Hieing to Kolob’s beginnings

I’m writing about Phelps’s much-discussed hymn because a) I love that hymn, and b) I need some help. For my book on the death culture of early Mormonism, I would really like to be able to cite the original version of the hymn. Unfortunately, although everyone gestures toward a Deseret News publication in 1856, neither I nor several partners in crime has been able to find the actual original publication, not in the Phelps papers at BYU, not in the electronic archive of the DesNews, not scrounging around all the usual places. So, who’s up to the challenge? Where and in what form was “If You Could Hie to Kolob” first published?

Also feel free to argue about the meaning/relevance of the hymn as needed and/or desired.

Comments

  1. You mean earlier than the 19 November 1856 publication in the Deseret News? (I’m not sure from your note whether you couldn’t find that 1856 publication, or whether you mean you have reason to think there is an earlier one.)

  2. The link is:

    http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/deseretnews1&CISOSHOW=5857&CISOPTR=5844

    if you mean you couldn’t find it in the paper.

  3. I didn’t know that the last words used to be “Grim Death sleeps not above” as opposed to “There is no death above”; when did that change occur? I kinda like the original: it’s breaks the monotony of the “There is no end to this song” lines and Grim Death is an interesting phrase.

  4. I will freely argue that this hymn weirds me out, but in a good kind of way.

  5. Dang, you’re good Ardis. This is wonderful to read in this form.

    I heart “Grim Death sleeps not above.”

  6. ardis, you’re a rock star. thanks

  7. StillConfused says:

    I always wondered what the heck it meant. I thought it was a typo and they were talking about Hiking. The song doesn’t do it for me though. No snazziness to it.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    We had one of those musical sacrament meetings once where, when the floor was opened to the congregation to suggest hymns for us to sing, the first one to rush up there was a cute young black girl. She asked for this song, which appears to be her favorite. That was kind of surprising to me; I would have thought the song would be too obscure for a child to latch onto like that.

    That Grim Death line ought to be featured prominently in your book, Sam!

  9. #8, amen.

  10. Is “Grim Death sleeps not” really supposed to mean “There is no death”? It sounds more like the opposite — that, much like interest, the Reaper never sleeps nor sickens nor dies, never goes to the hospital, works Sundays and holidays, etc., etc.

  11. #10, he appears to be using it in terms of “lurking” and playing with the image of sleep as death.

  12. reader Rachel says:

    As a kid I loved this hymn, along with “That Easter Morn” because of the minor chords.

    I think I’ll write the “grim death” line into our family hymnals.

  13. I’ve got to say this is my favourite hymn too, although it used to be one of my least favourite in the old pre-green hymnbook (an awful tune it was, IMHO!)

    The “Grim Death sleeps not above.” final line gave me a real buzz!

    Some would say that this is not the “scripture” to throw at non-members, but I did so with great glee to a maths/science agnostic friend. He was awe-struck – Even more so when I told him when it was written! He loved it! It was even more fun when he made the whole BSG Kolob/Kobol connection!

    We sang this as a ward choir a few weeks ago, with the last verse sung a cappella, and the tenors creating a major(?) chord on the last note. By all accounts, we rocked! :)

  14. In the original, “Gods” is plural in the third verse and it is singular in ours. “The works of Gods continue”.

  15. The reason this hymn is so beloved is because of its incredible tune. It’s the music, people. Or so I would argue . . . :-)

  16. #15 Indeed, the melody is amazing. But so are the words. The first time I heard it, I connected it to comoslogy, and got goosebumps, since it poetically seemed to put feelings to what I was studying. I am sure I’m not the only one to find the lyrics astonishingly beautiful? There’s so much perspective in them, they make me forget all the trivial things that annoy in life, make me extremely grateful and happy for being alive and part of all this…

  17. Hieing to Kolob was originally “Bored in Vernal,” but she needed a new name for the blog when she moved. So now it’s “Hieing to Kolob,” but everybody still calls her BiV.

    HTH.

  18. I love the music, but am no fan of the words. In a ward with a slow chorister, there really “is no end” to this song, despite it’s great tune.

  19. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    “The song doesn’t do it for me though. No snazziness to it.”

    Thank you Still Confused. It’s a mumbling song.

    I was thinking about the words recently after a Mormon Matters post on what is endless and everlasting. That post caused me to think about the JS quote of whatever has a beginning also has an end. I was then singing this song and dwelling on each of the words associated with “no end” and wondering if they were without beginning or end. “Race” and “union” were two words that left me thinking, still thinking perhaps. Is race referring to the human race and extraterrestrial races or is it referring to race as color/ethnicity? And union, well, is this a hymn that is singing about sex? Is it singing about sealed relationships?

  20. I love this hymn. Text and words. I think some of the challenges people have come from the prejudices they bring with them to the text (of course). Certain definitions would make the words extremely problematic. But, if it is viewed as praising God and describing His work, then such challenges drop away, at least for me. For example, I love to think of race as the race of God’s children. For union, I think of the unity of the Saints that we are commanded to strive towards, of the union between the Father and the Son described in scripture, of the ultimate union we all seek with God, and of the eternal covenant of marriage and the hope of family unity. I love this hymn because it emphasizes how God’s perspective reaches beyond our own and how our hope and faith teach us that we will have part with Him in true and satisfying glory.

  21. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    As is often the case with Mormon hymns that have great music, the melody is borrowed from an older, traditional hymn, in this case Dives and Lazarus.

  22. This is a hymn of a seer. I really like the idea of “nothing finding a place.”

    As to race. There is nothing so chaotic as life. My opinion is that each planet is different and all life is different and treasured for its diversity. Thus, “there is no end to race” is morphologically the same as no end to the chaotic nature of life, no end to the infinities of its diversity, and no end to the treasure of it.

    Very seer-like.

  23. Any hymn in a minor key is great with me

  24. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    The melody is called “Gilderoy,” by the way, and is also traditionally used for this pretty secular song.

  25. For some reason, I can’t ever here this song without thinking of Battlestar Galactica. I guess that’s just what happens when you grow up in the 70s.

  26. I heart Ralph Vaughn Williams. His tune. And his orchestration of this tune sounds like a Erol Flynn soundtrack. Pirates!

    Thanks for the link Ardis.

  27. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    “Any hymn in a minor key is great with me”

    Normally I would agree, but I just don’t think it works with these lyrics. The concepts are the lyrics are heavenly and should evoke peace. The music evokes dissonance, IMO.

    “Dives and Lazarus”/”this pretty secular song”

    Thanks for the links. I see this melody with its minor key does go well with a country ballad or an irish jig, especially with the more melodic variations compared to the hymn setting.

    I’d be willing to contribute in a campaign to commission John Rutter to compose new music to go with the lyrics…

  28. I would say there is no better music in the hymnal. Although I tend to think that the melodies, chord progressions, and harmonies are the real gold there. I think I would love it even if the words were about apricot trees.

  29. The music evokes awe and mystery in my soul — perfect for contemplating the mysteries of God and the vastness of time and space and creation.

  30. merrybits says:

    The first time I heard this song was on the Single’s Ward soundtrack. Or was it the RM? Anyway, I liked it.

  31. I’ve never liked “Hieing to Kolob.” The music is amazing, of course. The hymn “Oh Sing a Song of Bethlehem” is a much better setting of this wonderful tune.

    Oh sing a song of Calvary
    Its glory and dismay.
    Of one who hung upon a tree
    And took our sins away.
    For Christ who died on Calvary
    Is risen from the grave.
    And Christ our Lord, by heaven adored
    Is mighty now to save.

    I’ve always seen the tune called “Kingsfold.”

  32. The current (Vaughn Williams) tune is based on/shared with the Irish song “Star of the County Down.” I believe earlier hymnbooks used a different tune….

  33. So Sam, are there composition scribblings somewhere? Was it a Utah composition?

    -WVS

  34. Anne (U.K) says:

    32 years’ Church membership and I have never ever been asked to sing this hymn :-)

  35. 33, I haven’t found a sketch book for hymns. he does have one for translations from Grk/Hebrew.

    I personally love this song–I feel like it celebrates our at least historical distinction and does so in a dramatic and eager way. Plus there are acrostics in the verses that give instructions relative to the Mona Lisa.

  36. @Patrick

    “Star of the County Down” nice!

    @Sam MB

    Whoa. Expound on the Mona Lisa instructions please.

  37. Hymn #284 – I love this one. When I was in seminary, it was our unofficial anthem. We all loved it, and I don’t think that any other hymn got the same play time that this one did.

  38. #36, it’s a joke about that Tom Hanks book/movie thing. the one about davinci, naked old men, and hypomelanic self-loathers. i can’t always remember its name.

  39. Actually, you can sing it to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song, too.

  40. I tried to download #248 from LDS.ORG music, but it says “no” due to a copyright. Does anyone know the reason?

  41. Oxford University Press holds the copyright for Williams arrangement. It states that in the hymn book. I just looked at it today while I was contemplating eternity during the 9 am dedicatory session of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple. Twas a pure delight. There is no end to glory, or something, worlds without end.

  42. #41: Thank you.

  43. I find it very interesting that this was published in the DN just as the Willie and Martin handcart companies were finally nearing Salt Lake and rescue parties were out looking for and helping them. Is this, perhaps, an attempt to put all that pain, suffering, and death into a cosmological context?

  44. Anne (U.K.), in my UK ward we sing this one periodically, usually when there is a musical sacrament meeting of the type mentioned by Kevin in #8. When we do this type of sacrament meeting in our ward (about twice a year), a person bears a short testimony about what the song means to them and then we typically just sing one or two verses of the song, as requested by the person who chose the song.

    By chance, we had one of those this month and a man in our ward who is a scientist chose that one and bore a short, sweet, sincere testimony to introduce it.

    The song sounds great booming from an organ during the intro and then when an enthusiastic congregation joins in, it is very nice.

    I think that Vaughn Williams’ tune is perfect for this — contemplative, wistful. It’s an added bonus that Vaughn Williams’ arrangement of the tune for his variations on an English folk theme is often played on the radio around these parts. When it comes on the radio I naturally go through the words of our LDS hymn to that tune and feel uplifted, wherever I might be or whatever I happen to be doing.

  45. Re: #31

    Here are the full lyrics to “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem” and some info about the hymn:

    http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/o/s/osingson.htm

    The tune Kingsfold comes from Vaughan Williams’ 1906 hymnal for the Church of England, much of which he based on his collection of folk tunes (which may be how the music found its way into “Star of the County Down”).

    One solution to the odd title is “If You Could Fly to Heaven” which D. Fletcher and Ariel Bybee used for their recording of the tune.

    In the end though I am with those who find this tune very fitting for the W. W. Phelps’ lyrics. It perfectly captures the longing for eternity expressed in Phelps’ words.

  46. We sang “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem” as an Easter piece in my ward a couple of years ago. We’ve never had much in the way of a choir (not enough people), but I thought it sounded lovely. We were on our second rehearsal before someone asked me where they had heard the tune before.

  47. In a bout of procrastination from what I really should be doing, I did some research and found more information than most of you probably wanted to know.

    As has been discussed, the tune is the same in many versions, such as:
    kingsfold (vaughan williams)
    The Star of the Country Down
    Dives and Lazarus

    (here’s a very nice adaptiation I stumbled upon, played and uploaded by Iain Peregrine) http://files.byondhome.com/iainperegrine/county_down.mp3

    and a few other songs both christian and secular.
    The original tune seems to be Gilderoy, a secular folk song, either of Scottish or English origin, found in print from at least 1726. Some version is known by 1663

    I did come across a link mentioning that the origin is much older than so, that the earliest example is an 11th century gregorian chant!

    http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=2457 is a discussion thread with loads of information.
    If interested, scroll down this thread to see many versions of the gilderoy text, and how it seems to have evolved- very interesting (in the long version, I can see connections between the the scottish and scandinavian languages)

    Further down, the possible gregorian chant origin is mentioned: “…’En Gaudeat’: A. Gastoue, Revue du Chant Greorien. There are no bar lines or key signature but compare it to the later ‘Congaudeat Piae Cantiones’ of 1582 and then ‘Goddesses’ from Playford 1650. One can go on via ‘True Thomas (Walter Scott), Lazarus’ (Lucy Broadwood) or ‘Geordie’ Cecil Sharpe, 1840 …”

    So I searched on Congaudeat Piae Cantiones: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Biographies/piae_cantiones.htm

    And here’s en actual music sheet (1582)
    http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Images/Piae_Cantiones/Facsimile-1400/04_Piae.jpg I know it’s probably extremely far-fetched, but the first line does look a bit similar, no? In any case, it’s an interesting collection medieval music! My old favourite In Dulci Jubile is found there as well.

  48. In a bout of procrastination, I did some research and found more information than you probably wanted to know.

    As has been discussed, the tune is the same in many versions, such as:
    kingsfold (vaughan williams)
    The Star of the Country Down
    Dives and Lazarus

    (here’s a very nice adaptiation I stumbled upon, played and uploaded by Iain Peregrine) http://files.byondhome.com/iainperegrine/county_down.mp3

    and a few other songs both christian and secular.
    The original tune seems to be Gilderoy, a secular folk song, either of scottish or English origin, found in print from at least 1726. Some version is known by 1663

    I did come across a link mentioning that the origin is much older than so, that the earliest example is an 11th century gregorian chant!

    http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=2457
    If interested, scroll down this thread to see many versions of the gilderoy text, and how it seems to have evolved- very interesting (in the long version, I can see connections between the the scottish and scandinavian languages)

    Further down, the gregorian chant possible origin is mentioned: “…’En Gaudeat’: A. Gastoue, Revue du Chant Greorien. There are no bar lines or key signature but compare it to the later ‘Congaudeat Piae Cantiones’ of 1582 and then ‘Goddesses’ from Playford 1650. One can go on via ‘True Thomas (Walter Scott), Lazarus’ (Lucy Broadwood) or ‘Geordie’ Cecil Sharpe, 1840 …”

    So I searched on Congaudeat Piae Cantiones: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Biographies/piae_cantiones.htm

    And here’s en actual music sheet (1582)
    http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Images/Piae_Cantiones/Facsimile-1400/04_Piae.jpg
    I’m not sure that is the one referred to, and if it is, the connection seemsrather far-fetched, but the first line does look a bit similar, no? In any case, it’s an interesting collection! My old favourite In Dulci Jubile is found there as well.

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