CONSIDERATIONS ON THE SEVEN
PENITENTIAL PSALMS OF THE
GREAT KING AND PROPHET DAVID
The seven penitential psalms are 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. They were used liturgically from early Christian times, and later in the Middle Ages they were ordered to be recited on Fridays during Lent.1 Matraini’s Considerations on the Seven Penitential Psalms of the Great King and Prophet David (1586) is the second of three books of prose which she elaborated from 1580 to 1590. She was approximately seventy- one years old at this point. It has a dedication and prayer, and then the prayer to the Lord and the prologue which appears here. It then takes the psalms line by line, in Latin, and explains them thoroughly. Some of these explanations I have translated here. All of the psalms are followed by a sonnet of praise, in which she generally asks for deliverance for her soul. It is her longest book: two hundred pages.
The book can be found at various libraries, including the British Library, from which my copy was obtained, and in microfilm at the Widener Library of Harvard University.
To you I have recourse, O high, immortal Creator and infinite abyss of mercy, and with my knees bent to the ground, with my heart most fervently affectionate, I beg you to illuminate my intellect, which (as you see) is blinded by the darkness of ignorance.2 Loosen, I pray you, O Lord, and untie my tongue; and move my pen so that I may write your worthy and most holy praises and
1. See F. L. Cross, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., ed. E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1489.
2. Chiara Matraini, Considerationi sopra i Sette Salmi Penitentiali del Gran Re e Profeta Davit (Lucca: Busdraghi, 1586), B.