Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Earth Arrayed in Green

We have talked before about hymns with a spring theme that sometimes tie into Eastertide.  This one actually doesn't, but still contains some nice images.  It was published anonymously in this country in 1799, in The Hartford Selection of Hymns, from the Most Approved Authors : To Which are Added a Number Never Before Published (I always love those long titles), a Congregationalist hymnal edited by Nathan Strong, though that may not have been the text's first appearance. In fact, the first stanza sometimes appears with completely different succeeding stanzas, and is attributed to John Newton, but that seems like an inexact credit from the days when hymnals were not indexed well, if at all.  Copyright law was also non-existent, and writers rewrote other people's texts all the time.

At length the wished for spring is come;
How altered is the scene!
The trees and shrubs are dressed in bloom,
The earth arrayed in green.

I see my Savior from on high,
Break through the clouds and shine!
No creature now more blest than I,
No song more loud than mine.

Your Word will all my hope revive,
It overcomes my foes;
It makes my thirsting spirit thrive,
And blossom like a rose.

And now, a monument I stand,
Of what your grace can do,
Uphold me by your gracious hand,
Each changing season through.

Text anonymous, 1799; alt.
Thomas Arne. 1762;
arr. Ralph Harrison, 1784

ARLINGTON, a tune which is still known in modern hymnals, would likely have been familiar to those who sang from the Hartford Selection of 1799.   Thomas Arne was an English composer of opera and instrumental music and this tune was arranged by Ralph Harrison from a minuet in Arne's opera Artaxerxes, which was a very successful work in its day.  Though Arne did not write any sacred choral music, perhaps because he was a Roman Catholic in a time when that was not considered acceptable in England, he has two very familiar tunes to his credit, even today: Rule, Britannia is a patriotic song from his opera Alfred, and his particular arrangement of God Save the King (or Queen) was adopted as Great Britain's national anthem (which also appears in UK hymnals).

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