Confession: sometimes I sing a hymn and all I really have to say is, ‘yep, it’s great’ and then I look for more to say.
I love this hymn. It’s great. The melody, a late 15th century French tune by Franciscan monk Jean Tisserand, is lush and a bit bittersweet, and provides a perfect mood for these last three absolutely perfect verses of Christina Rossetti’s poem “What Good Shall My life Do to Me?”
O filii et filiae, Alleluia.
O ye who taste that love is sweet,
set waymarks for the doubtful feet
that stumble on in search of it.
Sing hymns of love; that some who hear
far off, in pain, may lend an ear.
Rise up and wonder and draw near.
Lead lives of love; that others who
behold your lives may kindle too
with love, and cast their lot with you.
Two last notes, and then I’m heading on the last leg toward home from SUUSI.
The hymn tune is called O Filii et Filiae, which in Latin means “o sons and daughters” – and yes, it’s problematic now in terms of gender expansiveness. However, it is also the title of this rather famous-in-Catholic-circles tune, and I am not sure we can or should change it.
Also: this first line is the priest’s ‘get your attention’ line. It’s the “gather around and listen up” line. It absolutely sets the mood of the piece, too. If you use this as a congregational hymn, you probably want the song leader to sing the first line and then the congregation to sing the verses. Or, consider a song leader, then the choir on the verses, with everyone joining in on the ‘Alleluia.” or, drop that first line altogether and just do the verses. But know you have options, because this tune is somewhat unfamiliar in form, and it may prove to be a good way to teach it.
So this hymn? Yep, it’s great.