STLT#312, Here on the Paths of Every Day

Mitch Miller (remember him?) included this parody of “Stars and Stripes Forever” on one of his Sing Along with Mitch albums:

Be kind to your web footed friends,
For a duck may be somebody’s mother
Be kind to your friends in the swamp
Where the weather is very, very damp
You may think that this is the end:
Well it is.

And of course, intentionally, it leaves you wanting the rest of the song.

Like this hymn.

We have here two verses put together from the two verses that make up Edwin Markham’s poem “Earth Is Enough.” And what I don’t understand is why the verses have been switched, because the way our hymnal commission reset it, we are left without an ending (which, by the way, we find in the last line of the hymn’s first verse…and which was the last line of the poem).

Here are our lyrics:

Here on the paths of every day —
here on the common human way —
is all the stuff the gods would take
to build a heaven, to mold and make
New Edens. Ours the task sublime
to build eternity in time.

We need no other stones to build
the temple of the unfulfilled —
no other ivory for the doors —
no other marble for the floors —
no other cedar for the beam
and dome of our immortal dream.

I had expected there to be a few more verses of the poem, which would finish us off but which might have been too heavy handed in a theology that doesn’t jive with ours, but no. This one is just an odd switch that has us leading with the ending and ending with the turn.

Adding to my puzzlement was searching for the hymn tune; even if I know it, I often look for more information. There are actually four different tunes called Fillmore – only one is the correct one, but searching for “Southern Harmony” – as noted in our hymnal – along with “Fillmore” doesn’t help, because the tune actually doesn’t come from Southern Harmony. Here’s more information, from Hymnary:

Composer: Jeremiah Ingalls (Born: March 1, 1764, Andover, Massachusetts. Died: April 6, 1828/1838, Hancock, Vermont. Buried: Rochester, Vermont.)

Ingalls moved to Newbury, Vermont, in 1787, and in 1791 began leading the singing at the First Church there. The choir became quite well known, and people came from miles around to hear them. In 1803 Ingalls became a deacon, though he was removed and excommunicated in 1810. He had run a tavern for a number of years, but sold it and moved to Rochester, Vermont, after his falling out with the church. His works include: Christian Harmony, or Songsters Companion.

So while this is a shape note tune, it’s from one of the northern harmony collections. And, if you read between the lines, it is entirely possible that Ingalls became a Unitarian or a Universalist given his falling out with the church (now UCC) in New England in 1810… I’m possibly projecting here, but that often happened.

Anyway. I’m not sure I like this one. If anything, it could be an interesting hymn for right before a sermon or other reading that finishes the thought that Markham actually had finished in his very earth-centered, very Universalist poem.

Now you may think that this is the end.

Well, it is.

One Comment

  1. I’d use this one in a service that emphasized that heaven is right here on earth and we have all we need to make that heaven. Rebecca Parker’s book “Saving Paradise” would be a good resource.

    (Still planning services after six years of retirement. It’s fun, knowing I don’t actually have to do it.)

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