Tate (Teate), Nahum (1652–1715), poet and dramatist (who himself dropped the ‘e’ from the family name when he reached adulthood), was born in Dublin. His father, the Rev. Faithful Teate (qv) (1627–66), was the author of a remarkable long poem Ter Tria, or the doctrine of the three sacred persons, father, son & spirit (1658). Nahum was educated by a Mr Savage of Belfast and entered TCD in June 1668. He became a scholar in 1672 and received his BA the same year. One of his friends at college was William King (qv), the future archbishop of Dublin.
Soon after leaving college, Tate moved to London, and within five years had published his first volume of poems. Thereafter he survived as a moderately successful writer in London – one of the first to make any kind of living from his pen. Tate was prepared to turn his hand to different kinds of writing; he not only wrote verse on many topics himself but also edited verse by Sir John Davies (qv) and others, and translated modern and classical authors, including Ovid. Among the more unusual of his translations is one of a poem on syphilis, originally written in Latin by Girolamo Fracastoro (1478–1553). As a dramatist, Tate edited, adapted, or wrote a number of plays, his most famous – or notorious – adaptation being that of Shakespeare's ‘King Lear’, in which he omitted the part of the fool and altered the plot to give the play a happy ending. Tate's text of ‘King Lear’ was regularly staged until the nineteenth century.
In 1682, with some help from Dryden, author of the first part of Absalom and Achitophel, Tate wrote a second part of the poem, and in 1692 he became poet laureate. He retained this office until the death of Queen Anne, publishing the requisite official poems on demand. Tate's most successful publication was A new version of the psalms of David (1696), written in collaboration with fellow Dubliner Nicholas Brady (qv). The well known Christmas hymn ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night’, which is normally ascribed to Tate, appeared in the 1698 supplement to this work. The metrical psalms themselves were widely sung in the established churches of England and Ireland for two hundred years. Tate is said to have been hiding from his creditors when he died in Southwark on 12 August 1715 in the Mint.