Two Herefords

Artemisia Gentileschi - Judith decpitates Holofernes
Judith cuts off the head of Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi

And, no, the picture should indicate that the title is nothing to do with the cattle of a thousand hills.

Even if I were going to provide metrical versions for all the Canticles in Common Worship Daily Prayer, which at the moment I do not expect to do, there are fewer left now.  I wonder if some of the Canticles in Common Worship are ever used.   Nevertheless, I still have some in the pipeline and here are two canticles, one from the Hebrew Old Testament and one only in the Greek one.

Come Sky give Ear – or Song of the Rock

This is Canticle 20 in CWDP, and is Deut 32:1-12. There it is called A Song of the Rock, which it takes from a reference to God as the Rock in Deut 32:4.  There is a well known chorus inspired by that single verse.   CWDP suggests it as an alternative Canticle to go between the readings at Morning Prayer in Lent. However, as I’ve explained before, the recommendations for the Canticle between the readings, as also for the opening hymn, are only recommendations, suggestions. They are not binding.  We are not tied to them either for any particular season or the repetition of services by days of the week in Green time. Furthermore, all the psalms and canticles in this collection can also be used as hymns in any other sort of service. So there is nothing to stop you using this at other times of the year.

The original prose version is quite long, Deut 32: 1-43. Even at twelve verses, the canticle in CWDP is less than a third of the full song. I have done my best to keep it as concise as I can without losing too much of the message or the imagery. It was a deliberate decision to render the first line as ‘Come Sky give Ear’ rather than the more obvious ‘Come Heav’ns give Ear’.  Hebrew uses the same word, rendered as either by context, without differentiating between the different flavour of two words which in English have the same underlying meaning. The word rendered ‘earth’ is used both for the earth beneath us and the land as in the ‘land of Israel’.

Although the well known chorus has a simple, direct and valid message, with its context, the message is more complex and subtle. This version is in Double Common Metre. The ‘him’ in ll 14 and 16 is, of course, Jacob.:-

1. Come sky give ear to what I say: ~ come earth hear my mouth’s words.
2. May my voice fall as dew on grass: ~ as showers upon the swards.
3. For I’ll proclaim the LORD’s own name, ~ God’s all sufficiency.
4. Perfect his works, just in his ways: ~ our faithful Rock is he.

Without deceit, constant and just: ~ he’s upright in each thing.
5. Crooked and twisted, though are those ~ who should be his offspring.
6. Is this how you repay your LORD, ~ you fools devoid of sense,
Your father who created you ~ who placed you in your tents?

7. Remember former times, days when ~ God weighed out each domain:
Ask of your father; he’ll show you, ~ your elders will explain,
8. How God gave peoples their estates; ~ their boundaries he set,
Numbered according to the tribes ~ that Israel did beget.

9. For Jacob is the LORD’s own share ~ his treasure, his richesse,
10. Which he sustained in deserts drear, ~ in howling wilderness.
11. He shadowed, trained and cared for him ~ the apple of his eye,
As eagles shield their chicks, bear them ~ on their wings when they fly.

They shield them on their nests. Just so ~ did God lead him he knew.
12. No foreign god was by his side; ~ his LORD alone leads you.
Fed with the produce from the fields ~ set on the highest part.
To you his word is very near ~ to find in mouth and heart.

Although it is a belief that has been widespread, eagles do not carry their eaglets on their back in flight. There are familiar water birds, such as the Great Crested Grebe and the Mute Swan where the chicks ride on their parents’ backs in the water, but eagles do not do this.

The Tune

This canticle definitely requires a double metre tune. The one that will provided in the collection is yet another tune called Hereford, this one by Dr William Hayes (1708-77), and is below. Dr Hayes was Professor of Music at Oxford in the mid C18, and a keen promoter of Handel. It is in G Major.

Hereford (Hayes) in Hymn Format
Hereford (Hayes) in hymn format

This means that there are now three different tunes in the collection called Hereford. The one that will be most familiar is probably the one called in this collection Hereford (Wesley) by S. S. Wesley (1810-76).  It is in Long Metre.  It is often used for the hymn O thou who camest from above. In the collection, it is  in E♭ Major and is provided for the LM version of Psalm 107.  There is also Hereford (Ouseley) in Common Metre by Canon F.  A. G. Ouseley (1825-1889).  That one is in G Minor and is provided for Psalm 20. There is now this one.  I have therefore named it for the purpose of the collection Hereford (Hayes). It would be suitable for many other major key but thoughtful psalms and canticles.

Come Sky give ear also goes well to Old Magnificat.

Yet another Hereford

There is also another tune in Playford which is called Hereford.  It has died out, and seems to be unknown in modern use.  The small number of examples of it I have seen all have only three lines of harmony. However, it is an attractive tune. It is a pity not to use it.  So have added an alto line and made a few other changes.  It is below.  To add it to this collection, though, would mean four tunes with the same name.  As it is otherwise unknown, to avoid confusion with the other three tunes called Hereford, for this collection I have renamed it Mappa Mundi after the medieval map which is probably the treasure for which Hereford Cathedral is most famous. Like Hereford (Hayes) it is in G Major.

Mappa Mundi or Hereford (Playford) in Hymn Format
Mappa Mundi in hymn format

I have set it to Canticle 45 in CWDP,  which has the title there of Song of Judith, for once, a title I intend to retain.  It is Judith 16.13-16, a selection of verses from the triumphal song she sings with the people of Bethulia, her home town, after she has chopped off the head of Holofernes and her people have triumphed over the Assyrians. I suspect this may be one of the canticles in CWDP which is less often used.

The full song is Judith 16:1-17. So, like ‘Come sky give ear’ It is an extract from a longer original. If you are not familiar with the passage, perhaps because you come from a tradition that does not approve of the Deuterocanonical books, I would strongly recommend reading it. This rendering is in Common Metre.

1. To God, my Lord,  Almighty, great, ~ I shall sing a new song:
In glory true, invincible ~ and marvellously strong.

2. May all creation serve your name; ~ you spoke; all came to be.
3. Your Spirit you sent forth and each ~ was formed creatively.

3/4. None can resist your voice: at it ~ mountains and seas shall shake
4. Like water, peaks sway at their roots ~ like wax, rocks melt and quake.

5. But to those that fear you, you show ~ your mercy and kind touch.
Even the fat of burnt offerings ~ does not please you as much.

6. No sacrifice, though sweet the smell, ~ can please you but whoso
Fears you Lord shall forever stand ~ commended, blest and true.

The picture

Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes was a popular subject for Renaissance and Baroque painters both in Italy and the Low Countries.  There are well known examples from Caravaggio and Rembrandt. The painting above, though, which comes from Wikipedia, has an additional distinction. It is one of at least two on this theme by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-c1656).  As her name indicates, like Judith, she too she was a woman, but more poignantly, she and her father had the courage to bring a case against the painter Agostino Tassi for rape.  Even compared with Caravaggio’s, it could be the most gruesomely realistic of the paintings of the subject from its period. Not only is there a lot of blood. Gentileschi’s Judith has the strong arms of a butcher’s assistant, and from a self portrait she painted, some resemblance to Gentileschi.  It is difficult not to conclude that her anger at her experience is reflected in this painting.

There is a slight element of compensatory justice that as a painter, Tassi is as good as forgotten, remembered only for his crime, while Artemisia Gentileschi remains a respected artist.


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