Monday, May 29, 2006

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life

One of the high points of a class I took this past semester (Anglican poets and preachers) was reading George Herbert and John Donne. They both had great poetry, although I liked Herbert's a little more, I think, for their form, but Donne's more for content (especially the Holy Sonnets).

Besides "Let All the World in Every Corner Sing," which has been set to many different tunes, a less well-known hymn by Herbert (at least in non-Anglican circles, it seems), is "Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life." Published in his work The Temple as "The Call," I like it for its play with the English language, as well as its meditative message.

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a joy as none can move,
Such a love as none can part,
Such a heart as joys in love.

Maybe I'll have my church sing it soon. It would make people pay attention to what they're singing, hopefully, with its interesting phrases.

My other favorite poems from The Temple are "The Church Floor" and "Easter Wings," which would be less likely to be set as hymns, but are great poems. As to Donne, a great sonnet of his is #18, especially as I study for a Reformation comp.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Evangelicalism, Global Warming and Poverty

"I don't think God will ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created." So said Richard Cizik, vice-president of the NAE in the New York Times, quoted on Speaking of Faith. Cizik has been "converted" to believing that global warming exists, and that evangelicals should do something about it, comparing the churches' relative silence to that during the civil rights struggle.

Interestingly, he has been castigated by Senator Inhofe, from my home state of Oklahoma. Inhofe says that Cizik and the NAE have been "'led down a liberal path' by environmentalists and others who have convinced the group that issues like poverty and the environment are worth their efforts."

Global warming aside, convinced that poverty is worth their efforts? I suppose that means Jesus was a liberal. I hope that the NY Times has taken Inhofe out of context.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jesu, meine freude

"Jesu, meine freude." As one of my favorite hymns both for its music, its meter, and its text, it is not sung often enough! It was written in the 17th century by Johann Franck (1618-1677), whom Catherine Winkworth says "ranks second only to [Paul] Gerhardt as a hymn-writer" (thank you, PTS book sale for my $1 copy of Christian Singers of Germany). German hymnwriting history before the 20th century is sometimes seen as being divided into two main schools, with Gerhardt at its divide—the first, of religious poetry easily set to music and sung as a group—and the second, poetry that is at times less regular and often more intensely personal and mystical. Franck falls into this latter category, although just at its beginning. As a provincial German politician, Franck seems an unlikely candidate for hymnwriting, but his output both in hymns and secular poetry is generally well-regarded.

Jesu, priceless treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me!
Long my heart hath panted,
Till it well-nigh fainted,
Thirsting after Thee!
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb!
I will suffer nought to hide Thee,
Ask for nought beside Thee.

In Thine arm I rest me,
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here;
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear;
Sin and hell in conflict fell
With their heaviest storms assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I need not fly thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease!
Rage, O world, thy noises
Cannot drown our voices
Singing still of peace;
For God's power guards every hour,
Earth and all the depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

Wealth, I will not heed thee,
Wherefore should I need thee,
Jesus is my joy!
Honours, ye may glisten,
But I will not listen,
Ye the soul destroy!
Want or loss or shame or corss
Ne'er to leave my Lord shall move me,
Since He deigns to love me.

Farewell, thou who choosest
Earth, and heaven refusest,
Thou wilt tempt in vain;
Farewell, sins, nor blind me,
Get ye far behind me,
Come not forth again;
Past your hour, O pomp and power;
Godless life, thy bonds I sever,
Farewell now for ever!

Hence all thoughts of sadness,
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in!
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whate'er I here must bear
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesu, priceless treasure!

This hymn, with its "Lord of gladness," and thoughts of safety and comfort from Jesus, is actually usually sung to a tune that most feel is not joyful at all. The c minor chorale melody's composer, Johann Crüger, was organist at the Nikolaikirche in Berlin from 1622-1662. Bach arranged it into its common, present form in 1723.

I usually am relegated to singing it in Lent, because of its minor quality. But, it doesn't strike me as Lenten, or, mournful in nature (which I have been told it is)! Can we sing minor-key hymns today in America without connotations of sadness? A large portion of rock tunes are minor, but, a glance through recent evangelical hymnals reveals very few. Perhaps this is due to the gospel hymn influence at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

American Ethnic Geography

After discussing with some of you who haven't seen this site, here's a link on American Ethnic Geography. It's a course at Valparaiso, and there are many really cool maps of ethnicities, religions, languages, etc. taken from the 2000 census. My favorite map is this one.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I've finally finished my first last paper! It was about William Howard Doane, which I briefly mentioned below.

Doane intrigues me, as a larger-than-life person from the mid 19th century and into the Progressive Era. He was incredibly brilliant, making a huge fortune through his woodworking inventions and his business acumen. At the same time, he wrote over 2300 hymntunes, and many texts, too. He was friends with almost all the famous American hymnwriters of the day, including William Kirkpatrick, Robert Lowry, E.O. Excell, Hupert Main, Ira Sankey, Phillip Bliss, and many others. His closest working companion was Fanny Crosby, with whom he wrote the most hymns and with whom he maintained a steady correspondence. He is credited by early 20th century writers with helping to invent the American Christmas cantata, for he wrote many himself and many with Crosby, most about Santa Claus (some of my more favorite titles include Frost Queen and Santa Claus and Santa and the Fairies, both available at the Cincinnati Public Library).

My paper focused on hymns that he set with pictures of Christ in them. He had an interesting array of images, from "Safe on his gentle breast," to being "poor in spirit" like Jesus, being "gentle as a dove" like Jesus, to, conversely, "toiling on" like Christ, Christ whose "arm is our strength and shield" during battle, and Jesus as a strong leader through foes' attacks.

These latter three came from a hymnal published near the end of his career, Jubilant Voices for Sunday Schools. It seems as though Doane had views of Christ as both a gentle, loving friend, and a strong, awe-inspiring master. However, perhaps this latter came later in his life, as the Muscular Christianity movement continued and Doane continued his work with the Y.M.C.A. (he was a travelling singer for them in his younger days, and financially supported them in his later).

Doane was also a good businessman, seen by the incredible fortune he amassed and the huge amounts he gave to various charities and churches. Perhaps he used many different images to reach a wider audience, and subsequently sell more hymnals.

I think it might have been both—he did see Christ in differing lights (as many Christians have throughout time), and he was good at what he did. Is it possible to be incredibly capitalist and very pious at the same time? I think so...