Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn#19


Sixth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #19

High in the heavens, eternal God

Psalm 36
Song 34
Paraphrase, Isaac Watts
Music: Orlando Gibbons.
 
High in the heavens. eternal God,
thy goodness in full glory shines:
thy truth shall break through every cloud
that veils and darkens thy desings.
 
Forever firm thy justice stands,
as mountains their foundaions keep;
wise are the wonders of they hands;
thy judgements are a mighty deep.
 
From the provisions of thy house
we shall be fed with sweet repast;
there mercy like a river flows
and brings salvation to our taste.
 
Life, like a fountain, rich and free,
springs from the presence of the Lord,
and in thy light our souls shall see
the glories promised in thy word.
 

Today I think I’ll begin with the music for this hymn.  I would not recommend using the music provided for hymn #19.  There is an alternate suggested which is Truro which is somewhat better (hymn #251).  I think if I wanted to use the paraphrase I would do it to the tune Angelus (hymn #516) which lilts along quite nicely in 3 and would be somewhat familiar as the common baptism hymn ‘A little child the saviour came’.

The paraphrase itself is nice and even metricaly speaking but, as seems to be a trend, I don’t really like parts of it.  Starting at verse 7 of the Psalm it says;
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light. (NRSV)

I don’t think the third verse is very clear in its meaning.  The Psalm speaks of feasting on abundance and drinking from the river of delights.  I don’t really see that as the same as “we shall be fed with sweet repast; there mercy like a river flows and brings salvation to our taste.”  I expect the phrasing is, again, chosen to match the rhyme scheme of the poem, but repast and taste do not even rhyme so it makes it awkward and confusing without accmomlishing the goal.


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