Francis Rous, 1579-1659

Julian's account:

Francis Rous (Rouse) was born at Halton, Cornwall in 1579, and educated at Oxford. He adopted the legal profession, and was MP. for Truro during the reigns of James and Charles I. He also represented Truro in the Long Parliament, and took part against the King and the bishops. He was appointed a member of the Westminster Assembly of the High Commission; and of the Triers for examining and licensing candidates for the ministry. He also held other appointments under Cromwell including that of Provost of Eton College. Wood in his 'Athenae Oxoniesis' gives a list of his numerous works. He died at Acton, Jan. 7th. 1659, and was buried in the chapel of Eton College.

His hymn in 'Spiritual Songs' is no 299, the well known version of Ps. 23, "The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want". Its inclusion in 'Spiritual Songs', 1978 was the first time in the Little Flock Hymn Book.

In the Psalm-loving Puritan the perfection of the metrical version was a matter of supreme moment. The first book published in America (Cambridge, N.E.1640) was the New England Psalter, often called the Bay Psalter, the editors of which bound themselves by the most rigorous literalism. In the same year in England the Committee of Peers, lay and spiritual, recommended in their report on religion that "the meter in the Psalms should be corrected and allowed of publicly". The first edition (1641) of Francis Rous, afterwards Provost of Eton under the Commonwealth was an attempt to satisfy this recommendation by amendment of the old version. Further changes were made in his second edition (1643) which was ordered to be printed by the House of Commons. The establishment of the Directory (1645), in which "everyone that can read" was ordered to "have a Psalm book", made revision more urgent. Rous's third edition (1646) was ordered to be printed on the recommendation of the Assembly of Divines, and later in the year this version 'and none other' was ordered by the House of Commons, "to be sung in all churches and chapels within the kingdom". There was an earnest desire at this time on both sides of the border to agree on a version which might be a bond of uniformity in religion. But it was frustrated by two causes. The House of Lords inclined to a rival versifier, William Barton, minister of St. Martins, Leicester, (lst. edition 1644, 2nd. 1645); and they submitted his 3rd. edition (1646) to the Assembly of Divines, who however, declined to authorise it. When Rous's version came up from the Commons, they referred it to a committee, but never apparently sanctioned it. The Scots also were discontented with Rous, whom they suspected of heterodoxy, as an adherent of Cromwell, and introduced considerable variations derived from other versions, in their new Scottish Psalter (1650). Confidence in Rous was shortlived in England. In 1651 Bishop King of Chichester, in the preface to his version, sneers from the churchman's standpoint, at the failure of one of our 'pretended Reformers' (probably Rous). (Julian's account of Rous's version of Ps. 23).

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want, Scottish Psalter, 1650. We have selected this for treatment as a specimen of the so called Scottish Version, seeing that it is the most familiar of all in Scotland; and it is also included in many English and American hymnals of the present day. It is founded on the version by Francis Rous. His first edition of 1641 has not been accessible, but the text of his 1643 edition is here quoted from Dr. Laing's Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, vol. 3, 1842.

Rous Version

My Shepherd is the Living Lord,
and He that doth me feed;
How can I then lack anything
whereof I stand in need.

In great measure this text is taken from Whittingham's"The Lord is only my support" but published in the 'One and fifty Psalmes of David', Geneva 1556. After being revised by the Divines of the Westminster Assembly, it appeared in 1646 as:

In pastures green and flourishing The Lord my shepherd is, I shall
He makes me down to lye: not want; He makes me ly
And after drives me to the streams In pastures green, me leads by streams
which run most pleasantly. that do run quietly.
And when I feele my selfe neere lost My soule He doth restore again,
then home He me doth take; and me to walk doth make
Conducting me in His right paths On in the paths of righteousnesse,
even for His owne Name's sake e'en for His own Names sake.
And though I were even at death's doore Yea tho' I walk in deaths dark vale
yet would I feare none ill; I'le fear no evill thing,
Thy rod, Thy staff do comfort me, Thou art with me, Thy rod, Thy staffe
And Thou art with me still. to me do comfort bring.
Hymns by Francis Rous