Update: Sheet music for this song is now available at gregscheer.com.
I recall hearing my mother relate a family legend about her grandfather, who was a trawlerman on the Zuider Zee. One day, his boat got caught in a sudden squall that left it capsized. While waiting to be rescued the crew kept up their spirits by singing the opening lines of Psalm 69. The story may or may not be partly apocryphal, but I like it.
I love to hear stories about how people have used the Psalms in everyday life. It’s easy to see why a person adrift in the sea would recall the lines of Psalm 69, because they are the cry of a person drowning. In the Psalm, it is an emotional drowning, fighting a flood of sorrow, betrayal, and fatigue. I wanted music that could bear the weight of the emotional variety: desperation, vindication, and hope, ultimately gravitating toward a minor melody with a rugged rhythmic foundation. I would love to hear it sung by an early music consort. For now, enjoy a demo recorded by the Greg Consort.
1. Have pity, my God: I am drowning in sorrow.
I’ve cried out to you, can you hear my desperation?
The flood presses in and the waters keep rising;
I’m weary and see little hope of your salvation.
Out of the depths of my pain you will raise me,
God, you will answer when nothing can save me,
My gratefulness I’ll proclaim,
Singing praise to your name,
to your glorious name.
2. I feel so much hate, all my friends have betrayed me;
I hear how they scoff when they see that I am fasting.
You see my great need, all the pain that besets me.
Oh, show me your grace, for your love is everlasting. Refrain
3. May all who have wronged me know shame and contrition
And tremble and faint when they feel your indignation.
Demand from them all they have earned for their thieving;
Ignore their laments when they see my vindication. Refrain
All those who have known you find healing and wholeness,
Your deeds are resounding through all of your creation,
And heaven and earth, every mountain and ocean,
Will join your redeemed in a mighty celebration. Refrain