It’s a day of interesting pairs…
First pair: this is the second time the tune Hasidim has been paired with words by Carl Seaburg.
Second pair: this is frankly an interesting pair, putting a Christmas lyric to a Hasidic tune – which happened in When the Daffodils Arrive too. I’m not entirely certain the Hasidic Jews from Europe would be open to the theological implications… but in some ways it works perfectly. Melodically, it has a touch of celebration and a touch of mystery – which our lyric also contains. Theologically, there’s something about a Jewish song celebrating a Jewish boy’s birth; and while we know this birth is different, the lyrics never proclaim the Messiah or Christ – simply a treasure of faith and a measure of love.
In the gentle of the moon, in the garnet of a star,
feel the presence of a hope where the crowding shepherds are.
Soon the apple tree will bud, and the crimson fruit will fall;
but within the stable shed there’s no thought of that at all.
Touch the treasure of a faith that the mythic Easterns hear.
See the measure of a love come candescent down the air.
Third pair: It’s one of those damn near-rhymes that gets me in singing every time. Look – near rhymes in read or spoken poetry is fine. But in sung poetry, near rhymes are almost more annoying than no rhyme at all. And I’m sorry – while “hear” and “air” are perfectly fine near rhymes on the page, it annoys the crap out of me when sung. I know that some of you will point out beloved songs of mine that also have near rhyme. Fine. This one just really gets me.
Anyway… two cool pairs, one annoying pair… but all in all, a beautiful hymn. The lyrics are gorgeous, the tune is beautiful, and the mystery is present.
Note: there appears to be some sort of problem posting images this morning. I’ll get one up when it stops being obstinate.
A couple in our congregation gave a party every December where people sang through a whole slew of Christmas carols from many lands. It was the same party every year, with the same songs (many unfamiliar) and the same guests — actually a beloved event, because predictable and familiar. (E.g. when it was time to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” out came the decorative dishtowel with the lyrics printed on it, and the host chose individuals to sing each verse.)
I was reminded of a carol about the birth of Jesus, where it was mentioned that in the spring the apple trees would bloom and there would be a great tragedy — a foreshadowing of the crucifixion in the midst of joy. This hymn reminded me of that song — “and the crimson fruit will fall…”.
And why is it that after sixteen years in parish ministry, planning sixteen Christmas Eve services, so many of these songs are unfamiliar to me? I’m so glad you are doing this, Kimberley!