HYMN 207 For the Beauty of the Earth
Text: Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917). Tune: Conrad Kocher (1786-1872)
1. For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies, R/Lord of all, to thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise. 2. For the beauty of each hour Of the day and of the night, Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r, Sun and moon and stars of light,
3. For the joy of ear and eye, For the heart and mind's delight, For the mystic harmony Linking sense to sound and sight,
R/ 4. For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child, Friends on earth and friends above, For all gentle thoughts and mild, R/
5. For the church that evermore Lifteth holy hands above, Offering up on every shore Her pure sacrifice of Love, R/
6. For thyself, best gift divine, To our race so freely giv'n, For that great, great love of thine, Peace on earth and joy in heav'n. R/
A gorgeous fall day, the sun, the blue sky, the last roses (and dahlias) of summer blooming in the light, all make me raise my voice in thanks. All these are gifts from God. A heart that sees all these glories and does not feel thanks is not very alive. As G. K. Chesteron remarked once, the worst thing about being an atheist is there is no one to thank.
The story goes that one beautiful spring day in Bath, England, the native city of the author, Pierpoint went to a hill not far from the town and sat there enjoying the scenes of nature around him. As he saw the flowers, trees, meadows, and the softly running Avon river below him, he wrote the hymn. Surrounded by the gifts of God, he set down as many as he could see or remember. He does not name which flower or tree, just the generic name. As we sing we can see flowers that are native to our vistas and, bringing them to view in our minds, thankfulness does rise in our throats. Pierpoint gives us the leisure to call them to mind in this hymn.
While English nature tends to be a bit less wild and punishing than our weather here in Minnesota, thanksgiving can rise from us as well, even in the midst of a snowstorm. But there are dangers in it. Nature is not only mild; it is also fierce and destructive as those suffering the hurricanes in the south just now can testify to. Then we can cry out for help as the disciples did in the storm they suffered on Lake Galilee, Lord, save us. In both cases we reach out to the one who controls it all.
In both its beauty and its terror, nature teaches us of our creator. But where Jesus waits to meet us is in church, really where two and three are gathered. Pierpoint gives thanks for the church in a stanza which has often been left out. In church we hear the word that tells us that the God who created heaven and earth is also the one who sent us Jesus so we can receive him and be in communion with God physically through the word we receive when we are gathered in his name—Scripture, preaching, the sacraments, the hymns, the fellowship, the prayers, even our mutual suffering for which we can find solace there. Most of us are longing for the intimate connection of being together again at our churches. We pray it will be soon. Meanwhile we give thanks for the beauties we see daily, the love that around us lies, not just in the gardens, fields and woodlands, but also for the music we are hearing, the laughter of those we are with, the pleasure in our families, even as we long to be back in church, with the body of Christ
where we can rejoice together in the great love of our Savior, his gift of peace on earth and joy in heaven.
Pierpoint inherited sufficient funds from his parents to support himself without his having to take on a profession, so he used his time to write poetry, especially, but hymns as well. He received his education at Queen’s College, Cambridge, and now and then would teach at Somerset College. In 1878 his three collections of poems The Chalice of Nature and Other Poems was published. He also contributed many hymns to a hymnal called Hymnal Noted in 1852 and to another Lyra Eucharistica in 1864 where this hymn appeared with the title, Holy Communion Hymn or Flower Service. The editors of Hymns: Ancient and Modern wanted to use the hymn. William Monk, the music editor of the hymnal, arranged the original Kocher tune, “Treuer Heiland wir sind hier“ so it fit the English text.
Kocher worked briefly as a tutor in Russia, but moved back to Stuttgart in order to cultivate his musical gifts. The Cotta music company sent him to Italy to study music where he became enamored with Palestrina's compositions. He came back to Stuttgart where he lived for the rest of his life, establishing a school of music there. It is said he introduced four part harmony to the singing of hymns in that region. He collected many hymn tunes in Zions Harfe, composed operas, oratorios, and wrote a book on church music, Die Tonkunst in der Kirche (1823). People have loved both tune and text, but John Rutter has written an anthem on the text using his tune which many people find ravishing. There are some other popular tunes, and several contemporary settings as well.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Kocher tune
Vocal Solo ElsieBird68
Hymns on the Piano
John Rutter’s anthem