Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Poetry Tuesday: Hymns as Shared Poetry

Let All Things Now Living
Words: Katherine K. Davis, born 1892
Music: “The Ash Grove”, a traditional Welsh melody

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God's banners are o'er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a Song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
"To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!"

This was one of the hymns that we sang at our wedding. The tune is simple, and you would probably recognize it even if you aren’t Christian. I especially like the last line of the first stanza-verse. ‘As forward we travel from light into light’—what a great way to think about our time on the earth and with the people who join us on our travels in this life. We have come from good and light, from the love of our parents. And we strive to spend our living time moving forward, in the light and to the light, in good and upstanding ways.

The lyrics written here on the page seem a little dated and patriarchal (in the traditional Christian way that God is He), but there is something transformative about singing with a group of people in a church. The slow, carrying music. The men who just mouth the words because they’re too embarrassed to sing, and the women who belt it out in the pew behind you. The little children just learning to read whose parents follow under the words with a guiding finger, and the older folks who know every word without looking at the book. Singing this poem in unison is an act of restoration and clarity, even in a room full of people who annoy you day-to-day. As long as they sing along (or pretend to), we’re all making something beautiful together.

On the anniversary of a day when so much hate was spewed on our country, it helps me to remember moments when I have felt such love.

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