Psalm 62, 25 Jan 15 (1)

Ps62 in the TWode Psalter 1564-1625
Psalm 62 in the Wode Psalter 1564-1625; British Library MS33933

This must be in the nature of a little holiday reading, as this psalm and the third Sunday after Epiphany, 25 January 2015, are still some way off.

So using Psalm 62 as an excuse, here is a preliminary note on a manuscript having historical interest — although we shall not be singing it when it finally comes around.

The Wode Psalter

The manuscript shown is an excerpt of Psalm 62 from the an early post-Reformation Scottish psalter.

The web-site of the Wode Project, a University of Edinburgh activity, tells us:

The Wode [pronounced ‘Wood’] or St Andrews Psalter comprises important manuscript musical settings from the Book of Psalms.

Thomas Wode, who was a monk previous to the Reformation in Scotland, collected harmonisations of the 105 metrical psalms from the 1564 Scottish Psalm Book into these partbooks along with other songs, creating the ‘gold standard’ for post-Reformation devotion and worship in Scotland.

The SATB settings are mainly by David Peebles. The page illustrated has only one line of music as it is from a Partbook: Dr James Reid-Baxter at the University of Glasgow has kindly written to provide some useful expert advise:

The Wode Psalter consists of separate partbooks for each voice, which is why I have always resisted the term “Wode Psalter” in favour of “Wode Partbooks”

The collection, built up by Wode over a considerable period, also included 168 sacred songs, canticles, sonnets and rounds.

The psalter is highlighted here not only for its historical interest, particularly to readers with Presbyterian roots, but also since the text is beautiful and easily read (click on images to enlarge). The quality of script and illustrations is probably not regarded by experts as of the highest order, but the sum of the parts is most impressive.

The translation is worth a closer look. In the New Revised Standard Version, verses 1 and 2 read:

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken

In the Scottish Psalm Book we find a different rendering with a pleasing flow and flavour:

Althought my saule has sharply been assalted, yet towards God with silence have I walked; in whome alone all health and hope I see. He is my health and my salvation sure, my strong defence which shall ever indure.

Cloister, Aix-en-ProvenceIn one, both here and in verse 5, the soul waits, in one it walks. NKJV says ‘waits silently’, other versions, ‘made subject’ or ‘at rest’. No single word seems adequately to capture the breadth and depth of this blessed state of being.

The lectionary selection for Year B begins in verse 5 with this soul waiting or walking in silence, and continues to extol divine virtues, dependability and justice.

A later post will look again at the text and music choices of the day.

Additional historical notes The British Library description of this MS is as follows:

Most of the music was collected and copied by Thomas Wode (or Wood). Wode was a former monk who worked at St Andrews after the Reformation in Scotland, eventually becoming vicar there. At the core of the collection are harmonisations of the psalms by Scottish composer David Peebles. Over a period of many years Wode added further music, including hymns, canticles and secular works. Two pieces by John Buchan (folios 13v-14 and 37) were possibly copied by the composer. In the early 17th century, two further scribes added music to folios 81v-82 and 82-93.The references to “my lord of marche” (e.g. f. 58) must have been inserted after 1582, when Robert Stewart, formerly prior of St. Andrews, was granted the Earldom of March, in exchange for that of Lennox.

The version of the psalms is the same as that employed by Henry Charteris in the edition of the Psalmes of David in metre according as they are Sung in the Kirk of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1595. The Psalms to which tunes are given are also the same, except that Ps. cxxxvi. is omitted by Wode in his copy, and special tunes are added for Pss. xlix. and cxiv.; but the harmonies differ considerably from those of the Psalter of 1635. The volume has been very much damaged, portions of many of the leaves being torn off for the sake of the illuminated letters (which are, however, very roughly executed), while others, including the first six, are lost altogether, as indicated at the end of the manuscript.

5 thoughts on “Psalm 62, 25 Jan 15 (1)

  1. Dr Reid-Baxter further notes:
    The collection of modern editions of material from the Wode Partbooks is available (free) here:
    The Thomas Wode Project site gives access to digitised images of every single page of all eight surviving partbooks from the two sets – five held by Edinburgh University, one by Trinity College Dublin, one by the British Library (the one that you highlight in your piece), and one by Georgetown University Library, incredibly enough.

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