Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 23: Anthems - Protest and Encouragement

Mine eyes have seen the glory

This American hymn owes its writing to an attempt to Christianise (and perhaps redeem?) a popular song of the American Civil War. “John Brown’s body lies a mouldering in his grave” was written by Unionist troops partly in tribute to the abolitionist, John Brown, but also in a mocking reference to a John Brown in their own battalion. The chorus “Glory, glory, hallelujah” was commonly sung at  revivalist camp meetings.

Julia Ward Howe, (1819-1910) a campaigner against slavery and for women’s suffrage was challenged by a friend to write new words for the song, after she and her husband had visited a Union camp by the Potomac river in Washington DC and heard soldiers singing John Brown’ Body.  . The hymn was published in 1862 and quickly became one of the most popular songs of the Unionist campaign during the American Civil War.
Ward Howe continued to campaign for social justice, peace and women’s rights throughout her long life. Her marriage was an unhappy one, and this may have been a factor in inspiring her to give a voice to women and other oppressed groups which still resonates today.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
While God is marching on.

  • ·         What does this hymn tell us about what real peace and victory might look like? 

A beautifully performed version of the hymn by the United States Army Field Band

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