Skip to content

Friday Organ Recital with the Poetry of John Donne

March 31, 2023

LENTEN ORGAN RECITAL March 31, 2023 12:15 p.m. livestream/YouTube

Organ meditations on the poetry of John Donne (1572 – 31 March 1631)

                             Dr. Anne Matlack, organ; Jabez Van Cleef, reader

Order for Noonday Prayers                                 Book of Common Prayer p.103



O MIGHT those sighes and teares returne againe

Into my breast and eyes, which I have spent,

That I might in this holy discontent

Mourne with some fruit, as I have mourn’d in vaine;

In mine Idolatry what showres of raine

Mine eyes did waste? what griefs my heart did rent?

That sufferance was my sinne; now I repent;

’Cause I did suffer I must suffer paine.

Th’hydroptique drunkard, and night-scouting thiefe,

The itchy Lecher, and selfe tickling proud

Have the remembrance of past joyes, for reliefe

Of comming ills. To (poore) me is allow’d

No ease; for, long, yet vehement griefe hath beene

Th’effect and cause, the punishment and sinne.

Lacrimae Pavanne          (harpsichord)                                    William Byrd (1539-1623)


I AM a little world made cunningly

Of Elements, and an Angelike spright,

But black sinne hath betraid to endlesse night

My worlds both parts, and (oh) both parts must die.

You which beyond that heaven which was most high

Have found new sphears, and of new lands can write,

Powre new seas in mine eyes, that so I might

Drowne my world with my weeping earnestly,

Or wash it if it must be drown’d no more:

But oh it must be burnt! alas the fire

Of lust and envie have burnt it heretofore,

And made it fouler; Let their flames retire,

And burne me ô Lord, with a fiery zeale

Of thee and thy house, which doth in eating heale.

O Mensch Bewein’ dein Sünde groß                              J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

(O Man Bewail Thy Grevious Sin)


AT the round earths imagin’d corners, blow

Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise

From death, you numberlesse infinities

Of soules, and to your scattred bodies goe,

All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,

All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,

Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,

Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.

But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,

For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,

’Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,

When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,

Teach mee how to repent; for that’s as good

As if thou’hadst seal’d my pardon, with thy blood.

Sanctus Orbis Factor (Maker of the World)                              Dobrinka Karpatova (b. 1980)


IF faithfull soules be alike glorifi’d

As Angels, then my fathers soul doth see,

And adds this even to full felicitie,

That valiantly I hels wide mouth o’stride:

But if our mindes to these soules be descry’d

By circumstances, and by signes that be

Apparent in us, not immediately,

How shall my mindes white truth by them be try’d?

They see idolatrous lovers weepe and mourne,

And vile blasphemous Conjurers to call

On Jesus name, and Pharisaicall

Dissemblers feigne devotion. Then turne

O pensive soule, to God, for he knowes best

Thy true griefe, for he put it in my breast.

Solemn Fantasy on a Theme by Tallis (I Heard the Voice of Jesus)  Gerald Near (b. 1942)


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

In paradisum                                                                                     Near

A HYMNE TO GOD THE FATHER (see Hymnal #140)

WILT thou forgive that sinne where I begunne,

 Which is my sin, though it were done before?

Wilt thou forgive those sinnes, through which I runne,

 And do run still: though still I do deplore?

 When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

 For, I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sinne by which I’have wonne

 Others to sinne? and, made my sinne their doore?

Wilt thou forgive that sinne which I did shunne

 A yeare, or two: but wallowed in, a score?

 When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

 For, I have more.

I have a sinne of feare, that when I have spunne

 My last thred, I shall perish on the shore;

Sweare by thy selfe, that at my death thy sonne

 Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;

 And, having done that, Thou haste done,

 I feare no more.

Wilt Thou Forgive         please stand and sing as you are able         HYMNAL 140

Anne Matlack is organist-choir director at Grace Church where she directs a full program of choirs.  She holds a B.A. in Music from Yale University and M.M. and D.M.A. degrees from the University of Cincinnati.  Her organ teachers have included Charles Krigbaum (Yale) and David Mulbury (Cincinnati) as well as serving as organist/choir director at Grace Church, she is Artistic Director of Harmonium Choral Society.


Wilt Thou Forgive that Sin is found in the hymnal #140, to a tune by Renaissance composer John Hilton (1573-1631), and may have been sung in English churches in the poet’s lifetime.

Donne probably wrote this poem in 1623, after he had recovered from a serious bout of (often fatal) “spotted fever” which gripped London in an epidemic that year. Each of the three stanzas of six lines ends with “When thou has done, though has not done / For I have more.”

These are puns: “Done” which is repeated six times, refers to Donne’s own name (and sins) and “more”, which ends each stanza, refers to his wife Anne More’s maiden name. Anne More Donne died in 1617, some six years before this poem was written. The final line “I fear no more,” infers that after he dies his sins of fear will be erased and he will once again be with his wife.

William Byrd was a distinguished Tudor composer, who was organist of Lincoln Cathedral and became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal upon the death of Robert Parsons. He managed to remain a devout Catholic without persecution throughout the Elizabethan period, writing for “both sides” i.e. Latin motets (used for private chapel worship) and in English. Byrd wrote a collection of keyboard pieces for the virginal: the Fitzwilliam Virginal book. John Dowland’s famous song “Flow, my tears,” which he also set as a lute solo and for viol consort, also inspired settings by other composers, such as this by Byrd. Byrd was actually a contemporary of John Donne, and this work was likely known to him.

J.S.Bach’s “O Mensch bewein dein Sunde groß” (BWV 622) to me is one of the most profound pieces in the Orgelbüchlein. It is based on a 23 verse Passion hymn composed by Sebald Heyden in 1530 about the stations of the cross. The tune is set out in the right hand, ornamented, meditative, full of yearning suspensions and moments of sublime surprise. Bach used this chorale in his St. Matthew Passion as the conclusion to Part I.

Dobrinka Tabakova was born in the historic town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria and has lived in London since she was 11. She graduated from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and holds a PhD in composition from King’s College London. Her music has featured in films (Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Adieu au langage’), dance (Sydney Dance Company ‘Untamed’) as well as international music festivals including Schleswig-Holstein, Moscow Homecoming, Three Choirs, UK and Dark Music Days, Iceland. This organ setting is based on Gregorian Chant for the Sanctus (Holy, Holy Holy).

Gerald Near first studied theory and composition with Leslie Bassett, organ with Robert Glasgow, later returned for graduate study in orchestral conducting with Dominick Argento and conducting with Thomas Lancaster at the University of Minnesota. In 1982 Near was one of the first recipients of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. He was for many years organist/choirmaster, and subsequently, Canon Precentor of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas. He has been commissioned by the AGO and is Director of Aureole Editions. Many of his works explore Gregorian chant themes such as the In paradisum from the Requiem. The Thomas Tallis (another contemporary of Donne) theme known as his THIRD TUNE is the same one set by Ralph Vaughan Williams for double string orchestra in 1910. Tallis’s original tune is in the Phrygian mode and was one of the nine he contributed to the Psalter of 1567 for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Vaughan Williams included it in his edition of the English Hymnal of 1906, and it is found in the Hymnal 1982 at #692.


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: