Sunday, 29 January 2006

Absolutely all things

Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) was the daughter of a major in the Royal Marines and wrote Hymns for Little Children, including All Things Bright and Beautiful. According to her biography, “…she died in Ireland and published a further seven volumes of poetry…”, though not, I imagine, in that order.

I always felt that most hymns of praise offer a rather one-sided view of the great creator’s achievements; after all, in crediting Him (or Her, or It) with responsibility only for rather nice things, little flowers that open and all that, they do seem to be describing a wimpish, goody-goody sort of being which couldn't possibly have created anything with a bit of zing to it like, say, Margaret Thatcher, or a plague of boils.

But Mrs Alexander was, after all, writing for Little Children, and in those days it was believed (though not by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann) that nasty things should be kept from them. We grownups now know, of course, that He (or She, or It), is no wimp, and that His (or Her, or Its) hand is just as good at hurling down thunderbolts as at sprinkling the warm refreshing rain. Some versions of hymns reflect this.

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