Let All The World In Every Corner Sing

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Antiphon (1)

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
My God and King.

Vers. The heav’ns are not too high,
His praise may thither fly:
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.

Cho. Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
My God and King.

Vers. The church with psalms must shout,
No door can keep them out:
But above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.

Cho. Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
My God and King.

George Herbert could write very simple and effective praise, and this is an example of it. He sets it up as a call and response between a choir and a cantor, the choir singing the chorus and the cantor (or perhaps a second choir) singing the verses. Its title is Antiphon, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary comes from the Greek τὰ ἀντίϕωνα and means “things sounding in response”.

It has been set to music several times. As a hymn it is most commonly sung to the tune Luckington by the English organist and choirmaster Basil Harwood. This is it:

It was also set to music by Ralph Vaughn Williams. Vaughn Williams set five of Herbert’s poems to music in Five Mystical Songs, first performed in 1911. Antiphon (1) is the last of the five; this is that version:

The first stanza, building on the chorus, expresses the expansive nature of the praise of God. All are invited – nay, commanded – to sing praises to the Creator. Heaven is not too high and earth is not too low. The church is bursting with praise. I am not at all clear about what “the longest part” is that the heart must bear, but I suspect it simply means that the heart gets the longest and most difficult part of the chorus (remember, in The Altar the altar is built of a broken heart, and in in Prayer (1) the heart is on a pilgrimage, which is never too easy).

About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Canadian. Husband. Father. Christian. Recovering Settler. A priest of the Church of England, Diocese in Europe, on the island of Crete in Greece.
This entry was posted in Lent, Music, Poetry and Novels and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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