STLT#324, Where My Free Spirit Onward Leads

One of the downsides of so many hymn tunes is that groups of them begin to sound alike. For instance, there’s a whole set of them in the O Waly Waly/Gift of Love milieu that I constantly confuse for one another.

And now there is another set of them – including this English tune, called Kingsfold, set by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I started singing it and was sure I knew what it was and where it was going, until I realized there were differences in what I thought I knew. Google told me, surprisingly, that Kingsford is NOT the tune to Canticle of the Turning – that one’s called Star of the County Down, an Irish tune set by Rory Cooney.

So are they originally different? Or are they both based on a tune that ran around the British Isles, and we have two different interpretations? They’re both great, but both different.

What I do know is that whichever of the two you wind up singing to yourself, the lyrics (by Alicia Carpenter) are fitting – the tune is joyful yet melancholy, as are these words:

Where my free spirit onward leads, well, there shall be my way;
by my own light illumined I’ve journeyed night and day;
my age, a time-worn cloak I wear as once I wore my youth;
I celebrate life’s mystery; I celebrate death’s truth.

My family is not confined to mother, mate, and child;
but it includes all creatures be they tame or be they wild;
my family upon this earth includes all living things
on land, or in the ocean deep, or borne aloft on wings.

The ever spinning universe, well, there shall be my home;
I sing and spin within it as through this life I roam;
eternity is hard to ken and harder still is this:
a human life when truly seen is briefer than a kiss.

I hadn’t ever really sung this one before, to be fair, but I like it. I would use this for a memorial service, I think, in its loving picture of a life well lived. And I’d use it for services on community.

I wish I had more insights today – I’m about to get in a car and drive to Murray Grove and the Goldmine Youth Leadership School, where I will be working  with youth on worship (surprise, surprise). Thus – programming note – the week’s posts may not come out in the mornings, but that’s my hope.

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