Friday, May 9, 2008

Truth Upspringing, Justice Bringing

Motherhood, sublime, eternal,
Lives in God’s great heart of Love;
Ever holds us, safe enfolds us,
Underneath, around, above;
Patient, tender, kind, forgiving,
Though in distant paths we roam;
Gently chides us, ever guides us,
And all-loving, leads us home.

Ev’ry wrong will sure be righted;
Ev’ry evil swept away;
Truth upspringing, justice bringing,
Ushers in the brighter day;
Mother calls her earthly children,
Loves them, lifts them when they fall;
Striving, calling, fainting, falling,
Motherlove enfolds them all.

God is Love, and love forever
In the motherheart is blest;
Lives the longest, lifts the strongest,
Far outreaching all the rest;
Not by might, and not by wisdom
Comes our lifting from the sod:
Love’s pure glory tells the story
In the Motherheart of God.

J.S. Cutler, date unknown; alt.
Willis A. Moore, date unknown

I especially like the internal rhymes (those not at the end of the lines).

I had considered posting this hymn yesterday in relation to Julian of Norwich. There are some (including commenter Leland Bryant Ross) who feel that this text is derived from the theology of Julian, and certainly that's possible. But from the first time I encountered this text about twenty years ago, it's always seemed to me to come from the nineteenth century feminist view of motherhood, an ideal founded on the belief that though women were clearly not the equals of men in the physical sphere, they were morally superior, and none so superior as mothers.

I've since learned that J.S. Cutler appears to be Julian Stearns Cutler (1854-1930), a Universalist minister. This hymn appeared in a number of Universalist hymnals, at least as early as The Life Hymnal (1904) through Hymns of the Spirit (1937), and then, curiously, in the Baptist/Disciples hymnal Christian Worship (1941). Cutler also wrote and published secular poems, for which he was more known than for this hymn. The years of his life suggest that he would certainly have been familiar with the feminism of the nineteenth century. However, it's also quite possible that he had sought out the writings of his thirteenth-century namesake.

One of the Universalist hymnals reveals that both Cutler and Willis Moore were "Rev."s, though Moore remains somewhat elusive (Googling Willis Moore will provide many many pages about the formerly married Bruce Willis and Demi Moore). At any rate, I now know that both text and tune are in the public domain, about which I had often wondered.

Regardless of where the original idea for this hymn came from, it's very appropriate for the upcoming holiday this Sunday (though mothers largely will be upstaged this year by the Feast of Pentecost).


Leland Bryant Ross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leland Bryant Ross said...

Good to know that "The Motherhood of God" is indeed in the public domain, so my hosting it in my hymnal these past few years is not a violation of my contract with Yahoo!™... You refer to me as "commenter Leland Bryant Ross", yet my comment on the "Julian of Norwich" post appears to have disappeared. I am inclined to agree with you that the hymn is more late Victorian than Julian in its view of motherhood, but I think some of the phrases (particularly "every wrong will sure be righted" seems to me an echo of "all shall be well") in the hymn strongly suggest an acquaintance with Julian's writings, and of course now that I know what the "J" stands for I am even more inclined to see her thought as contributing to Cutler's.

Thanks for all the data. I'll post it to Oremus now that I know it's not under copyright.