STLT#17, Every Night and Every Morn

Every night and every morn
some to misery are born;
every morn and every night
some are born to sweet delight.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
clothing for the soul divine:
under every grief and pine
runs a joy with silken twine.

It is right it should be so:
we were made for joy and woe;
and when this we rightly know,
safely through the world we go.

William Blake. Swoon.

Seriously – an amazing poet, writing alongside Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, Burns, Keats. Some of the most elegant poets of the English language, all exploring all manner of life, divinity, nature, and the essence of humanity… while Channing, Emerson, and Thoreau were exploring the same through theology and philosophy. A heady time of new thought.

But I digress. I was swooning over Blake’s poetry – wondering how it is I have spent all this time skimming past this hymn, not seeing its depth and beauty. It is something I deeply believe – that we cannot have joy without woe, nor woe without knowing there is joy somewhere, feeding and clothing our souls.

And how did I skim over this, knowing now that it is set to one of my favorite hymn tunes, the lush and delicious Ralph Vaughan Williams piece “The Call”? The two together are deep, and meaningful, and rich.

Part of this practice is about my own spiritual care – it isn’t just a daily homework assignment, although sometimes it strikes me as such. No, singing aloud to these hymns, in my kitchen while the coffee is brewing, is meant to be a spiritual practice to feed me and open my eyes to something.

And this one has brought me Right. Back. To. Center.

All of the insanity of the presidential election, all the tumult in the congregation, all the pain in the world, for a moment anyway, has been taken off my shoulders so that I may sit with my soul, full of joy and woe, and luxuriate in this beautiful hymn for this beautiful moment.

Mmmmm.

4 Comments

  1. Interesting synchronicity. Helderberg Madrigal Singers presented a lunchtime concert on Tues at St Paul’s in Troy, which we titled “Joy and Woe Are Woven Fine: Emotion in Song.” Of course,we featured this piece, departing briefly from our usual Renaissance rep. Love the hymn, and the poetry. Keep up the good work; reading it is a daily pleasure!

    • That’s so awesome. I can imagine this tune worked well with madrigal voices – I know it’s an early 20th century piece, but it has a quality that easily places it in the Elizabethan period (see the setting of George Herbert’s “Come My Way, My Truth, My Life”), or even amongst the Romantics.

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