Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Drink From Their Plenty

As discussed before, we're back again to Good Shepherd Sunday, celebrated in many churches on the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  If it was observed in your church, you undoubtedly heard Psalm 23, perhaps in more than one format or setting.  It's certainly the most paraphrased psalm I've presented here, and we have not run out of them yet!  This one may not be as complete a paraphrase as some others, but deserves a look anyway.

Beside the still waters, my Shepherd, my Lord,
There lead me, there feed me, there show me your Word;
There give me your counsel, there grant me your peace,
There make all my sorrows and wanderings cease.

Beside the still waters, oh bountiful store,
I drink from their plenty and thirst nevermore;
No more I am weary when there I may rest,
And feel with your mercy and love I am blessed.

Beside the still waters, your goodness is there,
Protects me from danger, preserves me from care;
For pain has no terror and death has no sting,
While you are so near me, my thanks will I sing.

Inge E. Diekinga, 1896
English folk melody, arr. 1905

This text originally appeared in Uplifting Songs (1896), but with a rather uninteresting tune.  BROTHERTON suits it better, though perhaps it should be played a bit more gently than the sound file here.

I have lost count of all the Psalm 23 paraphrases presented here (more than just the four below) but you may be able to see them by clicking on the "Psalm 23" tag below.

Four Years Ago: My Shepherd, you supply my need

Three Years Ago:  Since God is my Shepherd

Two Years Ago:  Thou art my Shepherd

One Year Ago:  I shall not want, in deserts wild

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).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Steps Unto Heav'n

Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me;
Still, all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God to thee;
Nearer to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Though like the wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be,
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer to thee,
Nearer to thee!

There let the way appear,
Steps unto heav'n;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me,
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Then, with my waking thoughts
Bright with thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs,
Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Or if on joyful wing,
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot,
Upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to thee;
Nearer to thee,
Nearer to thee!

Sarah Flower Adams, 1841
Arthur Sullivan, 1872

Context is here at the bottom of the entry.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

All the Earth Shall Be Made New

In hundreds of churches all over the world, some version of this hymn was sung this morning, but probably not this particular one. Many more sang at least this tune, but with a different (perhaps related) text.

Jesus Christ is ris'n today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Haste, ye seekers from your fright, Alleluia!
Take to Galilee your flight, Alleluia!
To the sad disciples say, Alleluia!
Jesus Christ is ris'n today. Alleluia!

Lo, the earth awakes again, Alleluia!
From the winter's bond and pain, Alleluia!
Bring we leaf and flower and spray, Alleluia!
To adorn this happy day. Alleluia!

Once again the Word comes true, Alleluia!
All the earth shall be made new, Alleluia!
Now the long, cold days are o'er, Alleluia!
Life and gladness are before, Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is ris'n today! Alleluia!
Christ our Light, our Life, our Way, Alleluia!
Who, by dying conquered death. Alleluia!
Ever sing our love and faith! Alleluia!

Text: Composite
Tune: EASTER HYMN ( with Alleluias)
Lyra Davidica, 1708; arr. William H. Monk, 19th cent.

As I said, there are, and have been many different versions of this text in English over the last three centuries (it originally derives from a Latin text, perhaps from the fourteenth century). The last stanza here comes from a nine-stanza version published in 1800. The third and fourth stanzas are actually taken from a text by the Unitarian Samuel Longfellow. I can't prove this, but it seems possible that it was written so that Unitarians could get to sing this popular tune also (though it may have only been matched to this tune later).

The second stanza no longer appears in many hymnals, but it actually comes from Lyra Davidica (1708 - full title: Lyra Davidica, or a Collection of Divine Songs and Hymns, partly new composed, partly translated from the High German and Latin Hymns; and set to easy and pleasant tunes), the book where three stanzas of the old Latin text were first translated into English. That version reads:

Jesus Christ is risen today, Halle-Halle-lujah.
Our triumphant Holyday
Who so lately on the Cross
Suffer'd to redeem our loss.

Haste, ye females from your fright
Take to Galilee your flight
To the sad Disciples say
Jesus Christ is risen today.

In our Paschal joy and feast
Let the Lord of life be blest
Let the Holy Trine be prais'd
And thankful hearts to Heaven be rais'd.

The third stanza of this version seems unlikely to be revived; particularly the reference to the "Holy Trine" which does not appear to be a usual shortening of "Trinity," but perhaps an alteration to make it fit the meter of the text.

There is a similar hymn by Charles Wesley which is sometimes sung to this tune: Christ the Lord is risen today, which you might have sung today instead (particularly if you're a Methodist). Many hymnals have even combined stanzas from Wesley and the original.

The tune known now as EASTER HYMN, as first printed in Lyra Davidica is not what we sing today. There it was described as "a little freer air than the grand movement of the Psalm tunes." A later arrangement, closer to what we know, appeared in The Compleat Psalmodist (1749), and this version was later harmonized by William H. Monk. In at least one nineteenth century hymnbook, the tune was matched with a very different text by Charles Wesley: Hark, how all the welkin rings, which we know today by a rather different first line. Christmas might feel a bit different today if that had caught on.

P.S. The art above, The Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb is a fresco by Fra Angelico, from the Convent of San Marco in Florence.

Three Years Ago: Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

African American spiritual, 19th cent.
WERE YOU THERE (irregular)
harm. C. Winfred Douglas, 1940

Three Years Ago: There is a green hill far away

Two Years Ago: Ah, holy Jesus

One Year Ago: When I survey the wondrous cross

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

Love consecrates the humblest act
And haloes mercy’s deeds;
It sheds a benediction sweet
And hallows human needs.

When in the shadow of the cross
Christ knelt and washed the feet
Of the disciples, thus he gave
A sign of love complete.

Love serves and willing stoops to serve;
What Christ in love so true
Has freely done for one and all,
Let us now gladly do!

Silas B. McManus, 1902; alt.
Christopher Tye, 1533;
arr. William Daman, 1591

Four Years Ago: 'Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow

Three Years Ago: "Remember me, " the Savior said

Two Years Ago: Thou, who at thy first Eucharist did pray

One Year Ago: Within an upper room they met

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Steadfast Toward Jerusalem

See what unbounded zeal and love
Inflamed the Savior's breast,
When steadfast toward Jerusalem
His urgent way he pressed.

With all his suff'rings full in view,
And woes to us unknown.
Forth to the work his spirit flew,
'Twas Love that urged him on.

Prepare us. Lord, to view your cross,
Who all our griefs has borne;
To look on you, whom nails have pierced,
To look on you, and mourn.

While thus we mourn, may we rejoice,
And as your cross we see,
May each exclaim in faith and hope,
"The Savior died for me!"

Thomas Cotterill, 1810; st. 2 William Cowper, 1784
Hugh Wilson, 1800

This text first appeared in a hymnal complied by Thomas Cotterill, A Se­lect­ion of Psalms and Hymns, for Public and Private Use, Adapt­ed to the Fes­tiv­als of the Church of England (1810). However, it is based on, or perhaps inspired by, an earlier text by William Cowper, using one stanza from The Savior, what a noble flame, which appeared in the influential Olney Hymns (1779), Book II, #55.