Tuesday, July 04, 2006

O beautiful for spacious skies ...

Well it's just another day here ... but today is, of course, the two hundred and thirteeth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of my beloved adoptive homeland. I've always found it instructive to go back and read that amazing text again, as a reminder of the principles on which our country was founded.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
I'm sorry I'm missing the "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other" that ought to go with the celebration of this day, according to John Adams.

Christianity Today has an interesting piece on "The Faith of the Founding Fathers." And here's some thoughts from Catholic Exchange.

Oh, and here's a bit from Lexington, one of the wonderful columns in the Economist, on the Pursuit of Happiness.
The Founding Fathers were the first politicians to produce the explosive combination of individual rights and the pursuit of happiness. It remains equally remarkable today, still the best statement, 230 years after it was written, of what makes America American. The Book of Job gives warning that “man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Americans, for all their overt religiosity, have dedicated their civilisation to proving Job wrong.
The pursuit of happiness explains all sorts of peculiarities of American life: from the $700m that is spent on self-help books every year to the irritating dinner guests who will not stop looking at their BlackBerries. It also holds a clue to understanding American politics. Perhaps the biggest reason why the Republicans have proved so successful in recent years is that they have established a huge “happiness gap”. Some 45% of Republicans report being “very happy” compared with just 30% of Democrats. The Democrats may be right to give warning of global warming and other disasters. But are they right to give the impression that they relish all the misery? The people's party will never regain its momentum unless it learns to relate to the guy on the super-sized patio, happily grilling his hamburgers and displaying his American flag.

Happy Fourth y'all! :-)

1 comment:

assiniboine said...

One wonders if Katharine L. Bates knew the tune “Materna,” to which her verses are now customarily sung in the United States. Elsewhere in the anglophone world Materna is associated with the hymn “O mother dear, Jerusalem” by the anonymous 16th century Catholic English hymnodist known to us only as FBP. Unusually for Christian devotional literature, “O mother dear, Jerusalem” expresses in elaborate detail the sensual delights and rewards of heaven, in a way that strikes our more austere contemporary western sensibilities as more Muslim than Christian.

It is, though, strikingly fitting that both these hymns (if that’s what “O beautiful for spacious skies” is) are set to the same tune: the one speaking of the city on a hill (in the words of John Winthrop’s often vastly misunderstood sermon of 1630, paraphrasing the Sermon on the Mount); the other speaking of the new Jerusalem, also a city on a hill, as a metaphor for heaven.

One might wish that some US politicians who glibly quote from Winthrop could have a look at what the sermon was actually getting at, that the Massachusetts Bay colony would be under scrutiny and must not comport itself in such a manner as to buttress the enemies of God and bring the Puritan colonists into the contempt of the godly.

The hymn is variously excerpted when sung in worship; generally three or verses are selected. I doubt you will have much occasion to see them in their entirety — they are, after all, as I say, rather unusual; to contemporary Christian ears even mildly bizarre in their extreme sensuality. So here they are, all 30-odd of them.

O mother dear, Jerusalem,
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end--
Thy joys when shall I see?
O happy harbor of God's saints!
O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrows can be found--
No grief, no care, no toil.

In thee no sickness is at all,
No hurt, nor any sore;
There is no death nor ugly night,
But life for evermore.
No dimming cloud o'ershadows thee,
No cloud nor darksome night,
But every soul shines as the sun--
For God himself gives light.

There lust and lucre cannot dwell,
There envy bears no sway;
There is no hunger, thirst, nor heat.
But pleasures every way.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Would God I were in thee!
Oh! that my sorrows had an end,
Thy joys that I might see!

No pains, no pangs, no grieving griefs,
No woful night is there;
No sigh, no sob, no cry is heard--
No well-away, no fear.
Jerusalem the city is
Of God our king alone;
The Lamb of God, the light thereof,
Sits there upon His throne.

O God! that I Jerusalem
With speed may go behold!
For why? the pleasures there abound
Which here cannot be told.
Thy turrets and thy pinnacles
With carbuncles do shine--
With jasper, pearl, and chrysolite,
Surpassing pure and fine.

Thy houses are of ivory,
Thy windows crystal clear,
Thy streets are laid with beaten gold--
There angels do appear.
Thy walls are made of precious stone,
Thy bulwarks diamond square,
Thy gates are made of orient pearl--
O God! if I were there!

Within thy gates no thing can come
That is not passing clean;
No spider's web, no dirt, nor dust,
No filth may there be seen.
Jehovah, Lord, now come away,
And end my griefs and plaints--
Take me to Thy Jerusalem,
And place me with Thy saints!

Who there are crowned with glory great,
And see God face to face,
They triumph still, and aye rejoice--
Most happy is their case.
But we that are in banishment,
Continually do moan;
We sigh, we mourn, we sob, we weep--
Perpetually we groan.

Our sweetness mix褠is with gall,
Our pleasures are but pain,
Our joys not worth the looking on--
Our sorrows aye remain.
But there they live in such delight,
Such pleasure and such play,
That unto them a thousand years
Seems but as yesterday.

O my sweet home, Jerusalem!
Thy joys when shall I see--
The King sitting upon His throne,
And thy felicity?
Thy vineyards, and thy orchards,
So wonderfully rare,
Are furnished with all kinds of fruit,
Most beautifully fair.

Thy gardens and thy goodly walks
Continually are green;
There grow such sweet and pleasant flowers
As nowhere else are seen.
There cinnamon and sugar grow,
There nard and balm abound;
No tongue can tell, no heart can think,
The pleasures there are found.

There nectar and ambrosia spring--
There music's ever sweet;
There many a fair and dainty thing
Are trod down under feet.
Quite through the streets, with pleasant sound,
The flood of life doth flow;
Upon the banks, on every side,
The trees of life do grow.

These trees each month yield ripened fruit--
For evermore they spring;
And all the nations of the world
To thee their honors bring.
Jerusalem, God's dwelling-place,
Full sore I long to see;
Oh! that my sorrows had an end,
That I might dwell in thee!

There David stands, with harp in hand,
As master of the choir;
A thousand times that man were blest
That might his music hear.
There Mary sings "Magnificat,"
With tunes surpassing sweet;
And all the virgins bear their part,
Singing around her feet.

"Te Deum," doth Saint Ambrose sing,
Saint Austin doth the like;
Old Simeon and Zacharie
Have not their songs to seek.
There Magdalene hath left her moan,
And cheerfully doth sing,
With all blest saints whose harmony
Through every street doth ring.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Thy joys fain would I see;
Come quickly, Lord, and end my grief,
And take me home to Thee;
Oh! paint Thy name on my forehead,
And take me hence away,
That I may dwell with Thee in bliss,
And sing Thy praises aye.

Jerusalem, the happy home--
Jehovah's throne on high!
O sacred city, queen, and wife
Of Christ eternally!
O comely queen with glory clad,
With honor and degree,
All fair thou art, exceeding bright--
No spot there is in thee!

I long to see Jerusalem,
The comfort of us all;
For thou art fair and beautiful--
None ill can thee befall.
In thee, Jerusalem, I say,
No darkness dare appear--
No night, no shade, no winter foul--
No time doth alter there.

No candle needs, no moon to shine,
No glittering star to light;
For Christ, the king of righteousness,
For ever shineth bright.
A lamb unspotted, white and pure,
To thee doth stand in lieu
Of light--so great the glory is
Thine heavenly king to view.

He is the King of kings beset
In midst His servants' sight:
And they, His happy household all,
Do serve Him day and night.
There, there the choir of angels sing--
There the supernal sort
Of citizens, which hence are rid
From dangers deep, do sport.

There be the prudent prophets all,
The apostles six and six,
The glorious martyrs in a row,
And confessors betwixt.
There doth the crew of righteous men
And matrons all consist--
Young men and maids that here on earth
Their pleasures did resist.

The sheep and lambs, that hardly 'scaped
The snare of death and hell,
Triumph in joy eternally,
Whereof no tongue can tell;
And though the glory of each one
Doth differ in degree,
Yet is the joy of all alike
And common, as we see.

There love and charity do reign,
And Christ is all in all,
Whom they most perfectly behold
In joy celestial.
They love, they praise--they praise, they love;
They "Holy, holy," cry;
They neither toil, nor faint, nor end,
But laud continually.

Oh! happy thousand times were I,
If, after wretched days,
I might with listening ears conceive
Those heavenly songs of praise,
Which to the eternal king are sung
By happy wights above--
By sav褠souls and angels sweet,
Who love the God of love.

Oh! passing happy were my state,
Might I be worthy found
To wait upon my God and king,
His praises there to sound;
And to enjoy my Christ above,
His favor and His grace,
According to His promise made,
Which here I interlace:

"O Father dear," quoth He, "let them
Which Thou hast put of old
To me, be there where lo! I am--
Thy glory to behold;
Which I with Thee, before the world
Was made in perfect wise,
Have had--from whence the fountain great
Of glory doth arise."

Again: "If any man will serve
Thee, let him follow me;
For where I am, he there, right sure,
Then shall my servant be."
And still: "If any man loves me,
Him loves my Father dear,
Whom I do love--to him myself
In glory will appear."

Lord, take away my misery,
That then I may be bold
With Thee, in Thy Jerusalem,
Thy glory to behold;
And so in Zion see my king,
My love, my Lord, my all--
Where now as in a glass I see,
There face to face I shall.

Oh! bless褠are the pure in heart--
Their sovereign they shall see;
O ye most happy, heavenly wights,
Which of God's household be!
O Lord, with speed dissolve my bands,
These gins and fetters strong;
For I have dwelt within the tents
Of Kedar over long.

Yet search me, Lord, and find me out!
Fetch me Thy fold unto,
That all Thy angels may rejoice,
While all Thy will I do.
O mother dear! Jerusalem!
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end,
Thy joys when shall I see?

Yet once again I pray Thee, Lord,
To quit me from all strife,
That to Thy hill I may attain,
And dwell there all my life--
With cherubim and seraphim
And holy souls of men,
To sing Thy praise, O God of hosts!
Forever and amen!

--FPB, 1580