42. As a Deer in Want of Water

Text Information
First Line: As a deer in want of water
Title: As a Deer in Want of Water
Meter: 87 87 77 88
Scripture: Psalm 42; Psalm 43
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: Jordan; Comfort & Encouragement; Enemies & Persecution2 more...
Source: Psalter Hyymnal, 1987
Language: English
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Name: GENEVAN 42
Harmonizer: Johann Crüger (1658)
Composer: Louis Bourgeois (1551)
Meter: 87 87 77 88
Key: F Major


Text Information:

The anguished yet hopeful prayer of a thirsty soul to be restored to intimate fellowship with God at his temple.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 42: 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 42:3-4
st. 3 = vv. 42:5, 11; 43:5 (refrain)
st. 4 = vv. 42:6-8
st. 5 =vv. 42:9-10
st. 6=vv. 43:1-2
st. 7 = vv. 43:3-4

Psalm 42 marks the beginning of Book II of the Psalms. Exiled to the northern fringes of Israelite territory, forced by taunting enemies to reside far from the house of God (see also Ps. 63 and 84), the psalmist, who dearly loves God, grieves over feeling forgotten and rejected by God. Many throughout the ages have testified to that same sense of abandonment, described here in terms of a parching thirst for God (st. 1) and recalling past seasons of worshiping God with multitudes in the temple (st. 2). But faith revives hope in God's faithfulness (st. 3). Though overwhelmed by troubles, the exile still remembers God (st. 4) and asks that God will remember him in the face of jeering unbelievers (st. 5). The psalmist prays for vindication from enemies (st. 6) and for restoration to God's precious presence (st. 7).

Psalms 42 and 43 were originally one psalm. To honor the structure of the original, the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee asked members Bert Polman (PHH 37) and Jack Reiffer (b. Grand Rapids, MI, 1944) to versify both psalms so they could be sung together to GENEVAN 42. As a result, Psalm 43 is the only psalm published in two settings in the psalter section of the hymnal–first as stanzas 6 and 7 (and refrain) under 42, and next as a separate entry under 43. The composite text includes several lines from the 1931 versification by Dewey Westra (PHH 98) published in earlier editions of the Psalter Hymnal.

Jack Reiffer was chair of the text subcommittee of the revision committee. A gradu¬ate of Calvin College and Seminary, he is currently pastor of the Washington, D.C., Christian Reformed Church; he has also served congregations in Chicago and Champaign, Illinois.

Liturgical Use:
Psalm 42 (with 43) is fitting as a prayer for deliverance from distress or persecution or any forced separation from God. It also expresses the church's confidence in God in the face of present or potential threats–such as Revelation depicts–to its communion with God. Stanzas 1 and 3 serve well at the beginning of worship.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3) composed or adapted GENEVAN 42 for the 1551 Genevan Psalter. This tune, in bar form (AAB) with lilting rhythms fluctuating between groups of three and two, is one of the best known and best loved in the Genevan Psalter. It is often cal1ed FRED DICH SEHR after a German funeral hymn for which it became a setting in Rhamba's Harmoniae sacrae (1613). Bach used the melody in seven different cantatas. Adapted to long meter double, GENEVAN 42 was also published in English and Scottish psalters.

Johann Crüger (b. Grossbriesen, near Guben, Prussia, Germany, 1598; d. Berlin, Germany, 1662) published his harmonization of the tune in 1658 as part of his complete setting of the Genevan Psalter in simple four-part chorale style with instrumental accompaniment. The vocal parts are set with the text; the instrumental parts-two descants for melody instruments and a keyboard part-are found opposite 41 in the Psalter Hymnal.

Crüger attended the Jesuit College at Olmutz and the Poets' School in Regensburg, and later studied theology at the University of Wittenberg. He moved to Berlin in 1615, where he published music for the rest of his life. In 1622 he became the Lutheran cantor at the St. Nicholas Church and a teacher for the Gray Cloister.

He wrote music instruction manuals, the best known of which is Synopsis musica (1630), and tirelessly promoted congregational singing. With his tunes he often included elaborate accompaniment for various instruments. Crüger's hymn collection, Neues vollkomliches Gesangbuch (1640), was one of the first hymnals to include figured bass accompaniment (musical shorthand) with the chorale melody rather than full harmonization written out. It included eighteen of Cüuger's tunes.

His next publication, Praxis Pietatis Melica (1644), is considered one of the most important collections of German hymnody in the seventeenth century. It was reprinted forty-four times in the following hundred years. Another of his publications, Geistliche Kirchen Melodien (1649), is a collection arranged for four voices, two descanting instruments, and keyboard and bass accompaniment. Crüger also published a complete psalter, Psalmodia sacra (1657), which included the Lobwasser translation set to all the Genevan tunes.

Psalm 42/43 invites division into two singing groups; have the congregation sing stanzas 1-2, 4-5, and 6-7 as units, punctuated by a soloist or the choir singing the refrain (st. 3), accompanied by the instrumental parts. Or, conversely, have a soloist or choir sing the lament accompanied by instruments, and have the whole congregation sing the refrain. See 194 for an alternate harmonization by Claude Goudimel (1564).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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