Parson to Person: “New Words to an Old Battle Hymn” May 15, 2020

At last Sunday’s virtual Mothers’ Day service, I introduced a new verse to “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” (Julia Ward Howe, who introduced America’s first Mothers Day, wrote the original words to this song at the request of her Unitarian minister.) Several of you asked for a copy of my new verse, so I thought I’d actually give you all three verses I composed. I understand that not everyone likes new words to old familiar melodies, but remember: The words to the “Battle Hymn” were themselves new words to an old Civil War Union Army song that went “John Brown’s Body Lies A-Moulderin’ in the Grave.” (Also, Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation, wrote “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” to the melody of an old German drinking song. Said Luther: “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?”)

So, for those who find the original words to “Battle Hymn” too bellicose but like the melody–and for those who like the original words but would also like a peaceful alternate version–here’s

“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” –new words by Tony Larsen:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of a world that soon may be.

I have dreamed a dream of peace and freedom for humanity.

I have heard the poor and hungry as they strive to be set free.

And Love goes marching on.

 

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! And Love goes marching on.

 

I have heard the pious platitudes, the words of love we’ve said–

And my brothers and my sisters yearning for their daily bread.

May my soul not rest within me, for my family’s not yet fed.

Our love goes marching on. (Glory, Glory, etc.)

 

I have heard the guns of battle, and I’ve watched my brothers die.

I have seen abuse of women, and I’ve heard their children cry.

And I’ve asked myself, “Who’ll change the world?” and answered “You and I!”

Our love goes marching on. (Glory, Glory, etc.)

 

So there you have it: In one hymn a little…

peace and unrest,

tony