September 8, 2013

Wilt Thou Forgive That Sin, Where I Begun

And Do Run Still, Though Still I Do Deplore ?

Wilt Thou Forgive that Sin, Where I Begun is an adaptation of the poem, A Hymn to God the Father by English poet, lawyer, and Anglican Cleric John Donne (1572-1631). Likely written in 1623, he composed it while recovering from an unknown deadly illness (possibly typhus) that was endemic in London at the time. Later upon hearing his poem sung by the Chor­is­ters of St. Paul’s Ca­thed­ral, Donne remarked: “the words of this hymn have re­stored to me the same thoughts of joy that pos­sessed my soul in my sick­ness, when I com­posed it. And, O the pow­er of Church-mu­sic! that har­mo­ny add­ed to this hymn has raised the af­fect­ions of my heart, and quick­ened my grace of zeal and gra­ti­tude; and I ob­serve that I al­ways re­turn from pay­ing this pub­lic duty of pray­er and praise with an un­ex­press­i­ble tran­quil­i­ty of mind, and will­ing­ness to leave the world.” - Izaak Walton's Lives, 1670. Among the many musical settings of the poem, probably the most common tune for congregational singing is So Giebst Du (Dresden, 1694) with harmonization added by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1720). In some publications of the Divine Office, such as Christian Prayer: Liturgy of the Hours (St. Paul Editions, 1976), A Hymn to God the Father is included as an optional poem to be recited (see 2nd video) at Night Prayer.

Tune: So Giebst Du

WILT THOU FORGIVE THAT SIN? by John Donne, 1623 (Public Domain)

Wilt Thou forgive that sin, by man begun,
Which was my sin though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
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 sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine, as He shines now and heretofore:
And, having done that, Thou hast done:
I fear no more.

Poem read by Richard Burton

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