Binding of Isaac

This is a contrafact (that is, a new set of lyrics written to an existing tune) of Thomas Campion’s “My Love Hath Vowed”. The first public performance was at my Pennsic concert in 2016, as a duet with my son, Spencer Oranwood.

Notes on the song


The Binding of Isaac © 2014 words by Eric Schrager
(Tune of “My Love Hath Vowed” by Thomas Campion, song #5 from Philip Rosseter’s A Book of Ayres, 1601)

Rise up, young Isaac, we are leaving
For a sacrifice to make.
G-d would our worship be receiving
And thus unto me He spake.

– I am in amaze, my father!
Was there aught else said, pray tell?
– Peace, now! Bid adieu thy mother.

Greatest of joys, my Maker blessed me
With son in antiquity.
Wherefore then doth He now divest me
Of promis’d posterity?

– Father, though we build this altar,
Nary lamb see I to kill.
– Trust in Heaven, do not falter.

Binding him now, vexation ails me:
This be mine own flesh I burn.
Hold fast to troth, lest my strength fails me:
‘Tis the Lord’s gift I return.

– Hold’st thou, Abraham, his life now?
– Ever, Lord, do I Thy will.
– Stay thy hand: put up thy knife now.

Well, Abraham, hast thou delivered
Unto Me thy favored son.
He shall be spared, for I have never
Faithful service truer known.

– In the hedge a ram I spy, Lord.
– Off’ring such, man, likes me well.
– In thy name then shall it die, Lord.


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Notes

This song was written in response to an assignment from my first teacher, Maistre Lucien de Pontivy, in 2014. The assignment had three parts:

  1. Pick a song by an Elizabethan composer and learn it. I selected “My Love Hath Vowed”. I’m partial to Campion, who was the only composer of the era known to make a regular practice of writing his words and music together. (This piece would later become the central focus of my first research article published in the East Kingdom Gazette. Intriguingly, though the article is about Campion’s lyrics, which have nothing to do with my contrafact, I also used the word “bind” in the title of this article.)
  2. Write new contrafact lyrics to the song, keeping to period lexicon as much as possible. I looked through my story idea list, and found a recent inspiration that seemed like a good fit. The lexicon presented a good opportunity to draw on my Shakespeare studies.
  3. Set the lyrics to your own tune, using period-sounding tropes. The resulting tune later became the basis for my first complete original period-style composition, “I asked of thee a boon”.
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