O Bless the Lord, My Soul, 1911. John Knowles Paine, 1839-1906. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M2073.P
O Bless the Lord, my Soul was published in 1911 by Boston Music Co. The present edition was copyrighted 1911 by G. Schirmer, and revised and edited by Charles Leslie.
Although the composition date of the anthem remains unknown, it is widely assumed that it dates from the period 1856-67, when Paine wrote his unaccompanied partsongs for male chorus. Probably intended for the Harvard chapel choir, O Bless the Lord, My Soul is a setting of Isaac Watts's metered versification of Psalm 103.
Paine deviates from Watts's original poetry, written in 1719, several times. Watts's phrase, "And makes thee young again," appears in Paine's setting as, "And makes thee strong again." The original phrase "He that redeemed my soul from hell" appears as "And he from everlasting death." For his musical setting, Paine chose a version of Watts's text published in the 1853 Unitarian Hymns for the Church of Christ, edited by Frederick Henry Hedge and Frederic Dan Huntington. The editors were both Unitarian ministers and professors at Harvard Divinity School. Perhaps coincidentally, these altered phrases receive special musical attention from Paine. The tutti chorus and organ unison at "And makes thee strong again" (mm. 32-35) and the sudden pp to sfz dynamic at "And he from everlasting death" (mm. 50-53) are among the most dramatic moments in the piece.