A hymn for Trinity Sunday

This Sunday’s first reading in the Ordinary Form was recast into a hymn by the outstanding but troubled poet William Cowper.
Hymns that quote Scripture at length are rather difficult to write, which makes the fluency of this one all the more remarkable. Writing a hymn free-style, without predetermined content, is much easier, especially in a rhyme-poor language like English.
Like any art, hymn writing, apart from inspiration and prayer, is a series of problems to be solved. When working on a hymn from one’s own meditations and imagination, a rhyme problem that is not easily solved can simply be abandoned, and a new idea, with new potential rhymes, can be substituted. Like an organist moving forward through an improvisation, one can choose to take possible roads, rather than highly difficult ones. There are so many beautiful things that can be said about the faith, that good hymns are possible to write even if the initial trajectory has to be abandoned.
It is different in cases of lengthy quotes from Scripture, or translations from the Latin. One has to stay on the subject that is given rather than moving on to a new aspect of the divine plan. The American Anglican F. Bland Tucker, one of the editors of both the 1940 and 1982 Episcopal hymnals, was outstanding at paraphrase. He is well-known among Catholics for his Father, We Thank Thee Who Hast Planted, which paraphrases the anaphora recorded in the Didache. Perhaps even finer is his incorporation of the Hymn to the Philippians (Phil 2: 6:10) into his majestic All Praise to Thee, for Thou O King Divine.
Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) was a parishioner of John Newton’s, and a top-drawer poet of both sacred and secular works. To help him through his serious psychological struggles and scruples, Newton engaged Cowper to write hymns, and the two collaborated on the celebrated Olney Hymns, which include Newton’s Amazing Grace and Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken, as well as Cowper’s God Moves in a Mysterious Way and the following, which may be sung to the tune AURELIA (The Church’s One Foundation).
Wisdom by William Cowper
(Proverbs, viii. 22-31)

“Ere God had built the mountains,
Or raised the fruitful hills;
Before he fill’d the fountains
That feed the running rills;
In me from everlasting,
The wonderful I am,
Found pleasures never wasting,
And Wisdom is my name.

“When, like a tent to dwell in,
He spread the skies abroad,
And swathed about the swelling
Of Ocean’s mighty flood;
He wrought by weight and measure,
And I was with Him then:
Myself the Father’s pleasure,
And mine, the sons of men.”

Thus Wisdom’s words discover
Thy glory and Thy grace,
Thou everlasting lover
Of our unworthy race!
Thy gracious eye survey’d us
Ere stars were seen above;
In wisdom thou hast made us,
And died for us in love.

And couldst thou be delighted
With creatures such as we,
Who, when we saw Thee, slighted,
And nail’d Thee to a tree?
Unfathomable wonder,
And mystery divine!
The voice that speaks in thunder,
Says, “Sinner, I am thine!”

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