O Solitude!


We had some nasty driving on our way back from Unadilla yesterday. Roads were snow covered and slippery almost all the way to Grand Rapids. It added an hour to our travel time and fatigued the driver (me).


Today is my Mom’s 89th birthday. We have made arrangements to have lunch with her at her nursing home. We stopped at Miejer last night and picked up some treats for everyone in her lunch room (Mom paid for this).

While I was at my brother’s house, both he and Eileen thought I was working too much. Eileen saw me writing and studying and commented it looked like I was working. It actually was what I do almost every morning. Mark saw me preparing some choral elaborations (using his midi keyboard) and thought it looked like work. Eileen said that she thought the choral elaborations were play, but the study work. Maybe Mark would have seen the other way, eh?

While working on the choral elaborations, I was puzzled by one of the hymns, “Awake, arise, lift up your voice” (Hymnal 1982, #212). What caught my eye was this stanza:

O Dead arise! O Friendless stand
by seraphim adored!
O Solitude again command
your host from heaven restored!

O Solitude? Wow. Addressing the deity of the Judeo-Christian tradition (which is actually has more than one personality and I don’t mean the Trinity thing) as Solitude (capital S) sent me scurrying this morning to do a bit of research.

The hymn was drawn from Christopher Smart’s 32 stanzas of poetry in his poem/hymn, “Hymn XI Easter Day.” It was first used as a congregational hymn in Songs of Praise (1925). There it has six stanzas. The hymn in Hymnal 1982 has 5.

I looked over the poem and its two hymnal versions this morning. F. Bland Tucker adapted the text for the Hymnal 1982. He did a good job. He omitted 2 of the Songs of Praise choices and added a new one that clarified the section that caught my imagination.

Both hymnal versions add weird punctuation that affects the meaning. Capitalizing much more (including Solitude) than the original and in the case of the Hymnal 1982 adding exclamation points.

For some reason, even though I have doubts about the existence of God, it was comforting to me to see her/him identified as “Solitude.” Solitude is definitely something I treasure and seek out. It is an antidote for many things including popular culture. I seem to be losing more and more interested in the latter.

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