In guilty night: Saul and the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:8-20) – Henry Purcell


Apparition of the spirit of Samuel to Saul, by...
Apparition of the spirit of Samuel to Saul, by Salvator Rosa, 1668. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 Samuel 28:8-20

8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.

9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?

10 And Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.

11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.

14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

English: Saul and the Witch of Endor (1Sam. 28...
English: Saul and the Witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28:7-25)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.

16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing theLord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?

17 And the Lord hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:

18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day.

19 Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.

Purcell’s music text paraphrase:


In guilty night, and hid in false disguise,
Forsaken Saul to Endor comes and cries :
Woman, arise, call powerful arts together,
And raise the ghost, whom I shall name, up hither.
Why should’st thou wish me die? Forbear my son,
Dost thou not know what cruel Saul has done?
How he has killed, has killed and murdered all
That were wise and could on spirits call?
Woman, be bold, do but the thing I wish,
No harm from Saul shall come to thee for this.
Whom shall I raise or call? I’ll make him hear.

Saul and the Witch of Endor
Saul and the Witch of Endor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Old Samuel, let only him appear!
What, what dost thou fear?
Nought else but thee,
For thou art Saul, alas! and hast beguiled me.
Peace, and go on, what seest thou? let me know.
I see the gods ascending from below.
Who’s he that comes?

Saul and the Witch of Endor
Saul and the Witch of Endor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An old man mantled o’er.
Oh! that is he, let me that ghost adore.
Why hast thou robbed me of my rest to see
That which I hate? this wicked world and thee?
Oh! I’m sore distressed, vexed sore;
God has left me and answers me no more;
Distressed with war, with inward terrors too,
For pity’s sake tell me, what shall I do?
Art thou forlorn of God and com’st to me?
What can I tell thee then but misery?
This kingdom’s gone into thy neighbour’s race,
Thine host shall fall by sword before thy face.
Tomorrow then, till then farewell and breathe:
Thou and thy son tomorrow shall be with me beneath.
Farewell, oh! farewell.

In guilty night: Saul and the witch of Endor, Z134 (published in 1693), composed by Henry Purcell (1659-1695).

Henry Purcell In Guilty Night (Saul and the Witch of Endor) La Tempesta

Performed by La Tempesta, conducted by Jakub Burzyński


In Guilty Night (from Saul). By Henry Purcell (1659-1695). Published by Edition Walhall


Choral Public Domain Library

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