Cheerful Voices: The Song of the Vineyard

My truelove had a vineyard upon a hill so high,
He dug the ground and planted the best that you can buy,
He hollowed out a winepress and built a wall and tower;
At harvest-time he gathered but every grape was sour.

Now find the guilty party, you masters of the law;
My truelove in his vineyard could not have laboured more.
A vineyard so ungrateful with grapes so sour and few;
When so much was expected: what shall my truelove do?

My truelove has decided he’ll break the vineyard wall,
And hungry beasts will enter and trample on it all;
He’ll make of it a wasteland where nettles grow again,
And when my truelove orders the clouds will never rain.

My truelove’s name is Jesus; the vineyard is the church.
He gave to her a pure heart all free from stain and smirch.
She changed her love for bloodshed; he’ll come and purge her stain;
Lord, in the vineyard’s corner may some true vines remain.

Words and music for this fourth track from Cheerful Voices are by Thomas Thurman; I just arranged the piano part. I had a bit of a time trying to record this one and I’m still not entirely happy with it; perhaps I’ll try again when in better voice, but I still wanted to include it. It’s a metrical paraphrase of Isaiah 5:1-7.

I am struck by the connections with Psalm 80, which could be a response to this passage. It also uses the vine metaphor, and asks why the vine, the fruitful vine that had spread from Egypt to the Sea and the River, was cut down by the One who planted it. And all through the psalm there is a refrain, slightly different each time: “Turn us again, O God; • show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”

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