Monday, January 21, 2013

A Short History of the Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
 
I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.
 
I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.
 
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
 
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.
 
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
 
For those of you who didn't know, these are the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by Julia W. Howe in 1861, during the Civil War.
 
I listened to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing these lyrics today and was very moved by them. Although I'd heard this song probably hundreds of times, for some reason, I understood what this song was really about today and it inspired me to find out more about it. I looked at several websites and I found that Wikipedia said it best:  "The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of time (New Testament) with the American Civil War. Since that time it has become an extremely popular and well-known American patriotic song."
 
I have always tried to research different periods throughout our world's history, since the time of Christ, in which societies thought things were so bad that Christ would be coming any day for His judgment. It's a hard subject to research because during any time of extreme strife, upheaval, suffering, and needless dying, people tend to assume that things must be so bad, Christ just has to be coming. Just think about how many periods throughout history must have lended to that thought process: The Bubonic Plague, the Holocaust, the Crusades, I mean, there are so many of these examples I couldn't even mention them in one post. In recent history, I would think the Civil War was one of these times.
 
I know we tend to think our society is so bad right now, especially with recent incidences in the news, that we just know Christ is coming any day. But I think that times have been bad before in the last 2,000 years, and times will be bad again. Only God knows the time when He will send back Jesus, we just have to trust and live within His plan and not worry about it, because everyone in this world who believes in Jesus has thought it would happen in their lifetime.
 
What's intresting to me, however, is that this song has been considered a "patriotic" song since it was written over 150 years ago. If you read the words, there is nothing remotely patriotic or American about it. It is completely and totally religious in nature, and in fact, Christian in nature. Why is this considered a patriotic song?
 
Originally, this song's tune was from a song called the "John Brown Song." This song wasn't nearly as nice, in fact it was racist and derogatory, and the Union soldiers would sing many versions of this this song, including the words "glory glory hallelujah" when they were making fun of another soldier. You can look up the original words and read more about this song here. Ms. Howe was asked to redo the lyrics and said that these words came to her one morning and she just had to write them down. The song lyrics were published in The Atlanta Monthly in 1862 and the rest is history.

This song is just gorgeously written and the words just get you right in the heart! God uses so many situations for His plans. You can't help but hear it and get goosebumps.

I wondered, today, as I heard it and listened to the words, how this song, about the coming of Jesus Christ, can be sung at our President's inauguration, but we can't use the phrase "Merry Christmas," in order to not offend other religions. I wonder how we can sing the lyrics "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" and not have prayers in school. I think about how the words "as He died to make men holy, let us live to make them free" doesn't resonate when we are limiting freedoms left and right in our country. It's kind of incredibly hypocritical, isn't it? And it really makes you realize how much we are taking religion out of our country, when you see the types of songs that were song and incredibly popular, throughout our country's history.

Here is the performance from this morning, Gorgeous!

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

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