Poetry

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Heavens and Earth, All of Creation

by Lionel E. Deimel

 

Heavens and earth, all of creation,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

All living things, join the elation,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

 

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

 

Valley and hill, river and ocean,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

Pond, lake, and sea, water in motion,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

 

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

 

Oak trees and pines, wheat fields and berries,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

Flowers and vines, grasslands and cherries,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

 

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

 

Creatures that swim, fly, crawl, or gallop,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

Fish, bird, and snake, horse, shrimp, and scallop,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

 

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

 

Nations and tribes, drawn from all races,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

Cities and towns, differing faces,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

 

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

 

Young ones and old, blissful or mourning,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

Mothers and dads, babies aborning,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

 

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

 


 

These words are an alternate hymn text “Earth and All Stars,” which is Hymn #412 in The Hymnal 1982, the Episcopal hymnal. The words of that hymn are by Herbert F. Brokering, and the tune (also called “Earth and All Stars”), is by David N. Johnson. According to Hymnary.com, Brokering wrote his hymn in 1964 for the 90th anniversary of St. Olaf College.

The video below is a performance of “Earth and All Stars,” including a verse 7 that does not appear in the Episcopal hymnal. The singer is William Storm.

St. Olaf seems very fond of the Brokering text. I am not. It is repetitious, lacking rhyme, and, in many respects, downright goofy. In 2010, I wrote a blog post titled “New Verses for a Bad Hymn,” in which I offered some verses that parodied Brokering’s. I’m not sure that I was very successful, since it’s hard to parody something that is so offbeat to begin with.

On June 2, 2013, we sang “Earth and All Stars” at my church, and a number of choir members, led by myself, grumbled about the hymn. Although no one defended the text, people seemed to like the tune. This gave me the idea of writing a new text to be pared with the tune.

That same day, I composed the first draft that became the poem above. I retained the basic structure of “Earth and All Stars,” but I eliminated some of the repetition, added rhyme, and tried to stay away from the strange and the illogical. I posted this on my blog (here) and elicited comments. Two days later, benefitting from both positive and negative feedback, I posted a new version on my blog (here), along with an explanation of what changes I made and why. On June 5, I created this page on my Web site.

I thought I was finished with this hymn. On September 8, 2013, however, Bishop Dorsey McConnell was making his annual episcopal visit to Christ Church, Indiana, and I happened to be there as well. One of the hymns sung that Sunday was “Earth and All Stars.” (Singing this hymn is apparently a Christ Church tradition at the start of the school year.) At the reception following the service, I discovered that Bishop McConnell and I shared an aversion to the Brokering text. I told him about “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation” and promised to e-mail him links to it and to “New Verses for a Bad Hymn.”

The bishop liked my hymn but had two serious criticisms. He very much disliked my third verse, which was

Flowers and trees, cacti and hedges,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

Acres of grain, scrub brush on ledges,

Sing to the Lord a new song!

I was not totally convinced that this was so bad. It was, in fact, an improvement over what I originally wrote. Nonetheless, I decided to see if I could do better. For the structure of the hymn, I needed a verse dealing with vegetation. My revision is what appears above. It is certainly less quirky than what it replaced.

Bishop McConnell also thought that I should have retained Brokering’s refrain, rather than using my version, which was

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him singing along!

I had changed the second line of the refrain to rhyme with “song,” the last word in each verse. (Technically, “song” does not rhyme with “song,” and I saw an opportunity to add another rhyme to the hymn.) Unfortunately, there are few available and relevant rhyming words. I considered various lines ending in “throng,” “along,” “year long” and “life long.” I finally proposed this line:

I’ll sing their new song all my life long!

The bishop was unimpressed. I had to admit that the line from “Earth and All Stars” is not easily improved upon and that using it would not ruin my text. I therefore decided to retain the refrain unchanged from the original hymn.

Thus, I arrived at the text shown above. This is, I sincerely hope, the definitive version of “Heavens and Earth, All of Creation.” Although “Earth and All Stars” may be an attractive hymn in an academic setting, I believe that my text makes for a better general hymn. If you would like to use it in your church, please write to me for permission. I would also appreciate your feedback on the hymn and on people’s reaction to it.

Click on the button below to see the sheet music for the hymn. It is scored for unison singing. A piano score can be found in the organist’s edition of The Hymnal 1982. (See Hymn #412.) A recording of the tune, “Earth and All Stars,” can be found on the Hymnary.com Web site here.

  Download View Music (PDF)  

— LED, 6/5/2013, rev. 11/19/2013

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