The Intellect Cannot Cope
I Guess I Need to Read War and Peace Again

Greene: Lord, Let Me Know Mine End

Because my wife and I are chronically and apparently incorrigibly late almost everywhere we go, we did not go to our usual Ordinariate Mass yesterday morning. It's on the west side of Mobile, and we live twenty miles to the east. It takes us most of an hour to get there. The Mass is at 9:30, and at approximately 9:25 we had just reached downtown, with ten to fifteen minutes yet to go. So we decided to just stop where we were and wait until 10:30 for the Mass at the cathedral. And I'm glad we did, because I heard this music for the first time.

I like the music, but I really like the text, which is from Psalm 39:

Lord, let me know mine end, and the number of my days, that I may be certified how long I have to live. Behold, thou hast made my days as it were a span long, and mine age is even as nothing in respect of thee; and verily every man living is altogether vanity. For man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain; he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them. And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly my hope is even in thee.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and with thine ears consider my calling; hold not thy peace at my tears. For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength, before I go hence, and be no more seen.

If you're at all familiar with the Coverdale translation of the Psalms, you may have guessed (if you didn't already know) that this is one of his. Reportedly he is less accurate but he is very often a better poet than the King James translators, who have, for instance, that last sentence as:

O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

Not nearly as poignant, to my ear.

I thought I was fairly literate about classical music, but can't remember ever having heard Maurice Greene's name before. He was an English contemporary of Bach and Handel and according to Wikipedia this piece is "his acknowledged masterpiece." He's probably well-known to church musicians in the Anglican tradition and to those particularly interested in choral music.


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I've not heard of Maurice Greene either. I like his setting. Another is by Hubert Parry in the 20th century, which you may have run across when searching for Greene's:

I think we have sung this at our parish. I quite like it.

I was just telling Important Blogger Amy Welborn* that a friend gave me some back issues of Caelum et Terra a few months ago. A treasure!

*pleasant comment now sullied by name-dropping

Heh. If that's name-dropping it's a minor offense. Glad you like CetT. Wish it had gotten more purchase in its time. A lot of the ideas are very similar to Rod Dreher's Benedict Option.

No, I hadn't come across the Parry setting, Craig. I like it. Thank you. He includes several sentences that Greene leaves out.

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