Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Come, Labor On

On Sunday, besides singing "For All the Saints," our choir sang an easy arrangement of "Come, Labor On" (arranged by myself) for its anthem, the congregation joining in on the final verse. It was a nice bookend to the pre-communion service, with "For all the saints who from their labors rest" beginning and then, the call to "Come, labor on" to conclude it.

It is a hymn that is not as well-known in non-Anglican churches, although it is an excellent call to service. Jane Laurie Borthwick (1813-1897), the text's author, was a resident of Edinburgh who also spent some time in Switzerland. Like Winkworth, she and her sister produced some translations of German hymns, notably in Hymns from the Land of Luther and Alpine Hymns.

Its rousing tune, ORA LABORA, is by Thomas Tertius Noble (1867-1953), a student of Charles Villiers Stanford. Noble was a noted organist in England, and in 1913 moved to New York to become the organist at St. Thomas Church, where he established their boys choir and choir school, serving until 1943 (the noted organist John Scott serves there now). He was one of the editors of the 1916 Episcopal Hymnal, and served on the committee of the 1940 edition as well.

The text is based on Matthew 25:23. Most hymnals omit the third verse about the enemy watching, and many omit the final verse, probably because the penultimate verse ends so well. Noble's tune fits it well, which could have been difficult with its five-line structure. It doesn't feel as even as many hymns because of this odd number, but it rises to a nice finish.

Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around him waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
“Go work today.”

Come, labor on!
Claim the high calling angels cannot share—
To young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on!
The enemy is watching night and day,
To sow the tares, to snatch the seed away;
While we in sleep our duty have forgot,
He slumbered not.

Come, labor on!
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
By feeblest agents may our God fulfill
His righteous will.

Come, labor on!
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”

Come, labor on!
The toil is pleasant, the reward is sure;
Blessed are those who to the end endure;
How full their joy, how deep their rest shall be,
O Lord, with Thee!

1 comment:

Sarah Merrill said...

For a brief moment when I saw the title, I thought Amy had gone into labor.