The cursing psalms are not in the modern divine office – how does this omission affect the psychology of those in the Church? I was recently given a copy of the St Dunstan’s Psalter. It contains a 16th century arrangement of the psalms set to modal tones set to an English text. The tones are taken directly from the traditional English pre-reformation liturgy.
This has been a great resource for me. As a result I now have a source of over one hundred psalm tones that are traditionally English. Some are unique to the traditional English Church and have such as ‘Gisburn’ and ‘Gloucester.’ The allocation of psalm tones – which mode and which particular tone is appropriate for a particular psalm – is in accordance with the traditional English form as well. There is an appendix that lists all 150 psalms along with its own tone. They are called Sarum tones after the ancient English Sarum liturgy. Sarum is the old name for the town of Salisbury. The introduction says that the allocation of the tones is in accordance with the ancient and illustrious churches of Salisbury and York.
As a consequence I have now adapted each of these tones to the Clayton Psalm Tone method of pointing. This means that you can point any English text of the psalms that you have and then sing these tones to it. If you learn to sing just one tone, you will be able to point (ie mark emphasised syllables) any of the 150 psalms and apply the tone to it. You can see a video explaining this here.
I made one other discovery while doing this. I generally sing the Office according to the 1973 structure, which in England is in a three volume set, in the US it is a four-volume. What I hadn’t realised until I systematically compared with the St Dunstan’s Psalter is the degree to which the Roman revised version omits text. There seem to be something like 20 psalms with text missing and three whole psalms missing altogether. I had heard before this that there had been, regrettably some omissions. The introduction says that they are texts that the lay faithful might find difficult. What I didn’t realise was the extent to which this had been done. There are three whole psalms missing and about 20 or so have verses here and there just missed out.
The portions that have been removed are those in which enemies of psalmist are cursed.
For example, in Day Prayer for Thursday week 3, we see ‘Psalm 78 (79): 1-5, 8-11, 13′. The missing verses are as follows: Pour out thine indignation upon the heathen tht have not known thee; and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place. (vs 6-7)…And for the blasphemy wherewith our neighbours have blasphemed thee, reward thou them O Lord seven-fold into their bosom. (v12)