This may be one of the most elegantly crafted songs in our hymnals.
I mean no offense to other composers who read this, or to those songs that are also beloved. But there is something absolutely wondrous in this composition by Carolyn McDade.
On its surface, the song is another earth based song of praise and wonder. And a quick listen to the tune suggests it might be an old melody from the British Isles. And on their own, that’s plenty. There’s a great deal of gorgeousness contained within, expressing McDade’s vision of interdependence. As quoted on the UUA Song Information page, McDade writes:
“Earth shakes out a mantle of green—each blade of grass true to the integrity within, yet together with others is the rise of spring from winter’s urging. Our coming is with the grass—the common which persists, unexalted, but with the essence of life. Our humanness, our rhythms and dreams, the faith which nurtures our ardent love and hope for life—all this we share with earth community, of which we are natural and connected beings.”
This song is certainly that:
My blood doth rise in the roots of yon oak, her sap doth run in my veins.
Boundless my soul like the open sky where the stars forever have lain.
Where the stars, where the stars, where the stars forever have lain.
My hands hold the weavings of time without end, my sight as deep as the sea.
Beating, my heart sounds the measures of old, that of love’s eternity.
That of love, that of love, that of love’s eternity.
I feel the tides as they answer the moon, rushing on a far distant sand.
Winging my song is the wind of my breast and my love blows over the land.
And my love, and my love, and my love blows over the land.
My foot carries days of the old into new, our dreaming shows us the way.
Wondrous our faith settles deep in the earth, rising green to bring a new day.
Rising green, rising green, rising green to bring a new day.
But what’s elegant is the way the tune and lyric paint a feeling, an image, a texture, a sense of movement. It begins at the end of the first line of each verse… “sap doth run in my veins”… “sight as deep as the sea”… “rushing on a far distant sand”…”dreaming shows us the way” – each of those phrases evoking something bigger than ourselves, held open with a dotted half note, not ended quickly on the quarter note you were expecting. And then the next phrase soars up a fourth, an arpeggio in the bass clef leading the way, opening up the melody almost like a miracle, with “boundless” and “beating” and “winging” and “wondrous” giving language to that moment of opening and arrival. In the singing and listening, you can hear a sense of hope and release and movement, as the phrase settles back into the notes the verse began with, almost like a wave, or a sudden breeze, or an epiphany.
It is so elegantly crafted. I am in awe.
I should note that I’ve never used this as a congregational song, only as a solo, so I don’t know how easily it’s picked up. I’d like to think this one isn’t too hard, and I hope it’s not taken too slowly or too quickly – or people will miss the beauty that McDade’s piece evokes.