Infelix Ego, a work by the defiant and somehow successful recusant William Byrd was playing yesterday on our glorious Radio 3… here is a link to some of Byrd’s works, including this piece.
The work is based on the words of Fra Savonarola, the Dominican preacher who aimed to reform the fleshpots and corruption of Medici Florence and ended his life burned for heresy. Before his execution he was cruelly tortured but his right arm was spared so that he could sign his confession. In an agony of mind and full of guilt, he wrote Infelix Ego.
omnium auxilio destitutus
qui caelum terramque offendi.
Quo ibo? Quo me vertam?
Ad quem fugiam?
Quis mei miserebitur?
Ad caelum oculos levare non audeo
Quia ei graviter peccavi.
In terra refugum non invenio quia ei scandalum fui.
Quid igitur faciam?
Misericors est Deus, pius est Salvator meus.
Solus igitur Deus refugium meum:
Ipse non despiciet opus suum
non repellet imaginem suam.
Ad te igitur piissime Deus,
Tristis ac moerens venio,
Quoniam tu solus spes mea,
Tu solus refugium meum.
Quid autem dicam tibi
Cum oculos levare non audeam?
Verba doloris effundam,
Misericordiam tuam implorabo et dicam:
“Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam!”
Here is the English translation:
Unlucky me! Bereft of all aid, who against heaven and earth have offended.
Where shall I go? Where shall I turn? To whom shall I flee? Who will have pity on me?
I do not dare to lift up mine eyes to the heavens, because I have gravely sinned against them.
I find no refuge on earth, because I have been a disgrace to it.
What, therefore, am I to do? Shall I despair?
Let it be far off: God is merciful; my Saviour is kind.
Therefore, God alone will be my refuge: he will not despise the work of his hands,
nor repel his own image.
Therefore, to thee, most loving God, do I come, sad and grieving:
for thou alone art my hope, thou alone my refuge.
But what am I to say to thee, since I dare not lift up mine eyes?
I shall pour out words of sorrow, implore thy mercy and say:
have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy great mercy.