William Kethe (b. Scotland [?], d. Dorset England, c. 1594). Although both the time and place of Kethe's birth and death are unknown, scholars think he was a Scotsman. A Protestant, he fled to the continent during Queen Mary's persecution in the late 1550s. He lived in Geneva for some time but traveled to Basel and Strasbourg to maintain contact with other English refugees. Kethe is thought to be one of the scholars who translated and published the English-language Geneva Bible (1560), a version favored over the King James Bible by the Pilgrim fathers. The twenty-five psalm versifications Kethe prepared for the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561 were also adopted into the Scottish Psalter of 1565. His versification of Psalm 100 (All People that on Earth do Dwell) is the only one that found its way into modern psalmody.
Kethe, William, is said by Thomas Warton in his History of English Poetry, and by John Strype in his Annals of the Reformation, to have been a Scotsman. Where he was born, or whether he held any preferment in England in the time of Edward VI., we have been unable to discover. In the Brieff discours off the troubles begonne at Franckford, 1575, he is mentioned as in exile at Frankfurt in 1555, at Geneva in 1557; as being sent on a mission to the exiles in Basel, Strassburg, &c, in 1558; and as returning with their answers to Geneva in 1559. Whether he was one of those left behind in 1559 to "finishe the bible, and the psalmes bothe in meeter and prose," does not appear. The Discours further mentions him as being with the Earl of Warwick and the Queen's forces at Newhaven [Havre] in 1563, and in the north in 1569. John Hutchins in his County history of Dorset, 1774, vol. ii. p. 316, says that he was instituted in 1561 as Rector of Childe Okeford, near Blandford. But as there were two Rectors and only one church, leave of absence might easily be extended. His connection with Okeford seems to have ceased by death or otherwise about 1593.
The Rev. Sir Talbot H. B. Baker, Bart., of Ranston, Blandford, who very kindly made researches on the spot, has informed me that the Registers at Childe Okeford begin with 1652-53, that the copies kept in Blandford date only from 1732 (the earlier having probably perished in the great fire there in 1731), that no will can be found in the district Probate Court, and that no monument or tablet is now to be found at Childe Okeford.
By a communication to me from the Diocesan Registrar of Bristol, it appears that in a book professing to contain a list of Presentations deposited in the Consistory Court, Kethe is said to have been presented in 1565 by Henry Capel, the Patron of Childe Okeford Inferior. In the 1813 edition of Hutchins, vol. iii. pp. 355-6, William Watkinson is said to have been presented to this moiety by Arthur Capel in 1593.
Twenty-five Psalm versions by Kethe are included in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561, viz. Ps. 27, 36, 47, 54, 58, 62, 70, 85, 88, 90, 91, 94, 100, 101, 104, 107, 111, 112, 113, 122, 125, 126, 134, 138, 142,—the whole of which were adopted in the Scottish Psalter of 1564-65. Only nine, viz. Ps. 104, 107, 111, 112, 113, 122, 125, 126, 134, were included in the English Psalter of 1562; Ps. 100 being however added in 1565. Being mostly in peculiar metres, only one, Ps. 100, was transferred to the Scottish Psalter of 1650. The version of Ps. 104, "My soul, praise the Lord," is found, in a greatly altered form, in some modern hymnals.
Warton calls him ”a Scotch divine, no unready rhymer," says he had seen a moralisation of some of Ovid by him, and also mentions verses by him prefixed to a pamphlet by Christopher Goodman, printed at Geneva in 1558; a version of Ps. 93 added to Knox's Appellation to the Scottish Bishops, also printed at Geneva in 1558; and an anti-papal ballad, "Tye the mare Tom-boy." A sermon he preached before the Sessions at Blandford on Jan. 17, 1571, was printed by John Daye in 1571 (preface dated Childe Okeford, Jan. 29,157?), and dedicated to Ambrose Earl of Warwick.
[Rev James Mearns, M.A].
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Kethe, William, p. 624, i., line 30. The version which Warton describes as of Psalm 93 is really of Psalm 94, and is that noted under Scottish Hymnody, p. 1022, ii., as the version of Psalms 94 by W. Kethe.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)