“Hills of the North, Rejoice” is from the group of songs exhorting bits of the landscape to celebrate. It begins with
“Hills of the north, rejoice;
River and mountain-spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing:”
There’s a lot of this in the Bible, and it’s popular at Advent, when not only hills and trees and rocks and streams are expected to rejoice, but gates are supposed to lift up their heads. I like this motif, myself. I think the idea of trees clapping their hands and rivers laughing and singing is lovely. It would be unnerving to see, I admit, but still very cool.
We don’t sing this song much any more, though it has a haunting melody and some cool words. It is one of the old “missionary hymns” which can sound disrespectful to us now.
Isles of the southern seas,
Deep in your coral caves
Pent be each warring breeze,
Lulled be your restless waves:
He comes to reign with boundless sway,
And makes your wastes His great highway.
Lands of the East, awake,
Soon shall your sons be free;
The sleep of ages break,
And rise to liberty.
On your far hills, long cold and gray,
Has dawned the everlasting day.
We start out with the north, then move on to the south with its wastes, the east where apparently they’ve been pretty miserable, and then to the “utmost west,” which is described as “unvisited, unblest.” It’s hard not to think of these hymns as expressing some low opinion of other nations. Still, we get the coral caves. If you can’t sing something like this with charitable thoughts about the unenlightened time when it was written, there are new words. A writer after my own heart has some things to say about swapping bad poetry for good, but there are things to be said for accessibility. Or you could sing in in Latin translation,
The last verse goes like this:
“Sing, while you journey home;
Songs be in every mouth;
Lo, from the north we come,
From east and west and south.
City of God, the bond are free,
We come to live and reign in thee!”
This was written by Charles Oakley, a lawyer and country vicar in Gloucestershire at the turn of the last century. YouTube has a wordless version with nice slides, and a guitar instrumental. You can hear the words on LastFM, but there aren’t many recordings of this song. You’ll have to sing it yourself.
Today is, for me, a marathon knitting day as I strive to finish #2 son’s sweater in time for Christmas. I have work to do, but I am not going to do it. I’m going to sit on the sofa watching Netflix instant watch and knitting sleeves.