Milton's Birthday

John Milton, that great scourge of the Catholic Church, and one of the greatestreligious poets in the language, was born four hundred years ago today in Cheapside, London -- the son of a scrivener (and former Catholic).Milton knew five languages besides English (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Italian) and put his Hebrew to good use in translating some of the Psalms. Here, in honor of the quatercentenary,ishis translation of Psalm I, done into rhyming verse in 1653:

Blessed is the man who hath not walked astray

In counsel of the wicked, and i the way

Of sinners hath not stood, and in the seat

Of scorners hath not sat; but in the great

Jehovahs law is ever his delight,

And in his law he studies day and night.

He shall be as a tree which planted grows

By watery streams, and in his season knows

To yield his fruit; and his leaf shall not fall,

And what he takes in hand shall prosper all.

Not so the wicked; but, as chaff which fanned

The wind drives, so the wicked shall not stand

In judgment, or abide their trial then,

Nor sinners in the assembly of just men.

For the Lord knows the upright way of the just

And the way of bad men to ruin must.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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