Monday, March 2, 2009

The Crystal of the Snow

It's March and I was really looking forward to spring. Unfortunately, we've had more snow, and not the kind that will melt away in a day or so. I really need a hymn today to give me a different perspective on winter.

All beautiful the march of days,
As seasons come and go;
The hand that shaped the rose hath wrought
The crystal of the snow;
Hath sent the hoary frost of heav'n,
The flowing waters sealed,
And laid a silent loveliness
On hill and wood and field.

O'er white expanses sparkling pure
The radiant morns unfold;
The solemn splendors of the night
Burn brighter through the cold;
Life mounts in every throbbing vein,
Love deepens round the hearth,
And clearer sounds the angel hymn,
"Good will to all on earth."

O thou from whose unfathomed law
The year in beauty flows,
Thyself the vision passing by
In crystal and in rose,
Day unto day doth utter speech,
And night to night proclaim,
In ever-changing words of light,
The wonder of thy name.

Frances Whitmarsh Wile, 1911; alt.
English folk melody,
arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

"The flowing waters sealed" sounds so much better than "ice." And the "silent loveliness / On hill and wood and field" doesn't have to be shoveled.

Frances Whitmarsh Wile wrote this hymn at the request of her friends William Channing Gannett and Frederick Lucian Hosmer, who were preparing an updated edition of their Unity Hymns and Chorals (first published in 1889) and wanted a hymn about winter. There was another verse in its first publication which was left out of later hymnals, perhaps because it takes the hymn a bit out of its winter theme.

O glory of the winter-land!
The peace of nature's rest!
And sweet the dream of coming spring
That stirs within its breast.
On move the resurrection hours,
The Easter heralds throng --
Till sudden bursts the miracle
Of blossom and of song!

But as with Lent, we want to hear about the other side of winter, and Easter provides a promise for both.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

How could you not love winter with words like that to think about! I've never seen or heard this hymn before but its lovely! Thanks, C.W.S.