The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift your heart to God. This is not a playlist of background music: each installment will focus on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.
In 1892 Christina Rossetti published her last major book, The Face of the Deep, a verse by verse reflection on the Revelation of St. John, with poems scattered throughout. It appeared after a decade during which the deep faith which had been hers throughout her life was challenged by her own ill health (she was suffering from Graves disease and would die of cancer two years later) and the deaths of her beloved mother and brother Dante Gabriel. Yet in the opening pages she affirms, “One high above me in the Kingdom of Heaven heads our pilgrim caravan.” The poem “None Other Lamb” is Rossetti’s response to the opening verses of Revelation 5:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”
I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne.
Here is Christina Rossetti’s poem:
None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other hope in Heav’n or earth or sea,
None other hiding place from guilt and shame,
None beside Thee!
My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to Thee.
Lord, Thou art Life, though I be dead;
Love’s fire Thou art, however cold I be:
Nor Heav’n have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but Thee.
This radiant setting of Rossetti’s poem is by Joseph Roff, a prolific composer of church music who served as a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn until his death in 1993. It is sung here by Silo Sessions, an amateur vocal quartet, who recorded their album of the same name in an abandoned silo in Walden, New York – the source of the sound’s unusual resonance.