Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1787) Tune: Rowland Pritchard (1811-1887) Hyfrydol
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee. Israel's strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art; Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to thy glorious throne.
I"LL SING TO GOD MY SONG OF PRAISE
Norwegian: Jeg løfter opp til Gud min sang
Text: Magnus Brostrup Landstad (1802-1880) Tune: Ferdinand Vogel (1807-1892)
1. I’ll sing to God my song of praise
Through all my days
From all earth’s darkest regions
For soon the Lord will surely come
And take me home
To heaven’s highest mansions.
Like bolts of light
That shine so bright.
We’ll hear the song
Sound loud and strong
The trumpets in God’s heaven.
2. When my redemption comes to me
I'll lift my head rejoicing.
When I am freed, I will go in
To meet this friend
My Lord, with praises voicing.
I will be raised
From death’s dark grave
Like seed that’s sown
With tears and groans
I’ll rise with joy from sleeping.
3. For when the fig tree sprouts with buds
It makes me glad
For soon it will be summer.
When heaven’s flowers bud and grow
I then will know
God’s kingdom soon is coming.
I am his bride
His ring is mine;
My lamp is lit
My heart awaits
The Lord who comes to judge us.
4. The earth and all of heav’n is new—
His word is true—
Created for his glory.
The Lord will dwell beside us here
See, he is near!
He died and rose to save us!
And when the earth
Returns to dust
God’s word will stay
Not pass away,
A bridge to bear us homeward.
5. Lord Jesus, in this Advent hour,
Show forth your pow’r
And come to us in glory.
Come to the hearts made sick with grief
And speak the Gospel story.
Our spirits long
To hear the song,
To be made whole
In body, soul,
And worship you in glory.
Tr. Gracia Grindal
MEDITATION In August 2002, in Seljord, Norway, there was a conference honoring the 200th birthday of Landstad—who had been both the pastor’s son and pastor there--Norway's great hymnbook compiler. The title of Landstad’s hymn was the title of the conference. Many noted the genius of the inversion of the sentence from "Jeg løfter opp min sang til Gud: to "Jeg løfter opp til Gud min sang."
Those little things that make for lyric poetry are the difference between ho hum lyrics and not so ho hum. When I began my work on the LBW committee and was given texts to edit and update, I tried to use what I had learned when I was earning my MFA in poetry. I would come to the meetings with a new version and met with condescension. Hymnody is not poetry, they sniffed.
What they meant, and I soon understood, Don't write hymns people can't understand. Like irony—irony, the trope of our age--does not work in hymns.. But imagery yes, like Landstad, and yes, easy on the ear. Not hymns that say to their singers, you are not very smart. Since the entire movement of the arts in the twentieth century tended to be scornful of middle class values, the modern church artist had a problem since most people in America who belong to church are middle class. Making fun of them is not very helpful nor Christian.
One example is a setting of a poem by W. H. Auden “Land of Unlikeness.” It is part of "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio" (1942). It is great poetry, but it didn’t work very well as a congregational hymn. Expecting a congregation to sing it with understanding is a bridge too far. (The Episcopal Hymnal 1982 included it.)
He is the Way. Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness; You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth. Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety; You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life. Love Him in the World of the Flesh; And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
Copyright 1944 Princeton University Press
Auden, like Landstad, used biblical images: Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, the heavenly city and the marriage of bride and groom. It is great poetry, but difficult. We have just emerged from a period when musicians wrote mostly atonal music that, on the whole, repelled concert goers and did not work for hymns. Poets today still write mostly free verse, although there is a significant movement toward forms. Hymn writers must use rhyme and meter. Today musicians and hymn writers understand their work to be evangelical, as Luther urged—writing hymns with words and music people understand.
Savor both the Wesley and Landstad hymns--they both share the same hope and long for the return of our Lord. Landstad is maybe more concrete than Wesley. Watts taught English hymn writers to be generic, not specific, maybe more theological, something the hymn committee was trying to teach me. I have spent a lifetime trying to write hymns using the insights of the Scandinavian hymn writers, but it hasn't caught on. The Wesley hymn is a wonderful text in the grand tradition of Watts. Enjoy these as we approach Christmas—Read the fig tree for signs!
Wesley wrote this much beloved Advent hymn in 1744 for a collection called Hymns of the Nativity. It has more stanzas but most hymnal committees have settled on these two stanzas. (For more on Wesley see HYMN 23, 93, 165, 116 and 257) The most popular tune is Hyfrydol, the Welsh tune, used in most of the YouTube performances. Prichard was a Welsh composer. This is by far his most beloved tune.
Vogel, the composer of the Landstad tune, had traveled to Bergen for a conference. While there he was asked to serve as organist at NyKirken where he became an important voice in Norwegian music. The hymn is treasured in Norway, but its length and the impossibility of cutting out stanzas for singing, ( I cut two) given its fine poetry, has made it a bit too long for the average congregation today.
The Auden hymn was included in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982. David Hurd wrote a tune for it. Listen below.
COME THOU LONG EXPECTED JESUS
The Geneva International Christian Choir Orchestra
The Petersens -- over 2 million views!
Red Mountain Music
JEG LØFTER OPP TIL GUD MIN SANG
Christiane Rothfuchs https://youtu.be/UpERUL3Rq7I
Iver Kleive and Knut Reiersrud https://youtu.be/L__EherXHjM
Rolf Karlsen/Suite for organ on tune
Land of Unlikeness