Welcome to Hymn By Hymn After Dark!
Sorry, there’s no sexy R&B played by Venus Flytrap, or suggestive storylines, or anything anywhere near close to that. I’m in a tshirt and leggings, hair a mess, a Stuff You Should Know podcast on my phone. But it’s dark! And it has been a long day, since the early rising sing as I dried my hair, through last minute preparations for a closing ceremony, packing, cleaning, saying tearful goodbyes, processing, packing, cleaning, and finally battling summertime traffic on the Garden State Parkway and the New York State Thruway to finally arrive home. But it’s been good.
As is this hymn. Now I’m not a big fan of the tune, Brother James’ Air, which is a little complicated to sing. But the lyrics, by William Oliver and adapted by Waldemar Hille, are a good and delightful celebration of humanity. I like that it is framed as gifts (rather than commodities) because whether or not you believe there is something beyond us, I hope we can all agree that life is a gift of something, even if it’s a gift of crazy random happenstance.
Life is the greatest gift of all the riches on this earth;
life and its creatures, great and small, of high and lowly birth:
so treasure it and measure it with deeds of shining worth.
Mind is the brightest gift of all, its thought no barrier mars;
it seeks creation’s hidden plan, its quest surmounts all bars;
it reins the wind, it chains the storm, it weighs the outmost stars.
We are of life, its shining gift, the measure of all things;
up from the dust our temples lift, our vision soars on wings;
for seed and root, for flower and fruit, our grateful spirit sings.
My one quibble would be the whole “high and lowly birth” thing; I am pretty sure that’s an older way of indicating the things that fly versus and the things that burrow in the ground, but it’s a bit problematic in today’s frames. On the whole though, the lyrics are expansive and quite lovely.