Psalm 45: Equity

‘Your throne endures forever, your sceptre is of equity’ (6)

In Year A, a female presence flows through the Lectionary readings. First in Genesis is the record of how Rebekah stepped out in faith to meet an unknown Isaac. Psalm 45 is a song to a king and his bride. And from the Song of Solomon we hear:

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” (Song 2:20)

Psalm 45 is more formal than the lyrical Song of Solomon. Processing with the restraint of a ceremony in a royal court, it might almost picture a festive entry into a place of reverence, nuptial or otherwise. It was, after all, written by the Korahites who were offical singers for the court.

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)

Sponsored message from the King or not, such ceremonial celebration serves a purpose. And the singer’s heart ‘stirs with a noble song’, addressing a king who is expected to be honest, just and even-handed:

Your royal sceptre is a sceptre of equity.

The second part of the song, or a second voice, then celebrates the bride in her beauty and fine robes, an integral element in a reign of truth. Read more in an earlier post>


Often featured herein is the ever-pleasing music of the Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. He did not, as far as I can tell, turn his talents to Psalm 45.

William Byrd did though, and in the same year, 1605, that Victoria presented his monumental Officium Defunctorum. To find Byrd’s work one has to search for the Latin title Diffusa est gratia, ‘Full of grace (are thy lips)’, a phrase which is buried down in verse 3.

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:

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

More practically during days of COVID-19 isolation, there being no setting in Together in Song, the alternate refrain in Psalms for All Seasons 45B by John Bell is a good choice. His well-crafted refrain includes a delightful quote from the associated RCL reading in the Song of Solomon:

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

Rather than using the tone suggested, the verses (10 to 17) may be paraphrased to fit freely into Bell’s nice refrain tune. A very simple home-grown refrain is shown below.

A simple Ps 45 refrain by the author. BYO chords.

Chords are omitted to provide an example of the simple process of composing a psalm song using simple notes that can be enriched with more imaginative chords or not, according to taste. The simplest harmonisation is I-V7-I repeated, in this case F C7 F. This is useful if you want to sing as a round. However, a richer sound can be achieved. Choose your own chords, as a basis for SATB or trio arrangement if desired, such as:

Dm7 | A7sus A9 | BbΔ2 BbΔ/A || G9 | Db11 C9 | Fsus4 FΔ ||

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.