English lyrics from Psalm 139 – “On Perfect Wings”

On Perfect Wings is the English lyrics version of the songs that I wrote about Psalm 139 for my album Divan. The version with Latin lyrics is Invenies Me Mane Caelo, which is a like a Gregorian chant, at least in terms of the scale used, and the instruments. The English lyric version, produced during the same process of translation and transliteration of Psalm 139, is more like a modern gospel song, or modern church music. In this song, the melody, instruments, beat and rhythm are modern, and the lyrics are in English, except for a few words. Certain words, if I had changed them, would have changed the meaning, authenticity and the significance of the lyrics.

This shows when the texts were written on which the songs on Divan are based. Psalm 139 dates from around 1010 BC/BCE.

What differentiates the song, apart from the lyrics that are as close as I could get them to the original prose, is the beat and melody of the song. I wrote it to be singable, and it is, I think. The language and interpretation issues with the lyrics are explained in this post. When you deal with very old religious texts, you always have to be careful not to offend anyone. And, you have to respect the original work. As a result, this set of three songs took almost eight months to produce.

This image shows part of the analysis process to turn the original Latin texts into modern English lyrics.

Luke Garfield, who also wrote and produced the bass tracks for this song, transformed my composition into a soaring, heart-rending tone poem that causes a frisson in the listener with every harmonious chord that they hear, especially in the final verses, 4 and 5. Verse 4, where the line “…on the perfect wings of morning” comes in for the first time, is as stirring as listening to the voices of a choir rising up into the vaults of a cathedral. I had initially written it with a trumpet section, like for a rocking Gospel choir. His final mix is something that has the gravitas and poignancy of a proper psalmic hymn. The pure and soaring vocals are those of Ben Botfield, performing as Ben Alexander.

Luke Garfield

Lyrics of “On Perfect Wings”

O Lord, thou hast searched and known me. 
Thou knowest all that I say, 
thou knowest my thoughts from far off
Knows my every way.
Knows my every way – 

There is not a word in my tongue, 
that thou does not comprehend
Thus thou safeguards me for ever
From birth to the end
From birth to the end – 

Shall I go forth from thy spirit?
O Lord, canst thou tell me where?
From the darkness, light arises:
Thou art surely there
Thou art surely there – 

Marvelous are thy works; 
that my soul knows right well. 
Thou sees all that exists 
In both heaven and hell. 

Thine eyes did see my soul, 
imperfect though it be; 
and in thy book was writ’, 
every aspect of me.

Precious are all thy thoughts 
unto me, O my Lord! 
They are more than the grains
of the sand where I walk.

Search me, Lord – I am weak: 
On my sins, rest Thy gaze. 
And then I shall walk in
the everlasting way.

On the perfect wings of morning, 
and below the deepest sea; 
Thy right hand shall surely lead, and 
Hold and comfort me. 
Hold and comfort me – 

On the perfect wings of morning, 
and below the wondrous sea; 
Thy right hand shall surely lead, and 
Hold and comfort me. 
Hold and comfort me – 

Lyric Video

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