Birds in Hymns – How Great Thou Art

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. (Psalms 145:3)

Author: Carl Boberg, 1859-1940
Tr. By Stuart K. Hine, 1899-
Musician: Swedish Melody
Arr. By Stuart K. Hine, 1899-

(by Sean Fielder)

How Great Thou Art

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) by J Fenton

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) by J Fenton

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed,

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin;

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

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HYMN HISTORY:

Northern Parula (Parula americana) by Reinier Munguia

Northern Parula (Parula americana) by Reinier Munguia

Boberg wrote the poem “O Store Gud” (O Great God) in 1885 with nine verses.

The inspiration for the poem came when Boberg was walking home from church near Kronobäck, Sweden, and listening to church bells. A sudden awe-inspiring storm gripped Boberg’s attention, and then just as suddenly as it had made its violent entrance, it subsided to a peaceful calm which Boberg observed over Mönsterås Bay. According to J. Irving Erickson:

Carl Boberg and some friends were returning home to Mönsterås from Kronobäck, where they had participated in an afternoon service. Nature was at its peak that radiant afternoon. Presently a thundercloud appeared on the horizon, and soon sharp lightning flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. The thunder pealed in loud claps. Then rain came in cool fresh showers. In a little while the storm was over, and a rainbow appeared.

When Boberg arrived home, he opened the window and saw the bay of Mönsterås like a mirror before him… From the woods on the other side of the bay, he heard the song of a thrush…the church bells were tolling in the quiet evening. It was this series of sights, sounds, and experiences that inspired the writing of the song.[7]

According to Boberg’s great-nephew, Bud Boberg, “My dad’s story of its origin was that it was a paraphrase of Psalm 8 and was used in the ‘underground church’ in Sweden in the late 1800s when the Baptists and Mission Friends were persecuted.”  The author, Carl Boberg himself gave the following information about the inspiration behind his poem:

“It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared.

“When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of ‘When eternity’s clock calling my saved soul to its Sabbath rest.’ That evening, I wrote the song, ‘O Store Gud.'”

[edit] Publication

Boberg first published “O Store Gud” in the Mönsterås Tidningen (Mönsterås News) on 1886 March 13.

The poem became matched to an old Swedish folk tune. and sung in public for the first known occasion in a church in the Swedish province of Värmland in 1888. Eight verses appeared with the music in the 1890 Sions Harpan.

In 1890 Boberg became the editor of Sanningsvittnet (The Witness for the Truth). The words and music were published for the first time in the 16 April 1891 edition of Sanningsvittnet. Instrumentation for both piano and guitar was provided by Adolph Edgren (born 1858; died 1921 in Washington D.C.), a music teacher and organist, who later migrated to the United States.

Boberg later sold the rights to the Svenska Missionsförbundet (Mission Covenant Church of Sweden). In 1891 all nine verses were published in the 1891 Covenant songbook, Sanningsvittnet.  These versions were all in 3/4 time. In 1894 the Svenska Missionsförbundet sångbok  published “O Store Gud” in 4/4 time as it has been sung ever since (cf. Time signature).
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Wikipedia – How Great Thou Art – History
SermonAudio – How Great Thou Art – Audio

See ~ Wordless Birds

More ~ Birds in Hymns

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