Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Glimmerglass, again--

Credit: go here
I have been commissioned twice to write lyrics for a hymn. One of those hymns was for the bicentennial of Christ Church Cooperstown, the little country church that novelist James Fenimore Cooper turned into an intricate Gothic church on his return from Europe.

To my surprise, the congregation has sung the hymn every year since on the Sunday nearest to the anniversary of the church's consecration. The hymn tune was changed to Crimond a year or so ago, and that choice has worked much better than the first one.

So the bicentennial hymn was sung this very morning at Christ Church. And I learned today that the choir at a church in Florida has been singing it was well--although it is very specific to Cooperstown in its title and lake, I suppose it must fit elsewhere as well.

Judge William Cooper (James Fenimore Cooper's father) obtained a land grant in 1785; the first Anglican sermon was preached in Cooperstown in 1797. Work on the current church began in 1807, and consecration of the church was July 8, 1810.

If you want to read more about the making of the hymn or about some of the strong links between the church and U. S. literary history, go here, where I first wrote about the hymn.

  Glimmerglass: A Bicentennial Hymn

 In ice, remember rampant green
   And dawns that seared the night;
Within the winter of the year
   Recall midsummer's light.

 All things are passing like a mist
   That rises from the lake
And floats, dissolving into sun
   As heat and hue awake. 

In Eden, they knew face to face
   While we through smoky glass
Must peer--and as in sun's eclipse
   May see a brightness pass.

In time beyond recall, a pane
   Of glimmering was laid
'Twixt us and Him who knew our names
   Before the worlds were made.

The angels standing in a church
   Who watch with eyes that glow
According to the changing light
   Have seen us come and go,

And we would be quick-eyed as they,
   All night and mourning done,
Annealed in glory like a fire,
   And brightening with the Son.

6 comments:

  1. It must be marvelous to live in a place with such history, literary and otherwise. Have I said how magical the name 'Glimmerglass' is to me? And recognized with two commissions, bravo, Marly!

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  2. The village does have its charms, despite too much baseball and too many tourists. Living in the downtown area is pretty lively, even though it's a small place.

    "Glimmerglass" was Cooper's name for the lake; did I say?

    It's interesting who asks for particular work in this day and age. Churches ask for pieces. Genre anthologists ask for pieces. Every now and then a literary anthologist asks, or a magazine asks for poems. But only the church commissions are very specific. Genre anthologies often have a topic that must be used.

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  3. In case anybody else wants the answer to questions answered elsewhere: Crimond is by Jesse Seymour Irvine (1836-1887), and I think usually sung to words by F. Blank Tucker (1895-1984.) His words are a paraphrase of Psalm 23, "The Lord my God my shepherd is." The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal) p. 663.

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  4. I've probably already said so, but the hymn is lovely. It's lucky that all hymns hew to this sort of rhythm, so the tunes were fairly interchangeable.
    Wonderful honor that people at your own church and elsewhere too are singing your song!

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  5. I somehow had thought of it as a one-time thing, so it is sweet.

    Hymn meter is convenient, but the other one I wrote to an existing modern tune required a ton of tinkering. The tune was sung to me over the phone (!) but when I got the actual music I ended up revising a great deal, as it was not quite the same.

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  6. I somehow had thought of it as a one-time thing, so it is sweet.

    Hymn meter is convenient, but the other one I wrote to an existing modern tune required a ton of tinkering. The tune was sung to me over the phone (!) but when I got the actual music I ended up revising a great deal, as it was not quite the same.

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.