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Mayflower, Day by Day - Monday, 13 September 1621

13 Sep 2021 2:36 AM | Soule (Administrator)

The principal texts used in Pilgrim worship were from the Book of Psalms.  In their strictly literal reading of Scripture, it was noted that the only time that Jesus sang was on the night before he died, when he and the disciples sang psalms on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane: this was in contrast to the worship in the Temple, when only the priests and Levites sang.  Thus the Pilgrims encouraged all to sing, but only the Psalms: this was also a capella, as the use of the organ and other instruments was proscribed in worship services.  The Psalter used in the Church of England was Miles Coverdale’s 1535 translation, used in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer (and all subsequent versions in the Church of England).  Although the first complete metrical (or versified) Psalter in English, published in 1562, was known as “Sternhold and Hopkins,” Henry Ainsworth published his Psalter specifically for the Separatist Congregation in Holland.  It remained as the main song book of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, although “The Bay Psalm-Book,” published at Cambridge [Massachusetts] in 1640 and revised later, is better known.  Ainsworth provided both a prose and a verse version of the psalms, and kept the two as close to each other as possible: the versified version is thus frequently garbled and unintelligible.  More about the Ainsworth Psalter and Pilgrim worship and music can be found in the most recent issues of the Mayflower Quarterly, and I will add some more comments in the next few days.

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