O God of Earth and Altar

This past Sunday we sang a hymn with the title above that I had never sung before. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the author was Gilbert Keith Chesterton, one of my favorite authors.

Hymn 521, O God of Earth and Altar, by G. K. Chesterton:

O God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation Of honor, and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together, Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation, A single sword to thee. Amen.

Needless to say, I googled for this hymn and found a blog reference with a nice bit of commentary. I have no idea who Fr. Daniel is, but I love the idea of a rector/priest/pastor educating his congregation about the hymns they are singing. His comments:

Hymn 521, “O God of Earth and Altar”, written in 1906 is very relevant to us in America in 2006, with references to “terror”, inordinate wealth, the climate of cynicism, and also to the sophistry that is the trademark of our political life, in which the weaker arguments are made to appear strong by lies and manipulations by all political parties. Verse 2 of the hymn contains clear references to The Litany from the Book of Common Prayer. In the Hymnal 1940, Chesterton’s hymn is sung to a lovely traditional English melody, called “King’s Lynn”, arranged by R. Vaughan Williams in 1906.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.