Psalm 45, 29 August 2021

Psalms 45 is a song for a royal wedding. In this miniature King Richard II of England receives his bride, the princess Isabel, from her father, Charles VI, king of France. (Royal 14 D. vi, f. 268v British Library)

Psalm 45, a tribute to the wedding of a king, is the closest we get to a love song in the Psalter. This poem by the sons of Korah is addressed first to the king, probably Solomon, then in a second voice to the bride. (v. 10)

Hebrews 1 quotes a clutch of psalms, including verse 6 of Ps 45 in relation to Jesus: ‘Your throne endures forever’. But it’s verse 8, with the ever-present reminders of justice and equity in the psalms, that has entered into the Roman liturgy as a focus for many musical settings, particularly in Gregorian chant (listen below):

Dilexisti justitiam; Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: wherefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

English tr. from BCP

Being more in the style of an official paean, it is rather in the formal style of the royal wedding depicted. It may be far from the poetical and romantic heights of the Song of Solomon, however the formal reminders of the importance of truth, equity, love and loyalty are lightened by some sweet lines:

All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia, and the music of strings from the ivory palaces makes you glad (v. 8)

Everett in The Emergent Psalter picks up these nice lines for his antiphon. Others —  such as the very simple home-grown refrain illustrated below, and the fragment of Martin Luther’s Ein Feste Burg in Psalms for All Seasons 45B— focus on divine goodness.

Ps45 Your throne

The alternate refrain in PFAS 45B is by John Bell. Creative as always, he stretches his interpretation widely and borrows and bends a phrase from the Song of Solomon 8:6 in his refrain:

Take O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be; set your seal upon my heart and live in me.

Apologies for no post on Psalm 111 last Sunday. Still, it seems from the site stats that no-one noticed. (I presented my own composition by video on Zoom.) If you find no post, you can always look at the main page for any psalm via the index. So, on we go in lockdown, with thoughts going out to those threatened, sick or isolated.

4 thoughts on “Psalm 45, 29 August 2021

  1. And I wonder if anyone noticed that the Dm7 chord in that Ps 111 refrain is a ‘So what’ chord? Thanks Miles and Bill — stacked fourths in a minor seventh chord. Forgive me, just had to say.

  2. You were missed last week but as you write, I was able to rely on former pages. A week to lie fallow is OK and even in fallow Times, earthworms are moving.

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