PSALM MELODIES, FRENCH: History. A category of French Protestant religious music composed for the singing of the Psalms, and thus going back ultimately to Calvin, who, in his turn, was profoundly impressed by hearing the Psalms sung in German during his visit to Strasburg in 1538. With them as models he composed the first French Psalter (apparently published in 1539); and although his own contributions soon became obsolete, French psalmody, as a literary and musical phenomenon, is deeply rooted in his personality. As poetry the French Psalter goes back to Clement Marot (q.v.), who translated thirty-nine Psalms, his work being completed by Beza in 1562. As a writer of verse, Beza could make no claim to stand on the poetical level of Marot, but his work proved popular and went through innumerable editions. The following bibliographical account may suffice for the history of the French Psalter. In 1539 there appeared at Strasburg the anonymous Aulcuns pseaulmes et cantiques mys en chant, containing twenty-one texts and including the first fourteen translations of Marot and five Psalms of Calvin, among the melodies being the famous Strasburg "Es sind doch selig alle die" (to Psalm cxix.) of 1525. After Calvin's return to Geneva in 1541, there appeared in Strasburg the second psalter, called the Pseudo-Roman, since its title-page alleged that it was printed at Rome with the privilege of the pope. In addition to the whole collection of 1539, it contained eighteen other Psalms and the metrical Lord's Prayer of Marot, four psalms of various writers, and a total of nine new melodies (3d ed., 1545). In 1542 there was printed at Geneva the Forme des prières, which became the standard Geneva Psalter, containing thirty psalms, the Lord's Prayer, and the creed by Marot, and five Psalms with the Song of Simeon and the Ten Commandments by Calvin. Of the melodies seventeen were more or less changed, and twenty-two were new. In the Geneva Psalter of 1543, Calvin's poetical versions no longer appear. The editions after 1547 were entitled Pseaulmes cinquante de David, and musical changes were introduced from time to time. After 1551 the title of the French Psalter became Pseaumes octante trois de David. The edition of 1551 included thirty-four compositions of Beza and forty-seven new melodies. After a number of editions with minor variations, the work appeared in final form at Geneva and Paris in 1562, with the title Les Pseaumes mis en rime françoise. This contained the whole Psalter with 150 melodies (many of them being repeated), the Decalogue, the Song of Simeon, two forms of grace, the Lord's Prayer, and the creed. By 1565 the work had run through sixty-two editions, and had been translated into German by Ambrosius Lobwasser (q.v.).
Sources, Authors, Influence. The origin of the melodies has been investigated with great care. It is certain that the music which accompanies the translation is derived from secular sources. Sport or dance music was not directly adopted, though the tonal elements were worked over for religious purposes. In some thirty-five cases secular melodies can be traced as the originals of Psalm tunes, though it must be remembered that many of these had long been used in both public and private Protestant devotions. The melodies fall into two groups: eighty-five of uniform type or revision, collected in 1542-54, and in some cases probably composed by Louis Bourgeois (c. 1510-72); and forty melodies added in 1562, composed by an unknown successor of Bourgeois of very inferior talents. It is necessary, however, to distinguish between the composers and the arrangers of the melodies. Among the former mention should be made of Guillaume Franc (c. 1510-1570), whom Beza, while in Lausanne, employed to compose forty melodies, which gradually were superseded by those current at Geneva; while one of the most prominent of the latter was Claude Goudimel (q.v.). A second distinguished harmonist of the French Psalter was Claude (or Claudin) Lejeune (c. 1530-1600), the greater part of whose contributions were published posthumously.
French Psalm music is generally recognized for its superior qualities wherever congregational singing is practised. Eighty-four melodies of the French Psalter are in use in the Protestant churches of Germany, a significant fact in consideration of the number of compositions originating in German Protestantism itself. The number of German tunes introduced into the French Psalter, on the other hand, is very small compared with this list, although the Strasburg melody of Psalm cxix. and the Strasburg system of singing the Ten Commandments were permanently adopted, while a number of other German Psalm tunes were used for a longer or shorter time. French Psalm melodies were also much employed outside of France, the Psalter being translated for its melodies into Dutch, English, Danish, Polish, Hungarian, Bohemian, Rhætian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. Many of these melodies are still retained in Bohemian, Finnish, and American hymnals and choral books. They were even adopted in varying degrees by local Roman Catholic hymnals, the Eichsfeld hymnal (Langensalza, 1871) still retaining five.