In ancient times, people believed that as the planets revolved in the universe, they made music or harmony. This is the belief Maltbie Babcock referred to in the line, “and round me rings the music of the spheres.” Though this belief has since been disproved, we know that objects in space do emit sounds. Even more amazing, the ocean is also making noises at its very lowest and darkest depths - sounds which scientists are still unable to identify. The whole universe is singing a song of its creation, revealing something to us about He who created it. But, as Albert Bailey writes, “in stanza three, the author realizes that all’s not right with the world” (The Gospel in Hymns, 553). Creation is fallen and broken. Yet, it also still belongs to God. We are thus charged to listen attentively to the voice of God in His world – from the heights of space to the depths of the ocean - and witness how He restores it, listening for our own calling to be stewards of Creation.Text
Maltbie D. Babcock wrote this poem in sixteen stanzas of four lines each. Some hymnals, such as the Presbyterian Hymnal>/i> and The Psalter Hymnal include only two verses. There are a number of variations in how the phrases are arranged. For example, The Worshiping Church uses the first four lines of verse two as the first half of verse two, and the last four of verse two as the first half of verse three. There are also a number of changes in the text. The Worshiping Church and Worship and Rejoice end verse two with, “He trusts us with his world, to keep it clean and fair – all earth and trees, all skies and seas, his hand the wonders wrought.” A number of hymnals, including the Baptist Hymnal 1991, end the third stanza with “The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heaven be one.”Tune
TERRA BEATA, Latin for “beautiful world” was originally a traditional English folk tune. It was arranged by Franklin L. Sheppard for Babcock’s text. This light and lilting tune requires bright foundation stops or instrumentation, such as guitars, recorders, flutes, or upper-register piano. Watch out for weightiness – keep the tempo moving and the instrumentation light. Fernando Ortega has a very simple and beautiful piano-led version of the hymn.
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