Detail from Ikon of the Raising of Lazarus, courtesy of Rosie Hall
For four-part unaccompanied SATB choir, with scope for optional bass octavists.
Upon the Ass that Bore our Saviour
Hath only anger an omnipotence
Within the lips of love and joy doth dwell
Why else had Balaam's ass a tongue to chide
His master's pride?
And thou (heaven-burthen'd beast) hast ne'er a word
To praise thy Lord?
That he should find a tongue and vocal thunder
Was a great wonder.
But o methinks 'tis far greater one
That thou find'st none.
Richard Crashaw 1612-49
This anthem is the traditional hymn for two occasions in the Orthodox calendar: the Raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday. The translation is the composer's own, with some words left in the original Slavonic. The tune is possibly the most famous Russian chant, newly harmonized and embellished. The fugal section uses an idea suggested by the poem 'Upon the Ass that bore our Saviour.'