For Kantor Steven Hoffman
Cantate Domino! O sing
Unto the Lord a novum canticum,
A new song! Let creation ring;
That God has made
With music be arrayed.
Sound forth the trumpet! Let the woodwinds thrum,
The organ roar, the strings with skill be played
To Christ, our Lord, who shed His blood to win
Forgiveness of all sin
And gather to Himself a holy throng,
A choir of saints, Himself their kantor and their song.
Cantate! Sing with angel band
What in the former days could not be sung:
The Son of God became as planned
A baby grand,
A man to be
The source of harmony
’Tween God and man, and thus the angels strung
Their harps and played a joyful symphony.
The Gloria in Excelsis filled the sky:
Glory to God on high,
And peace on earth! O most concordant day!
The perfect counterpoint within a manger lay.
Cantate! Drown the devil’s noise
Of trigons, pipes, and loveless clanging gongs.
He would have silenced all our joys,
Except his ploys
On his own head
Resounded back instead,
As Jesus gave His Church triumphant songs:
“Blessed are You, O Lord, for You have shed
Your blood and laid for us a solid bass,
The cadence of Your grace.
You played the dominant; You beat the foe,
And brought us resolution with your final blow!”
Cantate! Now ascend the scale
And raise to higher pitch the lively notes!
Christ made the dirge of death to fail.
No more shall wail
Of saints, for we shall be
The fugal echoes of our Lord. Our throats
Will breathe forever in polyphony:
“The Lord is risen! Alleluia sing
Unto our deathless King,
Composer of our life, sweet Psalm of men!
Us fading mortals He conducts to life again!”
Cantate! Let the ocean roar
And all that fills it! Let the world rejoice
And they therein! Let nature’s score
You joyful hills
And rivers with your rills
And all creation, sing with single voice
Before the Lord, the Judge, whose glory fills
All heav’n and earth. Cantate Domino!
Let hymnody o’erflow!
Rehearse the new song; practice now the chord
That we will sing in heaven’s courts unto the Lord!
This poem is based on Psalm 98. It uses musical terminology and plays on words to speak of the marvelous things that the Lord has done. Each stanza has 98 syllables, corresponding to the number of the psalm, and five rhymes, because Psalm 98 is the Introit for the 5th Sunday of Easter (Cantate). Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) and George Herbert (1593-1633) inspired the variety of even-numbered lines, especially Spenser’s “Epithalamion,” though this poem doesn’t directly mirror a particular meter from either poet.