morning_poppies.jpg Remembrance Day coincides with this week’s hymn selection for my ongoing series, “Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth.” The choice was easy, almost a foregone conclusion: O God, Our Help in Ages Past. I am, however, happy about the conclusion and very glad to be able to feature it today. The “Father of English Hymnody” Isaac Watts composed this hymn in 1719 with words from Psalm 90 and music by William Croft (“Ste. Anne”, 1708)… a tune that has been borrowed from by both Handel and Bach.

I recall singing this only once or twice in church, perhaps… my strongest memories of this hymn are from school assemblies on Remembrance Day, when someone would recite a poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian soldier. I recall being oddly fond of this hymn, peace and assurance rising in my soul when we sang it, and I regretted that it was sung barely more than once per year. The hymn is typically shortened to just a few of its nine stanzas.

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

I’ve talked about it a little in the past, but I personally have a difficult time with war. My own proclivities as regards war were not always but have become that of the pacifist, or at least moderately so, for there are some causes for war which I can support. I still have a partially-composed post on this from 2004, but I normally refrain from discussing the matter during this season, and I’ve simply never finished it. This for me is instead a time to remember our soldiers, most of whom as Canadians fought for a cause even higher than our own freedom… the freedom of others. On this day, my wife and I tend to remember “Uncle Bill” and I try to point my readers to my post in his memory.

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