Cheerful Voices: What wondrous love is this?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul!

Ye winged seraphs fly, bear the news! bear the news!
Ye winged seraphs fly, bear the news!
Ye winged seraphs fly, like comets through the sky,
Fill vast eternity with the news, with the news,
Fill vast eternity with the news.

Ye friends of Zion’s King, join his praise! join his praise!
Ye friends of Zion’s King, join his praise!
Ye friends of Zion’s King, with hearts and voices sing,
And strike each tuneful string in his praise, in his praise:
And strike each tuneful string in his praise.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing,
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing!

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

This is the first of three shape-note tunes on Cheerful Voices; it comes from Southern Harmony, though I found some words in another book archived at hymnary.org. Many of the earliest versions are in aeolian mode rather than dorian as here (that is, they have E flat rather than E in the third syllable of the second line of text), but I decided to use the more well-known version. I did keep the bass line from Southern Harmony which is sometimes modified.

My favourite verse of this is the last one — “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.” Not “when I die and go to heaven”; not “when from all the problems that are part of life I’m free”, which is how the hope of some kind of life beyond death is so often portrayed. The idea that we go to sleep and wake up and all our problems are gone but things are pretty similar otherwise isn’t my idea of freedom from death.

In truth, I can’t fully articulate or even know what freedom from death looks like, or feels like. But I hope that, for me at least, it will involve singing.

Comments

Cheerful Voices: What wondrous love is this? — 1 Comment