Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Now shall my inward joys arise
And burst forth to a song!
A mighty love inspires my heart,
And pleasure tunes my tongue

God on His thirsty Zion hill
Some mercy-drops hath sown;
A solemn oath hath bound His love
To shower salvation down

Why do we then indulge our fears,
Suspicions, and complaints?
Is He a God? And does His grace
Grow weary of His saints?

Can a kind woman e'er forget
The infant of her womb?
Among a thousand tender thoughts
Her suckling hath no room?

Yet saith the Lord, "Should nature change,
And mothers, monsters prove,
Zion still dwells upon the Heart
Of everlasting love

"Deep on the palms of both My hands
I have engraved her name;
My hand shall raise her ruin'd walls
And build her broken frame."

-- "Africa", in The New England Psalm Singer by William Billings


[According to Wikipedia, the tune "Africa" is by William Billings, but the lyrics are by Isaac Watts; I've always heard it referred to by Billings' hymn tune. The spelling and punctuation here are my own, from many, many playings of The King's Clerkes' album A Land of Pure Delight.

A very different rendition is this group of Sacred Harp singers belting it out at a Minnesota convention. The first stanza is the sol-fa vocalization -- standard practice for shaped-note sings --, so the understandable lyrics start on the first repeat. Listening to this spirited a capella version, I can very easily picture the church meetings of my ancestors, Rev. Henry Young in South Carolina and Rev. Isaac Miles in North Carolina, in the early 1800's.]

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