Prayers of Kierkegaard

We speak this way with you, o God,
there is a language difference between us,
and yet we strive to understand you,
to make ourselves intelligible to you,
and you are not ashamed to be called our God

Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us first,
you who until the last loved those
whom you had loved from the beginning,
you who until the end of time continue
to love everyone who wants to belong to you,
your faithfulness cannot deny itself!

Great are you, o God, great are you, o God!
Although we know you only as an obscure saying,
and as in a mirror,
yet in wonder we worship your greatness,
how much more shall we praise it at some time,
we shall praise it when we come
to know it more fully!
When under the arch of heaven,
I stand surrounded by the wonders of creation,
I rapturously and adoringly praise your greatness,
you who lightly hold the stars in the infinite
and concern yourself fatherly with the sparrow.

Father in heaven! Open the fountains of our eyes,
let a torrent of tears like a flood obliterate all of the past life
which did not find favour in your eyes;
but also give us a sign as of old,
when you set the rainbow as a gateway of grace in the heavens,
that you will no more wipe us out with a flood;
let sin never again get such power over us
that you again have to tear us out with the body of sin.

Father in heaven. In springtime everything in nature comes back again
with new freshness and beauty.
The bird and the lily have lost nothing since last year.
Would that we, too, might come back unaltered
to the instruction the teachers!
But if, alas, our health has been damaged in time past,
would that we might recover it by learning again
from the lilies in the field and from the birds of the air!

Father in heaven! You loved us first!
Help us never to forget that you are love,
so that this conviction might be victorious
in our hearts over the world’s allurement,
the mind’s unrest, the anxieties over the future,
the horrors of the past, the needs of the moment.
O, grant also that this conviction might form
our minds, so that our hearts become constant and
true in love to them whom you bid us to love as ourselves.

Knut Nystedt was born this day in 1915.

I must go down to the sea again

John Ireland was born 140 years ago today.


Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

— John Masefield


Angular Jig

We think of a fast Irish dance, with music in two triplet beats.  The tradition in Bach’s era was to compose a jig as the last movement of a suite or, in this case, a partita.   Bach may have composed it originally in 6, but decided there was more potential for rhythmic interest in duple meter.

If we expected a jig, we’re getting way more than we bargained for.  The piece is written as two fugues, the subject of the first half inverted to create the theme for the second half.  (The original, un-inverted form comes back just before the end of the second half, in stretto now against itself, or something reminiscent of itself.)

The theme feels angular and jagged.  Why?  It contains big leaps that simultaneously imply changes in harmony.  If the theme leaps an octave, that’s not disturbing to the ear, but the it’s hard for us to hear a single melody when it modulates and jumps at the same time, and does this more than once.  To our 20th century ears, it hangs together, but I wonder how Bach’s contemporaries might have heard it.

This is how he might have written it originally, reconstructed in 6: