Sunday, March 8, 2009

Once More From Earth to Sky

We can see the Lenten theme of repentance in today's hymn, though it was not written for that purpose. Poet, journalist, and playwright Clifford Bax wrote this text in hopes of a better future during World War I, supposedly the "war to end all wars."

Turn back, turn back, forswear thy foolish ways.
Old now is earth, and none may count its days.
Yet humankind, whose head is crowned with flame,
Still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim,
“Turn back, turn back, forswear thy foolish ways.”

Earth might be fair, all people glad and wise.
Age after age their tragic empires rise,
Built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:
Would we but wake from out our haunted sleep,
Earth might be fair, all people glad and wise.

Earth shall be fair, and all its people one:
Nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,
Peals forth in joy that old undaunted cry—
“Earth shall be fair, and all its folk be one!”

Clifford Bax, 1916; alt.
OLD 124th (
Genevan Psalter, 1551

If these words seem familiar to you but you can't place them as a hymn, you may be remembering them from the musical Godspell, which used material from many sources older than its 1970s origin.


Dorothy said...

Thanks for that Godspell hint, C.W.S. That is where I know this one from!

C.W.S. said...

Nice to have you back from your travels, Dorothy.

When Godspell came up before, back on Thanksgiving, I admitted that I didn't really know it. Can't say that I know any more about it today, but I did at least find that website about the song sources.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

And I still think you would enjoy it if you just went and enjoyed it. ;-)

Leland aka Haruo