136. Let Us with a Gladsome Mind

Text Information
First Line: Let us with a gladsome mind
Title: Let Us with a Gladsome Mind
Reviser: Marie J. Post (1985)
Versifier: John Milton (1623)
Meter: 77 77
Scripture: Psalm 136
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: Egypt; Biblical Names & Places: Pharaoh; Commitment & Dedication2 more...
Language: English
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Name: GENEVAN 136
Harmonizer: Claude Goudimel (1564)
Meter: 77 77
Key: G Major
Source: Genevan Psalter, 1562


Text Information:

A recital of praise of the LORD as Creator and as the Redeemer of Israel.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-4
st. 3 = vv. 5-7
st. 4 = vv. 8-9
st. 5 = vv. 10-14
st. 6 = v. 15
st. 7 = vv. 16-20
st. 8 = vv. 21-22
st. 9 = vv. 23-25
st. 10 = v. 26

In Jewish tradition, Psalm 136 served with 135 as an appendage to the "Songs of Ascents." Like 135, it is a liturgy of praise to the LORD as Creator and as Israel's Redeemer, noteworthy for its recounting of Israel's history (see also 78, 105, and 106). This song's obvious antiphonal form presupposes recitation by a Levite soloist (or choir) and responses by the worshiping congregation.

The psalmist calls on the saints to thank and praise the LORD, the kind and true God (st. 1), the one who rules over all (st. 2). God is the Creator of heaven and earth (st. 3) and of the sun, moon, and stars (st. 4). The LORD struck down Egypt's firstborn and parted the Red Sea to lead Israel out of slavery (st. 5), and then brought the waters down upon Pharaoh and his army (st. 6). God sustained the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness and destroyed the kingdoms in the land of Canaan (st. 7) to give Israel their promised land (st. 8). God has ever rescued and sustained us, says the psalmist (st. 9); so let us thank and praise the LORD (st. 10). The versification of Psalm 136 is a 1985 revision by Marie J. Post (PHH 5) of the twenty-four-stanza versification written by John Milton (b. Cheapside, London, England, 1608; d. London, 1674) in 1623 when he was fourteen years old. The litany's refrain appears in the second half of each even-numbered stanza. Another setting of Psalm 136 is at 182.

The greatest English poet of the seventeenth century, Milton was also, at various times, a teacher, pamphleteer, and statesman. Educated at St. Paul's School and Christ College, Cambridge, he mastered Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, as well as most modern European languages. A voracious reader of literature and theological works, Milton was also a staunch supporter of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans; he wrote fiery pamphlets defending their causes. He also wrote famous–though not always well-received–essays on freedom of expression and divorce on the basis of incompatibility. Cromwell appointed him Secretary of Foreign Tongues in 1649, but Milton fell from grace when Charles II returned to the throne in 1660. Although he had been a skillful poet throughout his life, Milton's greatest achievement came in his last years. After his political demise and the loss of his sight, he wrote Paradise Lost (1667) and Paradise Regained (1671). His nineteen psalm paraphrases were published in his Poems in English and Latin (1673 edition).

Liturgical Use
Psalm 136 in many ways parallels Psalm 135 and thus will have similar uses. Psalm 136 is the only psalm structured entirely in litany form. It serves well for Easter and for baptisms as a processional or gathering.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

GENEVAN 136 was first published in the 1562 edition of the Genevan Psalter. The 1564 harmonization by Claude Goudimel (PHH 6) originally placed the melody in the tenor. One of the shortest and brightest tunes from Geneva, this music may be sung responsorially (with a soloist for the narrative stanzas and everyone on the refrain parts, that is, the second half of each even-numbered stanza) or antiphonally (with two groups alternating on the narration, and everyone singing the refrain parts). The tune is in Mixolydian mode and properly ends on D. However, to modern ears D may need resolution to G, the opening chord. For that reason and because of the short tune and narrative style, do not hold the last chord. Instead, continue the rhythmic motion between verses without a pause, especially when singing antiphonally or responsorially. A song leader will help to keep the congregation moving along. MONKLAND (223), which is also associated with Psalm 136 and John Milton's versification in some other hymnals, is a useful alternate to GENEVAN 136.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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