I syng of a mayden

For the whole of October every year Our Lady is commemorated under her beautiful title of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Rosary, of course, has been probably the most widespread of the Church’s devotions among numerous saints and also among all those in religious life as well as the laity. The Rosary is often referred to as Our Lady’s Psalter, the 150 Aves of the Rosary matching in number the 150 Psalms.

Kevin Allen, a modern-day composer of sacred music in Chicago, has written a very endearing setting of the Middle English I syng of a mayden. He joins such others as Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst, Peter Warlock,  R.R. Terry and Lennox Berkeley, who have all had a go too.

It’s a lovely little poem or song from the early 15th century, though its roots are clearly older. It speaks simply, lovingly and serenely of the Annunciation and the Incarnation, two of the Joyful Mysteries, if I’m not too mistaken. It suggests Our Lady’s beauty, nobility and humility. (I feel very strongly that Gertrude would be able to tell us a lot more about the manuscripts containing this song!)

I am particularly affected by these lines

kyng of alle kynges
to here sone che ches.

A young lass, wholly one of us, freely consented to bear the Son of God, Creator of the universe. She chose Him.

The song is nowadays usually sung at Christmas, for obvious reasons. This was not always so and it was sung at any time in the year, except perhaps in Lent. It’s a song that would easily make us reach for our rosaries in this October too.

Kevin Allen’s setting is sung by the choir at the Oratory of St Francis De Sales in South St Louis. This was a grand church built by faithful German immigrants and entrusted by Cardinal Raymond Burke to the Institute of Christ the King in 2005 when he was archbishop there.

(It’s a warts-and-all filming in the church during a service, so may I recommend following closely the words given below to help you not to notice all the noise from the congregation, lovely though they are.)

Well may such a lady God’s mother be! 

Well may such a lady God’s mother be!

And thank you, most sincerely, Mr Kevin Allen!

I syng of a mayden
þat is makeles,
kyng of alle kynges
to here sone che ches.
I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.
He cam also stylle
þer his moder was
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe gras.
He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.
He cam also stylle
to his moderes bowr
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe flour.
He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.
He cam also stylle
þer his moder lay
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe spray.
He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.
Moder & mayden
was neuer non but che –
wel may swych a lady
Godes moder be.
Mother and maiden
There was never one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

About GC

Poor sinner.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s