Monday, November 02, 2009

The Love of God

The closing song at church yesterday was a hymn I'd never heard before and I fumbled through it, trying to pick it up as I went along, but not really paying attention to its lyrics. When the final stanza appeared on the screen, however, I stopped singing altogether and just stared at the words. When the service was over, I scoured my purse for a pen and paper and ran up to the music leader.

"I need to see that song again," I demanded. "I need to write down that last verse."

The song is titled "The Love of God" and the words were penned by Frederick M. Lehman in 1917. Upon further research, though, I discovered that the last verse, the one that I loved so much, has a much longer history. It started out as a poem called "Haddamut," written in the mid 11th century in Aramaic by Meir Ben Isaac Ne­hor­ai. Fast forward nine centuries and an adaptation of this same poem was found scrawled on the wall of a cell in an insane asylum, after the room's occupant had died. It caught the attention of Frederick Lehman and he wrote two other verses and a chorus to go with it. He left this second version of the poem intact, realizing that this man, declared insane, must have had at least some moments of perfect clarity.

Here is the final verse of "The Love of God."

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho' stretched from sky to sky

3 comments:

Amber said...

That is beautiful.

Cindee said...

I've loved that song since I was a child but I've never known the history behind it. Thanks so much for sharing it!!!!

Carol-Ann. said...

Hmmm... great old hymn for sure! Mom and Dad picked it for the soloist to sing at their wedding ... 63 years ago. They didn't carefully check all verses and were a bit dumbfounded when she belted out: "The guilty pair bowed down with care"!