When I read that the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral choir in Portland was going to sing all 720 hymns in The Hymnal 1982 to raise money for a trip to England, my first thought was, “What a great idea!” and my second, which followed soon thereafter was, “Oh! They’ll sing #585. I hope they like it.”
#585, you see, is “Morning glory, starlit sky,” a lovely hymn I recently discovered. The words are a poem written by W. H. Vanstone; the tune, Bingham, was composed by Dorothy Howell Sheets specifically for this hymnal. I’d never heard it until it became the Hymn of the Month at a local church, and the congregation sang it each Sunday in November until it became familiar.
New hymns can be a difficult sell and a distraction during Sunday morning worship, so most churches stick with the familiar. Someone is bound to complain if the experience is unsettling or if they just don’t like the tune, but if I can put in a plug for adding #585, please let me do so here.
I really like Sheets’ setting of Vanstone’s words, but unfortunately, I can’t find an online version to share. (Note to musician friends: could you fill this gap in the internet?) I’ll send you to the sheet music or you can grab an Episcopal hymnal, but you’ll have to find a way to pick it out for yourself.
Meanwhile, here’s another beautiful setting by Barry Rose which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Morning glory, starlit sky,
Soaring music, scholar’s truth,
Flight of swallows, autumn leaves,
Memory’s treasure, grace of youth:
Open are the gifts of God,
Gifts of love to mind and sense;
Hidden is love’s agony,
Love’s endeavour, love’s expense
Love that gives, gives evermore,
Gives with zeal, with eager hands,
Spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
Ventures all, its all expends.
Drained is love in making full,
Bound in setting others free,
Poor in making many rich,
Weak in giving power to be.
Therefore he who shows us God
Helpless hangs upon the tree;
And the nails and crown of thorns
Tell of what God’s love must be.
Here is God, no monarch he,
Throned in easy state to reign;
Here is God, whose arms of love,
Aching, spent, the world sustain.