The Advent Antiphons

Dawn at Pantokrator No 2.JPG
Dawn over the Aegean

But first some good news to do with housekeeping:-

I’ve just added to the Downloads page,  How to find what you are looking for – Downloads a pdf of all the blogposts from 2017.

Second – The Advent Antiphons

I commented in my last post ‘The Future and a revision that I was not proposing to try to set the Advent canticle in Common Worship Daily Prayer (CWDP), Salus Aeterna to metre unless certain conditions were fulfilled. As yet, none have been. I also commented that there are plenty of good Advent hymns already – which there are – and that Salus Aeterna is not linked to the ‘O Antiphons’.

Since then, though, it has occurred to me that perhaps I could try setting the Antiphons to metre. The well known, excellent and deservedly popular hymn O come, O come Emmanuel is inspired by them, but at a slight remove. The usual version omits two of them and those that it does include are in the wrong order. Furthermore, the hymn is associated with the whole season, whereas each Antiphon belongs to one day, and that day only. Each one is sung only before and after the Magnificat at Evening Prayer on the day to which it belongs.

It was then that it struck me that rather than have a separate metre and tune for the Antiphons, a better option would be to set each of them to the same metre as this collection uses for the Magnificat, so that on those days in the year, its Antiphon would be sung before and after the Magnificat to the same tune as the Evening Canticle..

In the collection, the Magnificat is in Double Common Metre and has two alternative tunes recommended for it, Christmas Carol by Walford Davies and Old Magnificat from Playford and elsewhere.

So here are my metrical versions of the Seven Antiphons one for each date. The conventional matching of Antiphon to date is as below but see the section on the Eighth Antiphon below.

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom):-

1. O Wisdom, voice of the Most High ~ pronouncing from his mouth
To fill the cosmos, end to end, ~ east, west and north and south.
All things in strength and sweetness, you ~ order as you may say.
Come teach us how we each may walk ~ in your most prudent way.

December 18: O Adonai (O Lord):-

2. O Adonai, Lord, you who lead, ~ the House of Israël.
To Moses in the burning bush ~ you showed yourself and well.
You spoke to him and at Sinai ~ you gave to him the law.
Come with your outstretched arm, redeem ~ us now and evermore.

December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse):-

3. O Jesse’s Root, a sign that stands ~ for peoples everywhere.
Before you kings will be struck dumb; ~ to you, nations raise prayer.
Throughout the earth this cry goes up, ~ in urgency today,
‘Come, rescue and deliver us; ~ save us; do not delay’.

December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David):-

4. O David’s Key, of Israel’s House, ~ its sceptre, finely cut.
What once you open, none can close, ~ nor open what you shut.
Those chained in dungeons and those that ~ in death’s dark shadow dwell,
Come lead them forth from place of fear ~ and from their prison cell.

December 21: O Oriens (O Rising Sun):-

5. O Rising Sun and Morning Star, ~ Dayspring and holy one,
The Splendour of eternal light, ~ of righteousness, the sun.
The breaking dawn of human hope ~ shine in, all gloom dispel.
Come light up those who in the night ~ of death’s dark shadow dwell.

December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations):-

6. O King of Nations, their desire, ~ the cap and cornerstone,
You make both one and reconcile ~ all things before your throne.
You shake the world, convulse all that ~ does not accept your sway.
Come save the human species that ~ you fashioned out of clay.

December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God):-

7. O Emmanuël, God with us ~ king, giver of the law,
Hope of the peoples, Prince of Peace ~ Saviour, the nations’ draw,
Key, Light, Foundation, Wisdom, Lord, ~ the foretold hour hails near.
Come as our Lord and God, save us, ~ to rise up free from fear.

The text

The originals are all in Latin prose and were sung as plainsong. Each starts by addressing the Lord ‘O ..’ and ascribing to him a Messianic title from scripture. Each ends with a prayer ‘Come ……’ .  In the original the component bits are not consistently the same length from one Antiphon to another. To make each fit one verse only in DCM, has required some expansion in some of the Antiphons. So the last, O Emmanuel, which in the Latin is particularly short, includes a brief recapitulation of the others.

The translation issue that has tended to attract the most interest has been how best to render O Oriens into English. As a matter of simple translation, it just means ‘O East’.  By comparing it with the term in the LXX version of Zachariah 3 which it could well be echoing, it appears to be expressing more the idea ’O Rising Sun’.  There is, though, a tradition of rendering it as ‘O Morning Star’ or ‘O Dayspring’, which itself is just a seventeenth century expression of ‘dawn’.

There are at least two other points where the various translations render the Latin correctly as a matter of formal equivalence but where it is not clear what the original is actually trying to say. The first is in O Clavis David. To what in that Antiphon does ‘the sceptre’ refer? The second is in O Rex Gentium. What does ‘qui facis utraque unum’ ‘you make both one’ mean? Who are both, and who is one? Although one obvious answer is just previously ‘lapisque angularis’, ‘stone and cornerstone’.  However, if that is what the original intends, what would that be trying to express? Aren’t they already the same thing? Is it perhaps ‘where there is two of anything, you make them one’, or ‘you unite what is divided’? And why, when it is preceded by the nominative qui, is facis in the second person, not the third? Or is it just that my long forgotten school Latin is missing something obvious?

The Eighth Antiphon

The Antiphons are Western Church only. In Common Worship and in most of the Western World, there are seven of them. However, the English Hymnal has eight. This is because when in the late nineteenth century, liturgical antiquarians started to examine pre-Reformation practice, they discovered that in England the conventional sequences of Antiphons seems to have started on the 16th instead of the 17th December, following the same sequence.  That would have ended on the 22nd, but there was then an extra one on the 23rd, O Virgo virginum. That was the form in which they were revived by the English Hymnal in 1906. Common Worship conforms though to the more universal usage of there being seven, starting on the 17th.

Apparently houses of the Premonstratensian Order also include the 8th Antiphon.

Should you wish to include an 8th Antiphon, here is a rendering of it in DCM. It takes the form of a question and answer exchange between the daughters of Jerusalem and Mary the Mother of the Lord. I suspect there is some influence in it from the Protoevangelion of James and traditions relating to Sts Joachim and Anna.

8. O Virgin of virgins how can ~ a thing like this be shown?
Neither before nor after you ~ can such as this be known?
O daughters of Jerusalem ~ why stand in awe of me.
What you now see is nothing but ~ God’s holy mystery.

If one is not too bothered about liturgical antiquarianism, and would still like to include this 8th  Antiphon, there is another way of doing so, without disturbing the Common Worship sequence from the 17th to 23rd. This is that unless Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, sometime during that period there will be the Last Sunday of Advent. For the Sundays in Advent, Common Worship follows the pattern, both in the readings and in the Advent candles,

First Sunday – Patriarchs.
Second – Prophets.
Third – John the Baptist.
Fourth – Mary the Mother of the Lord.

One could therefore include the 8th Antiphon as an extra one to go with the Last Sunday of Advent, on whichever date it falls. In the occasional years in which the Last Sunday in Advent falls on Christmas Eve, one can use the Eighth Antiphon on the 24th.

And third – a new tune – Genevan 93rd

As an extra delight for this year’s season of Epiphany, here is a new tune. Its metre is 10 10 10 10.  So it has nothing to do with the Antiphons. At the moment, it does not have a psalm or canticle for which it is expressly provided, though it is recommended as a possibile alternative for the Epiphany canticle Arise, Shine out in book 6.

It is by Claude Goudimel (c1517-1572) and in G Mixolydian. The composer was a French Hugenot who was killed in Lyon in the Massacre of St Bartholomew. The timing of the original is better suited to the rhythms of French. It has been altered slightly to fit English more easily. Its modality means that it ends as though it demands to go on to another line. I remain very unsure whether the sevenths in the penultimate bar sound better flattened as here, or sharpened as in at least one source elsewhere. Users might like to try the tune both ways and go with whichever they prefer. Another suggestion would be to consider whether to modulate to a fuller G chord, i. e. the Ionian tonic as a conclusion at the end of the last verse. The version below and here on Soundcloud sticks to the modal version without modulations. This is the tune in hymn format:-

Genevan 93 v 2 in Hymn Format flattened 7ths in last line
Genevan 93rd. by Claude Goudimel (c1517-1572)

The future and a revision

Franciscan cross of St Damiano
Franciscan cross of St Damiano from Wikipedia

Programme for the future

I said at the end of the last post that the next one would give a fuller explanation of what you might be able to look forward to in the future, what will happen, what will not happen, and what may happen.

What is now in the collection

There are 150 psalms and 68 canticles in Common Worship Daily Prayer (CWDP), not counting separately the additional versions for the three canticles where CWDP provides more than one version. There are also 18 psalms that appear wholly or in part also as canticles. The collection now contains at least one version of each of the 150 psalms and of all the 57 canticles that come from the Old and New Testament.  That includes the Old Testament Apocrypha, the books and sections of books that only appear in the Greek version of the Old Testament and not the Hebrew one. The additional 11 canticles in CWDP are from a variety of other sources. Of those, the following are now included in the collection.

77 Phos Hilarion
78 The Gloria
79 The Te Deum
83 Victim Paschali
85 Veni Sancte Spiritus
87 Jesus Saviour of the World.

There are the following additional eleven items in the collection which are not in the CWDP selection of canticles.

The Lord’s Prayer
Bishop Ken’s Morning and Evening Hymns
Lighten our Darkness
Philip Doddridge’s Communion Hymn
Hymn Before Communion (see also below)
Sanctus and Agnus Dei
Hymn after Communion.
While Shepherds Watched
Humble Suit of a Sinner.

What is not in the collection

This leaves the following five canticles in CWDP which I have not as yet put into metre.  It is unlikely at the moment, that I ever will. This list includes the reasons, which are not the same for each one.

80 A Song of Ephrem the Syrian – Ephrem was a notable hymn writer 306? – 373. Over 400 of his hymns survive but I have not been able to trace the source of this particular one, nor its history.  There are also apparently a number of hymns attributed to him which he probably did not write. Apart from its being quite difficult to work out what this one means, which a necessary prerequisite for putting it into metre, without a provenance, I am not willing to try. Besides, I already have my doubts as to whether some of the ones I have rendered are actually being used in their prose form, but I suspect nobody is using this one.

81 Salus Aeterna or Saviour Eternal – This was an Advent Sequence, but it did not survive the pruning of the medieval sequences in the Catholic Church at the time of the Council of Trent. Both the other Sequences included in the collection were retained at the Counter-Reformation. They come from excellent historic versions in metrical Latin, and later, English. There is a prose version of Salus Aeterna by the Revd M. J. Blacker (1822-1888).  His plainsong setting is hymn No 10 in the old version of the English Hymnal. Unless somebody can point me in the direction of both a good metrical version by someone such as J. M Neale, and the Latin text from which it derives, I do not intend to do anything further with this one. It is not linked to the ‘O ….’ days, and there are plenty of excellent Advent hymns already.

82 A Song of Anselm – If I had the original, I would quite like to have another look at this one, but Anselm was a fertile writer and I have not been able to source this. Without an original to check this against, I am not going to try to take it any further.

84 A Song of Francis of Assisi – This is better known as the Canticle of the Sun and is a special case. The explanation why is below.

86 A Song of Julian of Norwich – Again I have been unable to trace the provenance of this, which I assume must have originally been written in medieval English. If somebody could provide me with her original words, I would quite like to look at whether it is feasible to provide a metrical version in modern English, but otherwise not. Assuming the original is in medieval English, that would make it a paraphrase, not a translation. I would also like to know whether her original is in verse.

So, a plea

If any of you out there can give me any authoritative answers to any of these questions. I would like to hear from you. There is a comments section below.  Alternatively, the ‘About me’ page of this blog explains how to contact me.

Future work is therefore likely to consist of:-

1. The task that is still outstanding of finding a way to provide freely downloadable manuscript versions of the tunes in a format people can open with music writing software.

2. Producing new downloadable pdf editions of Books 1-6, the tunebook, the table, the annual blog updates etc. to include the additional material covered by the blogs since the current editions. This will also include some tidying up of weak phraseology in some psalms and canticles.

1 and 2 are the ones that take priority.

3. Blogs with news and suggestions on more ways to use the material.

4. Unless any of the queries aired in the list of unmetricated canticles get answered, any further new material is more likely to be new versions of existing psalms, canticles and tunes for them than versions of the canticles not included.

5. Possibly some tidying up of some of the tunes or even the addition of a few more.

Meanwhile – an example of category four – below is a revision my own Hymn Before Communion from Book 6.

Hymn Before Communion

The Words

From right back when I first included it in the collection, I have been aware that as I initially wrote it,  it had been difficult to find a tune that fitted the Hymn Before Communion in Book 6.  Hitherto, it has consisted of four lines of eleven syllables, but the rhythm and the breaks between the words were irregular. Furthermore, many 11 line tunes, however much each line may be played straight through, have a slight natural caesura somewhere in each line. Most often, that is after the sixth syllable, making them slightly, 65 65 65 65. This was particularly critical for Hymn Before Communion where the subject matter and content demands that it be sung fairly slowly and meditatively. As originally written its pattern was 56 56 56 56. As a reminder, here is the version as it currently appears in Book 6.

1. Your love and mercy  ~ compel us to come in.
Scouring the hedgerows, ~ inviting us within,
To sit at table, ~ with saints and cherubim
As Lazarus once ~ reclined with Abraham.

2. To us who wonder ~ you draw aside the veil.
In fear and trembling ~ we tiptoe to the rail.
Our hands were dirty, ~our hearts were unprepared
Unfit to gather ~ the crumbs the dogs had spared.

3. Christ our salvation, ~ with us you share your bread,
Your body broken, ~ the wine the blood you shed.
Master most holy, ~ our sinful lives renew.
Dwell in our hearts now ~ that we may dwell in you.

4. Let me not betray ~ you to your enemy,
Nor be like Judas ~ consigned to infamy.
From depths of weakness,  ~ this cry our prayer shall be.
When in your kingdom ~ you come, remember me.

5. We are unworthy ~ that you, our Lord request
Our house to enter, ~ beneath our roof to rest.
Yet to your question ~ we can nought else but yield.
Only say the word ~ and then we shall be healed.

I have therefore decided to recast it. It is still in 11 11 11 11, but it is no longer 56 56 56 56. Here is the new version. This will replace the present version in the next edition of Book 6. Because it is now metrically more regular, the tildes are no longer necessary.

1. Your love and your mercy press us to come in,
Scouring the hedges to welcome us within,
To sit at table with saints and cherubim,
As Lazarus reclined once with Abraham.

2. You, for us who wonder, draw aside the veil.
In trembling and fear, we tiptoe to the rail.
With hands that were dirty, with hearts unprepared,
Unfit to eat even crumbs the dogs have spared.

3.Christ our salvation, you share the life you led,
Bread your body broken, wine the blood you shed.
O Master most holy our weak lives renew.
Dwell now in our hearts and let us dwell in you.

4. Let me not betray you to your enemy,
Nor sell you like Judas in his infamy.
From our depths of weakness this our cry shall be.
In your kingdom when you come remember me.

5. We are unworthy that you Lord should request
to come under our roof, in our house to rest.
Yet what else to your knock can we do but yield?
Simply say the word, Lord; then shall we be healed.

The tune

These words are in a tidier version of the same metre.  They fit Quanta Qualia, the existing tune for the previous version, better than that tune fitted its predecessor. This is the link to Quantia Qualia on Soundcloud, which will remain the tune allocated to it in the collection. It still should be sung slowly and meditatively.

Unlike the previous version, it also would now work well with Sweet Afton Burn (see previous blog, ‘This completes the Canticles from Scripture’ and here on Soundcloud) and Gordon the tune for God reckons as righteous (See blog ‘Two Canticles from Romans’  of 6th January 2017 and here on Soundcloud). It would also work with Maldwyn, (here on Soundcloud) the alternative tune for Solomon’s Seal, see ‘Solomon’s Seal – the wedding singer’. of April 17th 2016.

Canticle of the Sun or Song of St Francis

St Francis seems to have composed his original in Italian somewhere around 1225. It is said to be inspired mainly by Ps 145 but also Ps 148 and the Benedicite. There is already a very well known and excellent metrical version of this canticle which is almost every hymn book, All creatures of our God and King, by the Revd W. H. Draper (1855-1933). He seems to have written it about 1910.  It was published by 1919. I would really like to include it in this collection, particularly since many hymn books dilute it by leaving out some of the verses. However, it is indelibly linked to the tune Lasst Unst Erfreuen. That tune goes back to the Geistliche Kirchengesang Cologne of 1623.  As explained in the blog ‘A gift in honour of Mary Magdalene’  on July 19, 2017, the familiar setting seems to come from Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). If that is correct, and it makes at least one respectable appearance in the interwar period where it is only attributed to the Cologne book of 1623, that means it will not be out of copyright in the UK and Europe until the end of 2028.

So far, I have also not been able to trace what form the tune Lasst Unst Erfreuen took before Vaughan Williams reset it. If anyone can point me to a version that is definitely out of copyright, then if it is in the same metre, I will be able to include it.

If you have a hymn book with Vaughan Williams’s version of the tune in it, here are the words, including the verses that your hymnal may have left out. I am still considering whether to include them in the collection without any tune.

1. All creatures of our God and king
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

2. Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

3. Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

4. Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

5. And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

6. And thou most kind and gentle death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

7. Let all things their creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

There are some recent re-settings of this well known tune.  Some of them also fiddle with Draper’s words – as ever, usually to their detriment. Indeed, some of the re-wordings are not just mediocre but actually poor. If you sing a more modern setting of the tune, Draper’s original words will still fit it as well as any other.

I’d prefer that you stick to Draper’s original words,.  I’d also prefer that you sing all the verses. However, for those who feel really strongly on the subject – if you really must – it would be permissible to change ‘man’ in the last line of v 3 to ‘us’ and to change the first line of v5 to ‘And all ye souls of tender heart’.

This completes the Canticles from Scripture

Autumn colours at Mucknell paintingA semi-abstract – Autumn Colours

There are currently only two canticles left to complete those in Common Worship Daily Prayer (CWDP) from the Hebrew and Greek scriptures.

Bless the Lord

A careful perusal of the Old Testament and Apocrypha Canticles will reveal something that many people may not have noticed. This is that in addition to a full and a shorter version of the Benedicite, listed as Canticles 51a and 51b, there is an extra canticle called “Bless the Lord (Song of the Three). This is linked to the Benedicite, but is not actually part of that canticle as it appears in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer or elsewhere. Depending on how different translations show it, the Benedicite is either Dan 3:35-66 or Dan 3:57-88 in the Deuterocanonical version of Daniel. However, unlike Canticle 51b, Canticle 50 in CWDP is not a different selection from the Benedicite, but the previous verses, Dan 3:29-34 or 52-56.

The Old Testament and Apocrypha canticles will therefore not be complete if they do not include a rendering of those extra verses. Here, therefore are those verses, in the same metre as the Benedicite 7777 77, set so that they can be sung to the same tune as the Benedicite, or even with it if desired. Book 6 will follow CWDP and give this extra canticle the title Bless the Lord.

Most of the canticles in Book 6 are listed in the order in which they appear in scripture. Book 6, though, partially dissents from that.  It places the canticles from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer together with a small cluster of other canticles that render parts of the liturgical texts, in separate sections at the beginning headed ‘Morning’, ‘Evening’ and ‘Holy Communion’. Currently, I intend to stick with this practice in future editions of Book 6. Although on its own Bless the Lord has no relationship with 1662 Morning Prayer, for metrical and musical reasons it will be inserted next to the Benedicite. In principal it ought to come before it, but will follow it.

The words

These are the words to the two extra verses to the Benedicite entitled Bless the Lord.

1. Blest are you, our forebears’ God; ~ blest your name, glorious and true;
Blest your temple, blest your chair, ~ that your cherubim do bear.
Worthy to receive our praise ~ ever exalted always.

2. Blest are you who peer the deep, ~ throned on heaven’s heights so steep,
Blest your kingdom, blest its throne, ~ blest you, sovereign cornerstone,
Worthy to receive our praise ~ ever exalted always.

Although that would increase the number of syllables in the line to eight, because of the way the quavers play in the first half of the first line the melody line would fit England’s Lane rather well as ‘God of our forebears, blest are you’ ~ …’. However, that would leave syllables unrepresented by notes in the lower voices. It would also no longer fit any other tune with the same metre.

The tune

The tune for both this canticle and the Benedicite is England’s Lane by Geoffrey Shaw (1879-1943).  It is widely familiar as the tune for the hymn For the beauty of the earth and is already in both Book 6 and the tunebook. Here it is on Soundcloud.

Although written to go to England’s Lane, both this canticle and the Benedicite also fit Hasting’s Toplady, what to me is ‘the other tune’ for Rock of Ages.  If linking Toplady to these two canticles could wean people off using it for Rock of Ages and settle Redhead’s Petra as the true, right and only tune for Rock of Ages, that would be a price worth paying even for not using England’s Lane for them. Besides, the jauntiness of Toplady, which makes it such a bad fit for Rock of Ages is less inappropriate for either Bless the Lord or the Benedicite.

Baruch’s Song

The other remaining scriptural canticle required to complete the set is Baruch’s Song, Canticle 49 in CWDP where it is called Song of Baruch, Baruch 5, 6c, 7-9.  I suspect it will not be familiar to many people. Baruch was Jeremiah’s assistant and amanuensis, see Jer 36.  As a reward for his faithfulness, he is promised his life, but no more in a world that is falling apart, see Jer 39:15-18. No Hebrew original survives of the book traditionally attributed to him.

Although it is a different language, the name ‘Baruch’ comes from the same root as Barack as in Barack Obama.

The words

This canticle is in 11 11 11 11, and these are the words. CWDP omits part of v6 in the original, but this version includes the whole of vv 5-9.  The passage is a poem addressed to Jerusalem, mourning her children taken into exile, but foretelling her joy at their joyful return.  That is in the future but is expressed with such confidence in the return that it speaks almost, though not quite, as though the events are already happening.

1. Arise Jerusalem and stand on the height.
Look east; see your young ones recalled with delight,
Gathered in at the word of the Holy One
In joy from east and west; your exile is done.

2. Away their foes marched them on foot far from kin,
But God has borne them back in his palanquin.
He’s ordered high mountains, old hills be brought low,
The valleys made level so safely they’ll go.

3. God orders both forests and each fragrant tree
To shade them so that they walk in his glory.
For he’ll lead them with joy, in light them he’ll bless
With his loving kindness, mercy, righteousness,

The Tune

The tune provided for this canticle is not just, in my opinion, a delightful tune. It has an interesting history.  Sometime around 1791, Robert Burns (1759-96) wrote his well known poem Sweet Afton. The Afton is a river near New Cumnock in Ayrshire. The poem is usually sung now to a tune written in 1837 by one Jonathan Spilman (1812-96). The tune below, though, is not that tune, but the tune originally published for the poem in the Scottish Musical Museum, six volumes published 1787-1803, in this case Vol 4, published in 1792. There, it has a very simple piano style accompaniment.  Who can now say whether at that date it was envisaged a piano would be used rather than a harpsichord or some other contemporary keyboard instrument? Publication of the Scottish Musical Museum was the project of James Johnson (1753?-1811) but Burns was a major collaborator. So it can be assumed that the tune that appears in the Musical Museum as the tune to Sweet Afton is the one that Burns’s inner ear heard as the tune to his poem.

As Spilman’s tune is usually now known as Sweet Afton, I am giving this tune the name Sweet Afton Burn. It is in F Major. These things are to some extent a matter of opinion but I think Sweet Afton Burn has much more character than Spilman’s melody. The flattened 7ths when a 7th comes in the higher register but not in the lower is something one finds in other popular tunes from that period. Here I have provided my own four part hymn setting of the tune. For those that prefer it that way, there are also some simple suggestions for possible guitar chords.

As a curious aside, I believe the Spilman tune is among the many alternatives to Cradle Song that have been used for the carol Away in a manger. If you really must sing that carol, which is both sentimental and theologically questionable, I’m inclined to say ‘please at least use the Normandy tune’.  Nevertheless, Sweet Afton Burn also fits it and could be used.

The Irish brand of cigarettes takes it name from the same river and has a Burns association.

Here is my setting of Sweet Afton Burn. I am asserting copyright in the arrangement but not the melody on the basis as set out in the page on copyright on the website and downloadable version of these pages.

Sweet Afton Burn in Hymn Format v1
Sweet Afton Burn

And here is Sweet Afton Burn on Soundcloud.

Other tunes in the collection that would work for this canticle are Gordon and St Denio.

The future – the canticles not included

As explained above, this completes all the canticles from scripture that are in CWDP. There are also things in Book 6 of this collection, such as some of the Communion material and the Humble suit of a sinner  which are not in CWDP’s canticles.

This does mean, though that there are still some canticles in the final section of Canticles from Other Sources in CWDP that I have not put into metre. It is unlikely that I will produce versions of these.  There will be more about this, and why, in the next blog.  Future work is more likely to involve revision of existing material. The next blog will say more about this.

Two Songs of Holy Wisdom

Autumn curves painting
Abstract – Autumn Arcs

Holy Wisdom

These are two canticles that relate to Wisdom.  Both come from the deuterocanonical books, one from Wisdom and the other from Ecclesiasticus sometimes known as Sirach.  These are books that like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes devote themselves to the pursuit of Wisdom, a very important biblical idea, ochmah in Hebrew and sophia in Greek. In the later books of the Old Testament and the deuterocanonical books, Wisdom is often personified.  It is a legitimate topic for speculation whether this is a figure of speech or something more, perhaps even a mysteriously dawning awareness that God might be both one and more than one, a prefiguring of the Trinity.

The starting point, both then and now, is that,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10, Prov 9:10)

and its opposite,

“The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’ “. (Ps 14:1, Ps 53:1)

This distinction, this cast of thought, underpins the many places where the New Testament contrasts the wise and the foolish.

One would hope that all people would like to become wise. Wisdom is a part of God’s character, built into his personality, an aspect of who he is.  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are wise. It is inherent to what they are like. Knowledge can be obtained from all over the place but it is in God, and only in God, that true wisdom can be found.

There is a long-standing convention that where wisdom is personified as Wisdom in scripture, it is personified as ‘she’. Something that is rather less clear, is how far that is in the intention of the scriptural text, or whether that merely derives from Hebrew and Greek both having grammatical gender that does not have to coincide with biology. English is relatively unusual among languages in its rigid grammatical rule that it has gender but that must follow objective fact.  Both ochmah and sophia are grammatically feminine in their original languages.  In English, though, wisdom as an abstract noun is normally ‘it’.

Wisdom’s Prayer

This is Wisdom 9:1-11, Canticle No 47 in Common Worship Daily Prayer (CWDP) where it is called A Song of Wisdom. That is a good description of what it is about, but is unfortunately confusing as a title.  This is because Canticle 48, Ecclesiasticus 51.13a,13c-17,20,21a,22b (see below) although misleadingly called in CWDP A Song of pilgrimage is also a prayer for Wisdom.

This text is from the Wisdom of Solomon.  It expresses itself as a prayer by Solomon for wisdom, both to enable him to rule wisely and to construct the temple, which is to model the tent in the wilderness that preceded it and which his father David had brought to Jerusalem. The tent in its turn was designed to model both heaven and God’s dealings with humanity, the framework within which people could approach his holiness.

Perhaps this could be called Solomon’s Prayer. That thought would also be confusing.  Although it is not a canticle in CWDP, 2 Chron 6:14-42 is already the prayer which Solomon prayed at the completion and dedication of the permanent Temple in Jerusalem. So if one is going to use Solomon’s Prayer as a title for anything, by analogy, for example with what this collection calls Habbakuk’s Prayer, it should be for that passage.

Another possible title might be Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom. That too would be an excellent title but would still be potentially confusing. At the beginning of his reign, as is famously told at 1 Ki 3:5-14, God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks what gift he would like to receive. Solomon asks for the understanding to enable him to be a good king. God commends him for not asking for long life, wealth or the death of his enemies and rewards him with wisdom such that none would know before or since. There is though, no suggestion here or in the adjoining chapters in Wisdom that the prayer in Wisdom 9 is directly linked to that dream.

As Canticle 47 and 48 are both about wisdom, I am therefore giving them the related titles of Wisdom’s Prayer (Canticle 47) and Wisdom’s Quest (Canticle 48). Even those titles are imperfect. It is neither the prayer of Wisdom nor a quest that Wisdom pursues. Wisdom is the object, not the subject of the prayer and the quest. One is a prayer for Wisdom and the other expresses the search for Wisdom.

The Words

CWDP skips parts of v 5, 7 and 8. There is a good reason for this. Vv 7 and 8 are much more closely related to Solomon’s personal circumstances than the rest of the canticle. The rest is very suitable for any of us.  We are all called to live the Christian life.  We need divine wisdom to help us to do so. Most of us are called neither to be rulers, nor to build the temple. Nevertheless, we do not omit from the psalter psalms like Psalm 45, which is clearly about a royal wedding.  Most of us neither marry princesses nor princes, but we do marry people who to us are like princesses or princes.

We all have roles and callings that are personal to us. The linkage both to Solomon’s personal calling as king and as the one chosen to build the temple adds so much more resonance both to this prayer and to the wisdom that we ask for that I have added back the omitted bits. Furthermore, the notion that the Temple is to replicate the tent of meeting which in its turn models the heavenly realm is an idea that is ripe with important and exciting analogies for our own Christian lives.

These words are in Double Long Metre so that they can be sung to the tune below.

1. God of our fathers, mercy’s Lord,
You have made all things by your word.
2. By wisdom, us you’ve formed and weighed,
To rule the creatures you have made —
3. In righteousness and all that’s whole,
To judge the world with upright soul.
4. Give me that wisdom from your throne.
Spurn me not as your child, your own.

5. For I’m your servant and the child,
Of one who’s but your handmaid styled,
Weak and short-lived with little cause
To know of your judgement or laws.
6. For even one who looks complete,
Without your wisdom, is conceit.
7. But you’ve charged me to lead with care
Your flock, and build your temple here.

8. It is to clone the tented shrine
That modelled your myst’ries divine.
9. For you’ve a wisdom which knows you,
Your works and all things that you do.
She saw your pattern at its birth,
Was there when you made stars and earth.
She knows what’s pleasing in your sight,
And what, by your commands is right.

10. Despatch her from your heav’nly throne
To work with me, your ways make known,
That I may know what you would see,
May sense that she’s alongside me.
11. For wisdom knows and understands
All that you are and your commands.
She’ll wisely guide me what to do,
And in her glory guard me too.

The tune

As far as I am aware, nobody previously has thought of using the tune below for any sort of hymn or psalm. It was originally composed by James Scott Skinner (1843-1927) for the fiddle but has become a popular Northumbrian Pipe tune.  I realised recently that it fits Double Long Metre. So I put together this version in a fairly straightforward four part hymn style. It is called Herr Roloff’s Farewell. It would also work excellently in simple folk style sung in unison. Here, it is in F Major so as to avoid reaching high G in the soprano line.

As a celebrated fiddle player Scott Skinner wrote melodies. Herr Roloff was a German musician, and friend who collaborated with him in providing C19 piano accompaniments for his tunes. Like many traditional and semi-traditional tunes, once out in the world, this tune has acquired a life of its own. I have been familiar with a version for the Northumbrian Pipes. When I came to set this for Wisdom’s Prayer I did some further research. I was surprised to find on the web a photocopy of this tune as a fiddle tune with what appears to be Herr Roloff’s original piano accompaniment to it, possibly even in his own hand. Even the melody is not quite as identical as I would have expected to the form in which I know it. What is more, the version in the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society Folio for 2005 is not quite the same as the form in which it earlier appeared in the society’s magazine.

Scott Skinner’s original fiddle script includes some gracing. Pipers playing this tune as an instrumental piece will usually spontaneously add their own gracing. To put this into hymn style, I have felt obliged either to omit or regularise this. To some extent where gracing might come, it is echoed by extra notes in one or another of the other parts. If playing this without the other three harmonic lines, feel free to reinsert grace notes where you would expect to include them according to the way you would normally do this on your own instrument, whatever that is.

So if what is below is not quite as you know it, I’m inclined to say ‘hard luck’! Whichever version you know, it is a beautiful tune. As indicated by the 60 at the beginning, this tune must not be hurried. It is a slow air to be savoured.

Herr Roloff's Farewell in Hymn Format
Herr Roloff’s Farewell as a Long Metre hymn or psalm tune.

There are other Long Metre tunes in the collection that could be sung to this tune.

Here is the sample of Herr Roloff’s Farewell on Soundcloud.

Wisdom’s Quest

This is Ecclesiasticus 51: 13-22. Canticle No 48 in CWDP.  There it is called A Song of Pilgrimage (see above). In CWDP the selection is Ecclesiasticus 51.13a,13c-17,20,21a,22b but this version includes the omitted verses, all of which add to the value of the original. It is a little bit difficult to see why CWDP has omitted them, unless it is simply to keep the Canticle shorter.  If one wished to shorten it, the verse to be omitted is marked with a °. In CWDP it is recommended as an alternative Canticle for Saturday mornings.

The Words

This is in Long Metre.

1. When but a child before I thought
to wander, I yet Wisdom sought.
Before your shrine she was my quest,
and till the end, she’ll be my rest.

2. From early bloom to ripened grape
my heart delighted in her shape.
I held the course that she displayed:
from youth my footsteps never strayed.

3. Though I had barely bent my ear,
I found instruction, holy fear,
And so advanced in Wisdom’s rank;
he who gave her, I praise and thank.

4°. My heart on what I’d learnt, I set;
it chased what’s good without regret.
For Wisdom my soul strove, was strict,
my hands contrite for God’s verdict.

5. I set my soul her ways to grasp:
by purity, I found her clasp.
My heart sought her from birth and she
shall never leave nor forsake me.

6. My core, to seek her out was stirred;
my prize a treasure well tempered.
The Lord’s giv’n me a fluent tongue;
with it his praises shall be sung.

The tune

As the whole canticle has an even number of verses, it fits Herr Roloff’s Farewell rather well, which would then make that a tune that one could associate with the idea of Wisdom. However, throughout the collection, the concept has been that each psalm and canticle should have at least one tune individually allocated to it. The tune provided here is a version of the well known folk tune Scarborough Fair, with my setting of it as a conventional four part hymn style. Although the original has eight syllables to each line, to fit Long Metre as it usually operates, I have slightly altered the rhythm of the first line in each verse from what will be more familiar. It is pitched here in E Dorian.

As a traditional song, it would also work with just an instrument to play the top (melodic) line and a guitar accompaniment. It would also be possible just to add the alto, or preferably the tenor line to make a two part version. The chords shown are no more than suggestions.

Scarborough Fair as a Hymn v3 in Hymn Format
Scarborough Fair as a hymn or psalm tune

And here is the sample of Scarborough Fair on Soundcloud .

Scarborough Fair is ‘Trad’. Their version may be the best known, but Simon and Garfunkel were nothing like the first people to produce a commercial version of it. According to Wikipedia, at least fifty other people before or since them have recorded it. Furthermore, on Conner Quigley’s Soundcloud site, there is even a recording of a psalm tune version of this tune. So far I have completely failed to find the sheet music for that version. It does not seem to be on the web and I don’t think it is available in this country. I can authoritatively assure anyone who might be concerned about the subject that I have produced my version entirely independently of it.

The Picture

It would be difficult to portray Wisdom. I was quite surprised to discover that there is a conventional format for representing Holy Wisdom as an ikon, which includes Wisdom’s seven pillars (Prov 9:1) .  However,  as we are now in October, the picture above is a simple abstract of arcs in colours intended to be appropriate for autumn. I leave it to you to decide what, if anything, it expresses for you.

Two more canticles from Revelation

Marriage of the Lamb from wikipedia
The Marriage of the Lamb, courtesy of Wikipedia


There are seven Canticles from Revelation in Common Worship Daily Prayer (CWDP). This collection already has  five of them,

Worthy are you, (CWDP 69) – in download version of Book 6.
Great and Wonderful (CWDP 71) – see Two new Canticles blogged 14th Nov 2016.
Salvation Belongs to the Lamb (CWDP 72) – see This Completes the Canticles in the Black Book blogged 30th May 2017.
New Jerusalem (CWDP 73) – in download version of Book 6.
Behold I’m coming soon (CWDP 75) – in download version of Book 6.

That leaves two outstanding.

All of these are not just suitable for the occasions to which CWDP allocates them. They make good general hymns of praise for use any day of the year.

I make no apologies for using the same illustration as for The Marriage Feast of the Lamb on 30th May last. As a painting, it is one of the all time greats. It also links this post nicely to one of the other canticles from Revelation in this collection.

I saw a mighty Multitude

This is Canticle 70 in CWDP, Revelation 7: 9,10,14b-17 where it is called A song of the Redeemed, which is a good description of what the Canticle is about. St John is shown a mighty multitude that no one could number, praising God and the Lamb upon the throne. The version here is not a selection but includes  the whole of Rev 7: 9–17.

The Words

For my first attempt to set this exhilarating vision into singable form I had chosen a tune that was in an unusual metre which turned out to be too difficult to write to.  So this is in Double Common Metre, which as it happens, I think suits the subject matter rather well.

As with the other canticles in CWDP from Revelation, this ends with the characteristic doxology from Revelation rather than the familiar one used by psalms and most of the other canticles. In this canticle, it is rolled into the last verse.

1. I saw a mighty multitude ~ an uncountable throng
2. From every nation of the earth, ~ each people, tribe and tongue
3. They stood before the throne and Lamb ~ in robes clad shining white,
Waving the palms they held aloft ~ and this did they recite.

4. “To our God seated on the throne ~ and to the Lamb belong
Salvation!” and the heav’nly host ~ responded with this song.
“Praise, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, ~ honour and power and might
Be given to our God always ~ for ever as is right”.

5. Who are these clad in white, who they? ~ The great ordeal they’ve passed.
Their robes they’ve washed in the Lamb’s blood ~ with whiteness unsurpassed.
6. And now they stand before God’s throne, ~ the shrine in which they serve,
Their privilege by night and day, ~ the bounty they deserve

7. The one who sits upon the throne ~ with them, his home has made.
His presence there will shelter them, ~ be from the sun their shade.
8. No more shall they know hunger, thirst, ~ nor any scorching heat.
9. The Lamb will be their Shepherd, ~ from his throne, guide their feet.

10. To living water he’ll lead them ~ from springs, their needs supplies.
They are where God will wipe away ~ all tears that wet their eyes.
To him who sits upon the throne, ~ the Lamb whom we adore,
Be blessing, honour, glory, might ~ both now and evermore.

The Tune

There are already a number of good DCM tunes in the tunebook which would suit this canticle well. However, I feel the tune that I have found for it is a bit special. It is a forgotten tune because it was written for a hymn, The roseate hues of early dawn that from the evidence in old hymn books of the number of tunes written for it must have been very popular in the late nineteenth century. However, the hymn seems to have fallen completely out of use, taking with it all memory of the various tunes to which it was sung. This is Sir John Stainer’s (1840-1901) tune for it.  It is very much in the style of its period. It takes its title, Roseate Hues from the first line of the hymn for which it was written. I feel it deserves a better name but that might be confusing to anyone who for some reason might need to collate it with its earlier appearances.  It is in D Major and there is a sudden change in both timing and tempo half way through each verse. This is it.

Stainer's Roseate Hues in Hymn Format
Stainer’s Roseate Hues

And this is a sample of Roseate Hues on Soundcloud.

It is possible there are other psalms and canticles that could be sung to it.

I saw no temple in the city

This is Canticle 74 in CWDP, where it is called A Song of the Heavenly City. There, it is a selection of verses from the end of Rev 21 and the beginning of Rev 22, Rev 21.22-26; 22.1,2b,d,3b,could be sung to it.4, with some omissions. Again, the version for this collection includes the whole of Rev 21:2 – Rev 22:4.

The Words

The metre is 87 87 D, and these are the words. As with I saw a Mighty Multitude, the last verse includes the Revelation doxology.

1. There I saw the heav’nly city ~ but no temple, great or small.
For its temple and its beauty ~ is God’s Lamb the Lord of all.
2. It has no need of sun nor moon ~ for its light is the I Am.
Its glory outshines any noon ~ and its lantern is the Lamb.

3. Gifts of glory princes shall pay, ~ the nations walk in its light,
4. And its gates stay open all day; ~ nor shall it know any night.
But no unclean thing shall go there, ~ nor what’s with foul rankness rife,
But only those whose names appear ~ in the Lamb’s blest book of life.

5. Crystal bright and down its main street ~ I saw life’s river flowing free
6.From God and the Lamb’s royal seat; ~ on each bank, there grew a tree,
Bearing fruit each month of the year ~ while its leaves the nations heal.
No accurséd thing shall walk there. ~ Tree and stream, God’s life reveal.

7. Before that glitt’ring throne of grace ~ shall his servants him acclaim.
Worshipping shall they see his face; ~ on their foreheads bear his name.
Bless the One who sits on that throne. ~ Worship the Lamb seated there.
Glory and might to them be shown ~ always, now, and everywhere.

The Tune

This is written to be sung to the classic and beautiful Welsh tune Calon Lân, for the hymn Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus, much sung at Rugby matches. The phrase Calon Lân comes at the beginning of the chorus section. It was written by John Hughes (1872-1914), who is a different John Hughes from the composer of Cwm Rhondda. He rose from office boy to marketing manager of the Dyffryn Street Works in Morriston, Swansea, and sadly died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage aged only 42.

The words of Calon Lân were written by Daniel James (Gwyrosydd) (1848-1920). Although an English translation exists, it has never really become part of the repertoire of Anglophone tunes. Here it is pitched in A Major, which gives a top note of E.  However it appears in a number of other keys, G Major, B♭Major, or even F Major or A♭.

I believe the tune has been used for I will sing the wondrous story, which is usually sung to Hyfrydol.

Calon Lân in Hymn Format in A Maj
Calon Lân in A Major

And here is a link to a sample of Calon Lân on Soundcloud.

Mysteriously, the tune for Here is love vast as the Ocean sounds oddly similar even though its notes are quite different.

The souls of the Righteous

Graveyard At St Davids028
Graveyard at St David’s

The Souls of the Righteous

Here is something for the autumn, the season of All Saints, All Souls, the commemoration of the departed  and the coming Kingdom, as in the period between All Saints and Advent. It is also suitable for funerals and saints days, particularly Martyrs. This is The souls of the righteous, Canticle 46 in Common Worship Daily Prayer where, oddly, it is called A Song of the Righteous Wisdom. It is Wisdom 3:1,2a,3b-8, and takes its title in this collection from its opening words both in CWDP and this collection. This title also has more to do with the subject matter.

As with many canticles, it is suitable for use as an ordinary hymn.

Deuterocanonical canticles

For those who have reservations about singing canticles from the deuterocanonical books, I would ask you to reflect how ready you probably are, Sunday by Sunday, to sing hymns and choruses written by all sorts of people, whether it be Wesley, Luther, J.M. Neale, Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman or Hillsong.  Even if you do not accept the deuterocanonical books as part of your version of the scriptures and even if you do not attribute any authority to them, as spiritual writings they are at least comparable to the great spiritual writers of the Christian era, yet alone the latest fashion in recommended paperbacks. If you belong to a tradition that only sings the Psalms, or only sings the Psalms + paraphrases from the Hebrew Old Testament and the New Testament, I respect that. This canticle is not for you. But if your tradition includes the singing of hymns, then I do not think it is consistent to deny yourself this or any other canticle from the deuterocanonical books.

The Words

This version is in 11 11 11 11. The Gloria is included in the last verse.

1. The souls of the righteous rest safe in God’s hand:
No torment can touch them for worthy they stand.
2. In a fool’s eyes though they may seem to have died,
Now they are at peace and secure they abide.

3. They once did seem punished to our human eyes:
Their hope now abounds in life that never dies.
4. Though chastened a little, great good they’ll receive,
Their end not the ruin that most might believe.

5. Like gold in the smelter God tried them as true:
As an off’ring burnt whole he welcomed them too.
6. In the time of that testing they’ll shine with their worth,
As sparks in the stubble to sweep through the earth.

7. They’ll judge between nations, the peoples subdue:
And their king, God shall be ages and eons through.
Glory to the Father to Spirit and Son,
From now until always even when time’s done.

The Tune

The tune is my own four part setting of the tune for the traditional song The Water of Tyne. There are many other settings of this beautiful tune, which goes back as least as far as 1882, when it appeared in Bruce and Stokoe’s Northumbrian Minstrelsy.  As the words go back to 1810, or possibly 1793 or earlier, the tune probably goes back to the same era.

It is a melody. It is the tune that is important. It would work excellently with just one or two melodic instruments playing the top line, and a simple guitar accompaniment. It could also be worth trying as a two part tune, using either the Alto or the Tenor line as the counter, depending on which voices are available.

Since the melody ranges from D4 to F5, there is not much scope for transposing it into any other key.

Here it is 3/4 time because that is the time signature the Northumbrian Piper’s Society uses for it, but it often appears in 6/8.

Water of Tyne in 3-4 in Hymn Format v2a
The Water of Tyne

Here is the link to Water of Tyne  on Soundcloud (not added there at the moment). My apologies that this sample does even less justice to this tune than usual since it is difficult constructing it from sheet music via GarageBand in a way that remotely adequately can give this melody the sort of lyrical flow that human musicians can produce by instinct.

Here are links to two Youtubes I have found of the Water of Tyne sung in markedly different styles, the first is by a group of girls from a secondary school in Bristol, and the second by Sting and Jimmy Nail .

The Picture

The picture is a drawing of the graveyard on the edge of St David’s in Pembrokeshire and done with coloured conté sticks. It was late autumn, after the leaves had fallen, with a strong wind blowing.

Veni Sancte Spiritu – the Golden Sequence

Gate of Jerusalem v2
The Gate of the Holy City

This is the second of the two pre-reformation Sequences in Common Worship Daily Prayer where it is No. 85  and its title is Veni Sancte Spiritus – Come, Holy Spirit. The other was the subject of the post A gift in honour of Mary Magdalene on July the 19th last.

The original is usually attributed to Stephen Langton (c1150-1228), Archbishop of Canterbury in the reigns of King John and Henry III. It is in carefully constructed Latin verse, compact, taut, with striking use of rhyme, repetition of syllables, pattern and alliteration. Particularly noteworthy are a fourfold repetition of ‘Veni’ (Come) at the beginning and ‘Da’ (Give) at the end. Its other title, The Golden Sequence, is thought to reference as much the admiration people felt for Langton’s skilful use of language as the Sequence’s profound spirituality.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that CWDP has made no attempt to reflect this.  Good versions already exist in English that not only attempt to transpose some of the verbal qualities of the Latin original but are also in the same 777 metre as the original. That would mean it can be sung to music written for the hymn in Latin.

It is not as though the CWDP version makes up for this by being better as a literal translation, and that is without giving at least a nod to the fascinating question as to whether one thinks it might be important when translating verse to try to render some recognition of the fact that the original is the poetry rather than just to translate its semantic meaning. So for once, I would go so far as to say that I do not think the version in CWDP is suitable for use at all. As a rendering of the original, both textually and as literature, it is weaker than the hymn versions that are already available.

The words

Both Edward Caswell (1814-78) and J.M. Neale (1818-66) wrote versions in English to be sung to Webbe’s tune (see below). That means that their versions are in the same metre as Stephen Langton’s original. Both have appeared in many hymn books since, some with combinations garnished from both. I do not usually approve of altering old hymns unnecessarily that are still well known. However, since there are already detailed variations between the various versions of this hymn as they appear in extant hymn books, I have felt freer to do so. As both Caswell and Neale wrote over 150 years ago, what follows below is an attempt to update the language slightly, drawing on both versions and the underlying Latin.

1. Come, O Holy Spirit, come,
and from your celestial home
shed your rays of light divine.
Come, O Father of the poor.
Come, O source of all our store.
Come, within our hearts to shine.

2. Come, of comforters the best,
as the soul’s most welcome guest,
sweet refreshment here below.
in our labour rest most sweet,
grateful coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of woe.

3. You O Light, most pure and blest,
shine within each inmost breast
of your faithful company.
Where you are not, we have have nought;
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.

4. What is soiled, now wash, make pure.
What is wounded, work its cure.
What is parched, refresh its plight.
What is rigid, gently bend.
What is frozen, warmly tend.
What has gone astray put right.

5. Give your faithful, who adore
and confess you, evermore
Your blest sev’nfold mystery.
Give them virtue’s sure reward.
Give them your salvation, Lord.
Give them joys eternally.

In the last verse, I was very tempted to change the third and last lines to “Your blessings septennial” and “Give them joys perennial”. That would resonate beautifully with the underlying Latin, but would have produced something that is too latinate to have a legitimate claim to be decent English.

‘Nought’ in v3 should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘thought’ in the next line, not ‘boat’ or ‘grout’.

The tune

However this sequence might have been sung in the early C13, a number of famous composers have written music for it over the centuries. The tune best known in the Anglophone world is by Samuel Webbe Senior (1740-1816). He was at the organist at the Catholic Chapels of the Sardinian and the Portuguese Embassies in London. He composed church music, glees and even an opera. Among his compositions is the well known tune below.  As a Catholic, of course, he wrote the tune for the original Latin version.

There are two different styles of arrangement current in hymnals.  It is not clear which is more likely to be closest to the tune as Webbe wrote it. The one below is supposed to derive from a printed version of the Latin version sometime in the 1850s, and so could be closer to the source. It also has much more similarity to one of the traditional arrangements than the other.

Veni Sancte Spiritus in Hymn Format
Veni Sancte Spiritus by Samuel Webbe Sen.

And here is a link to Veni Sancte Spiritus on Soundcloud.

The Picture

I got the idea for it from an illustration in a book on icons published about thirty years ago. I believe the particular icon that inspired me is called The Intercession and is in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. I hope the ideas my picture is expressing are fairly obvious and do not too greatly offend those from even more Protestant traditions than my own. It is not just about intercession but also meant to say something about what is happening when we worship.  The ascended Christ is enthroned at the top of the picture. In the middle level is the Communion of Saints worshipping in the court of Heaven with the most holy Theotokos in the middle. We are at the bottom level.  It is what is at the bottom level where the concept goes furthest from the Russian original.

The figure in the centre of the bottom level is Melchizadeck. So perhaps it could be an illustration for Psalm 110. He is bringing forth bread and wine. The Father and the Holy Spirit, being invisible, can be neither represented nor portrayed. However, the invisible and active presence of the Holy Spirit even on our level of the Universe is denoted by the seven doves.

The original is quite small, A4, and painted with gouache.