Love Bade Me Welcome

 

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“Love Bade Me Welcome” is an exceptionally poignant poem by George Herbert – seventeenth century English parson and poet – about the Lord’s Supper at which we sit as guests, served by the Lord himself,  given a musical setting, along with four others, in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1911 masterpiece “Five Mystical Songs of George Herbert.”

 

During the final lines, a choir emerges out of the orchestral accompaniment and sings without words the Gregorian Chant melody of the Latin eucharistic hymn, “O Sacrum Convivium”: “O sacred banquet, wherein Christ is received…”

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’

Love said, ‘You shall be he.’

‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on Thee.’

Love took my hand and smiling did reply,

‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.’

‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’

‘My dear, then I will serve.’

‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’

So I did sit and eat.

—“Love” George Herbert (1593–1632)

rublev1

George Herbert’s “Love Bade Me Welcome” and the Lord’s Supper always remind me of Rublev’s Holy Trinity, inviting the faithful in the Divine Circle of Love.

The Five Mystical Songs are a musical composition by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958), written between 1906 and 1911.[1] The work sets four poems (“Easter” divided into two parts) by seventeenth-century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems. While Herbert was a priest, Vaughan Williams himself was an atheist at the time (he later settled into a “cheerful agnosticism”), though this did not prevent his setting of verse of an overtly religious inspiration.

“Easter”
“I got me flowers”

1. Easter – from Herbert’s Easter

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.
Sing his praise without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand,
that thou likewise with him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name, who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is the best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song pleasant and long;
Or since all musick is but three parts vied and multiplied.
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

2. I Got Me Flowers – from the second half of Easter

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East.
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Vaughan Williams “Five Mystical Songs” (part 2):
“Love bade me welcome”
“The Call”
“Antiphon”

3. Love Bade Me Welcome – from Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back.
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungrateful? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

4. The Call – from The Call

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

5. Antiphon – from Antiphon (I)

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.
The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither flie;
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.
The Church with psalms must shout,
No doore can keep them out;
But above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.

 

 

 

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