The Pain of Trying to Add to Perfection


In 1907, Henry Van Dyke wrote a poem. He intended the poem to be sung to the tune of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony – Ode to Joy. Ever since, the strains of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” have been sweetly and beneficially sung by congregations and individuals around the world. Its official title is: “the Hymn of Joy.” And that it is.

Those of us brought up on those lyrics hold them dearly as they so wonderfully express a heart contemplating the wonderful being and character of our Triune God, Creator and Savior.

That said, I began several years ago, attempting to bring the lyrics of some of the great hymns of The Faith into more contemporary parlance. My purpose (as suggested to me by my wife) was merely to assist a new generation – many of whom struggle with older English usage – even the likes  of “Thee, Thou,” – as well some of the poetic expressions. They are not as immediately accessible to some – and seldom are those oh so sweet turns of phrase well explained to the uninitiated.

Hence, a few humble attempts by my hand. Trying to convey the original thoughts, without utterly discarding the music of the original language, and yet hoping to make the thoughts more readily available to those who’ve not had the benefit of being raised on them.

What appears below is one more flawed attempt. But one I trust will be of value to some. Bringing Van Dyke’s “The Hymn of Joy” to a new generation.

I. Joyful, joyful, we adore You,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts when warmed responding to you

Turn to see the Son above

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,

Drive the our darkest doubts away;

You Who give eternal gladness,

Fill us with Christ’s light today

II. All your works with joy surround You,

Earth and Heaven reflect your rays,

Stars and angels sing around You,

Center of our highest praise.

Fields and forests, valleys and mountains,

Beautiful meadows, flashing seas,

Singing birds and river fountains

All sing of your majesty

III. You are giving and forgiving,

Always blessing, always blessed,

Source of all the joy of living,

Boundless sea of happy rest!

God our Father, Christ our brother,

All who abide in You are mine,

Teach us how to love each other,

Sharing in your joy divine

IV. Come and join the happy chorus

Angels long ago began;

God the Father loving, saving,

Sent in love the Son of Man.

Always singing, marching to Heaven

Spirit empowered to conquer strife,

Joyful music leads us homeward

By the power of Christ – our life.

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