G. K. Chesterton, by Ernest Herbert Mills, 1909
Posting Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Lie to Me” last night brought to mind the hymn lyrics from G. K. Chesterton’s “O God of Earth and Altar”on which my generation was raised in the church of my childhood. In times like this, I return to it often for solace and strength.
O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide;
Take not Thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation of honor and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 14, 2018.
The lyrics of G. K. Chesterton are set to the Welsh tune Llangloffan in this YouTube from Lincoln, Nebraska. God help us all in the first year of A.T. 1 (Anno Trump) when we are face with the threat that “the walls of gold [will] entomb us”.
While the world holds its breath after the attacks in Paris, we’ve searched for hymns that express in music a word worth hearing.
“O God of Earth and Altar” expresses a sense of prayerful resilience and supplication.The lyrics, written by G.K. Chesterton in 1906, were revised, in part, by Jane Parker Huber to address global terrorism:
“From all that terror teaches, From lies of pen and voice, From all the easy speeches That make our hearts rejoice, From sale and profanation of honor and the sword, from sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord.”
Already U.S. governors have made “easy speeches” about not accepting any Syrian refugees in their states, although it is not within their jurisdiction to decide. And, while we pray, the arms industry is preying on war’s alarms to increase production, sales and profits in the name of our safety and security.
Here’s “O God of Earth and Altar” sung to Chesterton’s original lyrics.