These are the days I wish I was a pianist, or lived with one.
Because while I have listened to a recording of this hymn at Small Church Music, I feel like I want to play with this rather square tune by Frederick Charles Maker. I don’t want to change it, partly because the tune was written for this text by John Greenleaf Whittier and partly because there’s something lush in the melody. But the way I have heard it, it’s square and old timey, and I bet if I were a pianist or living with one, we’d be the kind of people who could reimagine the accompaniment.
And if we did that, I’d probably use this hymn – although I would take Whittier’s first line, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” one step further than our Hymnal Commission knew to do in 1993, and I’d make it something like “Dear God of All Humanity.” These lyrics are pretty great otherwise:
Dear Mother-Father of us all forgive our foolish ways.
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find, in deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard, beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Word,
let us, like them, our faith restored, rise up and follow thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity, interpreted by love.
With that deep hush subduing all our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of thy call,
as noiseless let thy blessing fall as fell thy manna down.
Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.
Now barring the first line business, the lyrics are almost entirely Whittier’s, with just a couple of adjustments by our Hymnal Commission that I think make it stronger – mainly the second verse. Here’s Whittier’s, with the changed words in bold:
In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.
I think our version is better, and I’m glad for it. It’s clearer that we are being called not by one man but in service to that which is greater and more powerful than all humanity and yet is the best of humanity.
All in all, a good hymn. I just long for a better arrangement…
The photo is of Syrian refugees along the Syrian Sea. In case we forget what we are called to.