On December 12 1812, in St Petersburg, John Quincy Adams writes a diary entry discussing the 19th and 23rd Psalms. Naturally, John Quincy Adams being John Quincy Adams, compares Joseph Addison's versions to the French and original wording of the Psalms.
12th. Charles has learnt Addison's versions of the 19th and 23d Psalms. The first of them I think the best. The second of J. B. Rousseau's sacred odes is a paraphrase of the same 19th Psalm, or rather of the first part of it. The French and English poetry is beautiful; but there is a sublime simplicity in the original Psalm itself, more energetic than anything in either of the imitations. Addison says that there is no real voice or sound in the firmament and stars. I am not sure that the Psalm says so. Plato's idea of the music of the spheres does not appear to have struck the Psalmist, but the Psalmist's idea that they declare the glory and handiwork of God was above the reach of Plato. Shakespeare's idea that they sing choiring to the young-eyed cherubim is almost inspiration. Addison's astronomy is adapted, perhaps, to the age when the Psalm was composed, and may pass for poetical astronomy in any age. But the Psalm does not say that the stars and planets move round the earth. In the 23d Psalm, Addison's introduction of the crook displeases me; ''fainting in the sultry glebe" is awkwardly expressed, and "faint" will not rhyme with "pant," either to the ear or to the eye. In both the versions the thoughts are weakened by expansion and repetition. Yet the 23d Psalm in Addison's poetry is delightful by its rural imagery; and the 19th is elevating by its grandeur.