‘Neath your holy icon kneeling

This is a hymn with two different English translations, which we will try to sort out in this blog entry.

Here is the Slavonic, from the Papp Duchovni Pisni (1969), p. 86:

A purist might prefer a slightly different accentuation in the first words (“ko TVOjej”) but Father Papp was fairly meticulous about correct accents in his other works.  Now,  this melody is not QUITE like we sing it in America, but overall this is not bad.

Here is the version in the Marian Hymnal (1984):

Compared with the Papp setting, the note values have been MOSTLY doubled.  But there are some issues:

  • Triplets have been added in the first line; many cantors won’t know how to sing them, and they complicate the whole process of setting a singing tempo.
  • The eighth notes at the start of the second line are also more complicated than the melody in Papp.
  • The bar line divisions don’t always reflect proper accentuation.

Now, this IS a fairly exact translation of the Slavonic, even if not particularly singable. But there is the text in the 1978 Levkulic pew book:

‘Neath your holy icon kneeling
We poor sinners bring our pleading:
Intercessor for all mankind,
O most holy Mary.

From the starry heights of heaven
Look upon your pleading children.
We beseech help to be faithful,
O most holy Mary.

Keep us free from all life’s evils,
Free from every kind of troubles.
Help us gain eternal happiness,
O most holy Mary.

This is much more regular, metrically speaking, and can be sung to a melody which matches the one in the Marian Hymnal, ignoring the  bar lines and triplets:

Some may quibble that “in the Byzantine Rite we don’t kneel”, and this may also have affected the Marian Hymnal translation. But the fact is that in supplicatory services we DO kneel, and there is no reason to avoid that here.

The music is written out in “chant style”, with uneven measures, and a short rest at each bar line; this avoids having to mark several meter changes.  Here is the Slavonic, written out the same way:


It is entirely possible to accent the Slavonic correctly, without going to triplets (which never occur in our chant, and very very seldom in our paraliturgical singing).

Thoughts or suggestions?

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