rode;
And on the wings of mighty winds
Came flying all abroad.”
—Psalm xviii.

* * * The best collection of these psalms is that of the Octagonian dissenters of Liverpool.
* * * Indeed, bad is the best of the English
versions; not a ray of poetical genius having
ever been employed on them. And how much
depends on this, may be seen by comparing
Brady and Tate's 15th psalm with Blacklock's
Justum et tenacem propositi virum of Horace.
A translation of David in this style, or in that
of Pompei's Cleanthes, might give us some idea
of the merit of the original. The character,
too, of the poetry of these hymns is singular to
us: written in monostichs, each divided into
strophe and anti-strophe, the sentiment of the
first member responded with amplification or
antithesis in the second.—
To John Adams. vi, 220.
(M. 1813)