It is hard to sing this hymn and not see an indictment of the character of the person who currently occupies the White House. The person this hymn describes is the person we want as our president – strong, self-reliant, truthful, not swayed by the attractions of fame, power, and wealth.
And I think about this man who took the oath less than four weeks ago, and I realize how unhappy he probably is, and I feel a sense of pity. I’m sorry that he was brought up in an environment that likely prized winning over loving, acquisition over compassion, self-promotion over self-knowledge. I am sad for the little inner child that cries at night to be seen and loved, because I doubt the man has ever given his inner child one iota of thought, or love, or grace, or apology.
Our first principle calls us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person – we don’t have to like them, but we have to affirm their inherent worth. In our brighter moments, this is easy. In our darker moments, it’s a struggle. But I’d like to think that we who value the self-possessed and compassionate character defined in this hymn can open our hearts to include some sadness for the boy who never learned this and thus became the man we alternately fear and revile.
How happy are they born or taught,
who do not serve another’s will;
whose armor is their honest thought,
and simple truth their highest skill;
Whose passions not their rulers are;
whose souls are still, and free from fear,
not tied unto the world with care
of public fame or private ear;
Who have their lives from rumors freed,
whose conscience is their strong retreat,
whose state no flattery can feed,
nor ruin make oppressors great.
All such are freed from servile bands
of hope to rise, or fear to fall;
they rule themselves, but rule not lands,
and, having nothing, yet have all.
On a musical note – the tune suits the lyrics, but the lyrics don’t always scan well, meaning I sometimes tripped over which syllable goes where or figuring out exactly what word I was singing over several notes (“ruin” and “happy” especially tripped me up in the singing).
I think it’s a decent hymn and would use it now that I’ve discovered it. In fact, it might be spawning a sermon idea… yeah, that’ll preach.