I don’t wanna do this any more if it means I have to be eloquent and insightful about hymns like this one.
Now I am sure there were good reasons for the Hymnal Commission to include it. The lyrics – written by Unitarian minister, professor at Meadville, and church historian Charles Lyttle – are indeed a tribute to our frontier congregations: this was written for the centennial of the Unitarian Society in Geneva, Illinois. It contains a lot of personal-to-them metaphors and phrases. And I’m sure, the commission felt it important to honor that part of our living tradition, especially since we can be so Boston-centered.
I get it. I really do.
But here is another example of a hymn that goes nowhere, and worst of all, is set to that damn Nicea tune (Holy, Holy, Holy). And you KNOW I have opinions about that one.
Anyway, here are the lyrics:
Bring, O Past, your honor; bring, O Time, your harvest,
golden sheaves of hallowed lives and minds by Truth made free;
come, you faithful spirits, builders of this temple:
“To Holiness, to Love, and Liberty.”
Ring, in glad thanksgiving, bell of grief and gladness,
forth to town and prairie let our festal greeting go.
Voices long departed in your tones re-echo:
“Praise to the Highest, Peace to all below.”
Shrine of frontier courage, Sinai of its vision,
home and hearth of common quest for life’s immortal good,
stand, in years oncoming, sentinel of conscience,
as through the past your stalwart walls have stood.
Church of pure reformers, pioneers undaunted,
company of comrades sworn to keep the spirit free;
long o’er life’s swift river preach th’eternal gospel:
faith, hope, and love for all humanity.
To be honest, sitting in my temporary digs at SUUSI with a view of the Smoky Mountains, having already heard and sung inspiring music (and we’ve hardly gotten started yet), I am not in a good headspace to be singing the praises of this plodding hymn that, yes, I sang all four freaking verses of because I’m dedicated to this damn practice.
But I really don’t want to wax eloquently about this one, because… ugh.
Photo is of the Unitarian Society in Geneva, IL. A pretty church.
Yep, this one is somewhat arrogant, isn’t it? Makes me think of Carly Simon’s “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” Also, too past-oriented to inspire today’s young people. Might be fun to do a comparison of this one with Storey’s “Children of the Human Race” (#302), a hymn that is so future-oriented it envisions aliens from other planets. In any event, I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing what you have to say about THAT one. 😉