Hear my prayer/O for the wings of a dove (Felix Mendelssohn)

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  • (Posted 2018-05-26)  CPDL #49856:            Network.png PDF, MP3, MXL, SIB and MIDI files available.
Editor: Philip Le Bas (submitted 2018-05-26).   Score information: A4, 16 pages, 167 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: "O for the wings of a dove", from the cantata "Hear my Prayer" by Felix Mendelssohn, with the accompaniment here arranged by Philip Le Bas for string quartet (with double bass instead of cello), flute and clarinet.
  • (Posted 2017-09-29)  CPDL #46526:     
Editor: Nikolaus Hold (submitted 2017-09-29).   Score information: A4, 23 pages, 364 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC
Edition notes: German version: Hör mein Bitten; based on Breitkopf & Härtel edition, 1875.
  • (Posted 2013-04-25)  CPDL #28873:         
Editor: James Gibb (submitted 2013-04-25).   Score information: A4, 17 pages, 203 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Based on the Novello edition. Revised files uploaded 14/06/17.
  • (Posted 2001-04-25)  CPDL #02539:         
Editor: Denis Mason (submitted 2001-04-25).   Score information: A4, 16 pages, 684 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes:
Error.gif Possible error(s) identified. Error summary: Minor differences with respect to other editions See the discussion page for full description.

O for the wings of a dove

  • (Posted 2015-01-07)  CPDL #34179:         
Editor: James Gibb (submitted 2015-01-07).   Score information: A4, 9 pages, 109 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Transposed down a major 2nd to F.

General Information

Title: Hear my prayer/O for the wings of a dove MWV B 49
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Lyricist: William Bartholomew
Source of text: Metrical paraphrase of Psalm 55:1-7.

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: SATB
Soloists: Soprano
Genre: SacredAnthem

Language: English
Instruments: Organ

First published: 1845
Description:  From The Musical Times, Feb. 1, 1891 by F. G. Edwards:

"Hear my Prayer" – "a trifle", as he modestly calls it – is one of Mendelssohn's most popular and widely-known choral works. It was written at the request of Mr. William Bartholomew for a series of Concerts given at Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate Street, in the "forties", by Miss Mounsey, who afterwards became Mrs. Bartholomew. The work was first performed at Crosby Hall on January 8, 1845, with Miss Mounsey at the organ, and was published in the same year by Messrs. Ewer and Co…
The title-page of the autograph score, which is in Mendelssohn’s usual neat handwriting, states: "A sacred Solo, for a Soprano and Chorus, with Organ accompaniment, composed for W. Bartholomew, Esq., by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy." In the letter to Mr. Bartholomew which accompanied the MS. (also at Kensington), dated "Berlin, 31 Jan., 1844," and written in English, Mendelssohn says: "I have only to observe that the bass of the organ accompaniment is always meant to be play'd either with the pedals, or with the lower octave in the left hand which I never wrote in it." Thus the work was originally written with organ accompaniment only; but Mendelssohn subsequently scored it at the request of Mr. Joseph Robinson, of Dublin.
10 Nov 1843

Bartholomew writes to the composer requesting "one or two sacred solos with an organ accompaniment for some concerts we are to give at Crosby Hall, a renovated Gothic Structure which was once the palace of Richard the Third". The texts submitted were Judges 16: 23–31 (the ‘Death Prayer of Samson’) and a version of the opening of Psalm 55. The latter text was accepted by Mendelssohn, and this became Hear my prayer.

13 Dec 1843

Mendelssohn asks his english editor Buxton to thank Bartholomew and announces completion for beginning of 1844.

Jan 1844

Work completed. Original score of 25 Jan 1844 seems to be entitled "Hör mein Rufen" instead of "Hör mein Bitten". It is assumed that the German translation was made by Mendelssohn himself (see Foreword of CARUS edition by R. Larry Todd).

Jan 1845

At the first performance of ‘Hear my prayer’, Ann Mounsey played the organ accompaniment on the new organ by Henry Cephas Lincoln, and the soprano solo was sung by Elizabeth Rainforth, a well-known stage singer; according to a review of the performance published in Musical World, neither the soloist nor the chorus were ‘thoroughly at home’ and the new organ also met with little enthusiasm. (The modern-day popularity of the work stems from the recording made in 1927 by boy soprano Ernest Lough which became EMI’s first million-selling classical recording.)


English version publised in London by Ewer; German version published in Berlin by Bote & Bock.


Early in 1847, ‘Hear my prayer’ was rescored by Mendelssohn with orchestral accompaniment. Mendelssohn did not live to see in print the latter version.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

Hear my prayer, O God, incline Thine ear!
Thyself from my petition do not hide!
Take heed to me! Hear how in prayer I mourn to Thee!
Without Thee all is dark, I have no guide.

The enemy shouteth, The godless come fast!
Iniquity, hatred upon me they cast!
The wicked oppress me, Ah, where shall I fly?
Perplexed and bewildered, O God, hear my cry!

My heart is sorely pained within my breast,
My soul with deathly terror is oppressed,
Trembling and fearfulness upon me fall,
With horror overhelmed, Lord, hear me call!

O for the wings of a dove!
Far away would I rove!
In the wilderness build me a nest,
And remain there for ever at rest.

German.png German translation

Hör' mein Bitten, Herr, neige dich zu mir,
auf deines Kindes Stimme habe Acht!
Ich bin allein: wer wird mir Tröster und Helfer sein ?
Ich irre ohne Pfad in dunkler Nacht!

Die Feinde sie droh'n, und heben ihr Haupt:
"Wo ist nun der Retter, an den ihr geglaubt?"
Sie lästern dich täglich, sie stellen uns nach
Und halten die Frommen in Knechtschaft und Schmach!

Mich fasst des Todes Furcht bei ihrem Dräu'n!
Sie sind unzählige, ich bin allein,
mit meiner Kraft kann ich nicht widersteh'n,
Herr, kämpfe du für mich, Gott, hör' mein Fleh'n!

O! könnt' ich fliegen wie Tauben dahin,
weit hinweg vor dem Feinde zu flieh'n!
In die Wüste eilt' ich dann fort,
fände Ruhe am schattingen Ort.

French.png French translation

Entends ma prière, Seigneur, penche-toi vers moi,
Prête attention à la voix de ton enfant !
Je suis seul : qui sera mon consolateur et mon secours ?
J'erre sans chemin dans la nuit sombre !

Les ennemis me menacent, et ils hochent la tête :
"Où donc est son sauveur, en qui il se confiait ?"
Ils te blasphèment tous les jours, ils nous poursuivent
et retiennent les fidèles en esclavage et dans la honte !

La peur de la mort est tombée sur moi !
Ils sont innombrables, je suis seul,
je ne puis résister par mes propres forces.
Seigneur, combats pour moi, Dieu, entends ma supplication !

Ah, si j'avais des ailes comme une colombe,
je m'envolerais loin de mes ennemis !
Dans le désert je m’enfuirais en hâte,
je trouverais le repos dans un lieu ombragé.

Italian.png Italian translation

Ascolta la mia preghiera, Signore, chinati verso di me,
abbi attenzione alla voce del tuo figlio!
Io sono solo: chi potrà essermi consolatore ed aiuto?
Io vago senza sentiero in una oscura notte!

I nemici mi sovrastano, ed alzano la loro testa:
“Dov’è adesso il Salvatore, nel quale avete creduto?”
Ti bestemmiano ogni giorno, ci tendono lacci
e costringono le persone di buona volontà in servitù ed ignominia!

Mi afferra il timore della morte di fronte a questa minaccia!
Loro sono una moltitudine, io sono solo,
con la mia forza io non posso resistere,
Signore, combatti tu per me, Dio, ascolta il mio pianto!

Oh! Che io possa volare là come colomba
per fuggire lontano via dal nemico!
Mi affretterei poi nel deserto,
troverei riposo in un luogo ombroso.