HYMN 351 Jerusalem, the Golden
German: Jerusalem von Golde, wo milch und honig fliesst
Latin: Urba Syon aurea, Patria lactea, cive decora
Text: Bernard of Cluny (ca. 1100-1199) Tune: Alexander Ewing (1830-1895)
1 Jerusalem the golden, With milk and honey blest, Beneath thy contemplation Sink heart and voice opprest; I know not, O I know not What social joys are there! What radiancy of glory, What light beyond compare. 2 They stand, those halls of Zion, All jubilant with song, And bright with many an angel, And all the martyr throng; The Prince is ever in them, The daylight is serene; The pastures of the blessed Are decked in glorious sheen. 3 There is the throne of David; And there, from care released, The song of them that triumph, The shout of them that feast; And they who, with their Leader, Have conquered in the fight, For ever and for ever Are clad in robes of white. 4 O sweet and blessed country, The home of God's elect! O sweet and blessed country That eager hearts expect! Jesu, in mercy bring us To that dear land of rest; Who art, with God the Father And Spirit, ever blest.
Tr. John Mason Neale
It was January 1976. I was in York, England, on my way to Scotland during my first sabbatical. I was alone. Typical English weather outside, the hotel room freezing cold with only a small electric fire for heat. I put on most every piece of clothing I had to keep warm while reading Margaret Drabble’s book, Jerusalem, The Golden. It was oddly appropriate. I hadn’t known it when I bought it, but it was about a young woman of Yorkshire longing to be in London. Drabble was known for using religious themes and biblical language. Her reference to the hymn as translated into English by the venerable John Mason Neale fascinated me. I had been working on the LBW committee for three years and knew more about him, his translations and what he meant to the world of English hymnody.
What interested me most was the first stanza, “I know not, O I know not/What social joys are there.” I loved the phrase “social joys.” At that moment, swathed in my sweaters and coat, utterly alone, I thought of the social joys I was missing on earth more than those of heaven. But the phrase stayed with me.
That summer when I was back and we were finishing up the editing of the hymnal, to my surprise, I was given this hymn to edit. I prepared a version, keeping the the phrase “social joys.” It had been changed almost from the first to “I know not, O I know not, what joys await me there.”
Remembering my solitary evening reading the short novel in York that January, I argued for the original line, "what social joys are there." There was some opposition, but the committee agreed.
When the book came out in 1978, Luther College chapel had a short hymn sing using several of the new hymns in the book. We sang "Jerusalem the Golden" with its social joys. But now instead of the Ewing tune from the Victorian era, we were using the preferred folk tune from the Southern Harmony tradition, Complainer. A Dixieland band accompanied our singing. It was an easy thing for them to adapt to Complainer since so much jazz also used spirituals and gospel songs.
I thought it was great fun, but afterwards a music teacher hit the roof. Bringing a tune and musical style into worship that had originated in houses of ill repute! Have you ever....
The incident brought together so many of the issues I have spoken of during this year—the preference for folk tunes over Victorian ones; the notion of an accompaniment (harmony) being from our time, thus jazzy. (It had started with Jan Johansson, the Swedish jazz pianist, who had caused a revolution in Nordic jazz by using Swedish folktunes and hymns to riff on.) The changing of hymn language that seemed old fashioned and out of touch with the age—social joys. It was all there in a three minute song.
Two years later I was teaching rhetoric and hymnody at Luther Seminary. Something about that chapel service at the college became a calling for me as I looked out on the congregation singing, their faces “jubilant with song!” I wanted to do that forever! What joy—a foretaste of that “sweet and blessed country/ the home of God’s elect!”
Not much is really known about Bernard of Cluny. And not much is left of Cluny. We are not sure that his dates are close, but we do know he wrote a very long poem on the evils of this world, De Contemptu mundi. Another hymn from this poem appeared in the SBH as "The World is Very Evil" to the tune used in Denmark for the wonderful Christmas hymn, “Mitt Hjerte Altid Vanker!” The LBW changed that language to "The Clouds of Judgment Gather." Many were the chapel talks against the hymn and the idea that the world was very evil! Of course, God saw that all was good, but we have done our part to corrupt it!
Neale, although he complained about the meter of the Latin poem and wrote about it, made his excerpt from the satiric poem sparkle with the images of the golden city in Revelation 21 and 22.
The Ewing tune for the Neale’s translation has been standard for many years. Ewing was a Scot, born in Aberdeen where he studied law, but spent most of his time in music. Considered one of the most gifted composers in the area, he wrote several tunes that are still with us. He joined the British Army and fought in the Crimean War. He then went to China for six years, then to Ireland during the Fenian Uprising. He served in New Brunswick just after England created the British North American Act, establishing the Dominion of Canada. In 1879 he went to Malta, then served in Ceylon before returning to England where he died.
It has also been sung to Parry's Jerusalem and Complainer, but Ewing seems to be the preferred tune.
Mass on the Feast of St James 2013 at St James's Spanish Place with Ewings tune
WELS Choir/with the Parry tune Jerusalem
Ely Cathedral Choir
Choir of Sidney Sussex