Immortal love, forever full, forever flowing free,
forever shared, forever whole, a never-ending sea!
Our outward lips confess the name all other names above;
but love alone knows whence it came and comprehendeth love.
Blow, winds of love, awake and blow the mists of hate away;
sing out, O Truth divine, and tell how wide and far we stray.
The letter fails, the systems fall, and every symbol wanes;
the Spirit overseeing all, Eternal Love, remains.
I finished singing this hymn and thought ‘the tune betrays the lyric.’
This is a powerful lyric – “blow the mists of hate away”… “tell how far and wide we stray”… “the letter fails, the systems fall”… powerful words demanding we answer the call of Love and seek justice. We believe first in Love and the power of Love to make us agents of change, truth, justice, and compassion. This is a strong, time to show up, walk the talk, get woke and stay woke lyric. And one that reminds us that Love remains the constant – the one thing we can lean on, count on, avail ourselves of, learn from, embody.
And…it’s set to a light Irish air.
The truth is, I often overlook it when choosing hymns because I hadn’t dug deep into it before, had not realized the force that is Whittier’s words. “Immortal love, forever full”…okay, let’s remember you on Valentine’s Day…next.
But it is amazing. It deserves a better, stronger tune. Our own hymnal is limited – this tune, called St. Columba, is the only one in our hymnals with this meter (18.104.22.168) – yet there are at least 150 other tunes with this meter (according to the site Small Church Music). So what are we doing here? Why did the folks who set this tune in the first place think this was the right match?
It’s time to find a new tune – one that is commiserate with the bold call of Whittier’s words. One that propels us into action. One that reminds us what Love looks like when it is Lived.