Byrd’s eight-part setting of Ad Dominum cum tribularer (Unto the Lord in my distress) is one of his largest and most eloquent compositions. It’s poignant text speaking of persecution and injustice was perfect for setting as a musical cry from the heart bewailing the persecution of his fellow Catholics in a newly hostile and alien homeland. The opening plea in which each voice introduces the subject twice is the musical epitome of distress and it is not until we reach ‘et exaudivit me’ that Byrd eases us into a calmer mood. This doesn’t last for he then proceeds to illustrate musically the punishment with ‘sharp arrows’ and ‘searing coals’ of those who have a ‘deceitful tongue’.
The next section depicts the Psalmist’s – and by extension Byrd’s, enraged frustration and despair. He depicts this by using descending chromaticism punctuated by sharp suspensions at ‘Heu mihi …‘ (Woe is me …). The ending is just as painful with Byrd’s pleas for peace falling on deaf ears and barely contained thunderous wrath as he depicts in the final verse how when he spoke for peace he was greeted with a unanimous shout for war. It’s sung below by the Cardinall’s Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood. Enjoy :-).
Text & Translation: Ad Dominum cum tribularer a8
|Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi, et exaudivit me.||I cried unto the Lord in my distress, and he heard me.|
|Domine, libera animam meam a labio mendacii, et a lingua dolosa.||Lord, Deliver thou my soul from falsehood’s lip and a deceitful tongue.|
|Quid detur tibi, aut quid apponatur tibi, ad linguam dolosam?||What should be served unto you, or to what should you be put, to a deceitful tongue?|
|Sagitte potentis acute, cum carbonibus desolatoriis.||Sharp arrows of the mighty, and coals that lay waste.|
|Heu mihi! quia incolatus meus prolongatus est; habitavi cum habitantibus Cedar.||Woe is me! That my sojourn was prolonged; I have lived amongst the inhabitants of Cedar.|
|Multum incola fuit anima mea.||Much has my soul dwelt there.|
|Cum his qui oderunt pacem eram pacificus.||With those who hate peace, I was a peacemaker.|
|Ego pacem loquebar, et illi bellum conclamabant.||I spake peace, and together they shouted for war.|
Text & Translations: Psalm 119 in the Vulgate
- My translation – mfi ↩