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All Creatures of our God and King

St. Francis of Assisi Cross

'All Creatures of our God and King' is the 19th century English version of St. Francis of Assisi's Laudes Creaturarum, one of the earliest known canticles written in Italian.

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All Creatures of our God and King

Francis of Assisi (1181/2 – 1226)
'Francis of Assisi' by Jusepe de Ribera
(Click to enlarge)

The 19th century English version of Laudes Creaturarum is by the Rector of Adel, Yorkshire, Rev. William Henry Draper (1855-1933), written for a local children's Sunday school party.

The excuse for having the party, if ever an excuse is needed, was the Feast of the Pentecost. Pentecost comes from the Greek 'fiftieth' and the event celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus, 50 days following the Resurrection. After the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they began their mission to preach about Jesus and consequently Pentecost is recognised as the birth of the Christian Church.

By the Middle Ages, Pentecost became a popular day for baptisms and white clothing was usually worn because of its association with purity. This quite possibly led to the day's reference as 'White Day' or 'White Sunday', and from this came the terms 'Whit Sunday' and 'Whitsuntide'.

Another explanation of the etymology of 'whit' is from the late 14th century writings of the Augustinian clergyman John Mirk of Lilleshall Abbey, near Telford, Shropshire, who said that the descent of the Holy Spirit brought wit and wisdom to Christ's disciples.

From a spiritual perspective, Whit Sunday is for sure a time of joy and optimism, and since it also happens to be late spring, church Sunday school parties and picnics are a firm European tradition.

In Leeds, at the turn of the 20th century, seven weeks after children had devoured their Easter Eggs, they enjoyed a fun time together with a jam butty picnic; a sort of Christian version of the Pagan May Day celebrations. There might well also have been jolly P.E. activities (imagine a Victorian aerobics class) because even though the weather starts to turn a bit milder in May, many children in the North of England would still wear their gansies.

Also in the programme would be rousing singing, accompanied by whatever musical instruments could be found. It was at this time that 'All Creatures of our God and King' was first sung. It includes a few obligatory Middle English ecclesiastical words such as 'ye', 'thee' and 'thou', yet is more up-beat than St. Francis's Laudes Creaturarum, and easier for children to sing than Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

The translation to English was later revised to be gender-neutral, a topic that has raised passions in recent years, as though there were not more pressing issues in the world. Most Christians, however, probably couldn't care less whether the lyrics are:

O brother sun with golden beam
O sister moon with silver glean

or

Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam

...their hearts and minds are on praising Him. Nothing else. So here are both versions; the orginal followed by the current.

On the original translation the last verse was added a century ago from a similar hymn, Old Hundredth, as it used to be called.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
O Brother Sun with golden beam,
O Sister Moon with silver gleam

Refrain

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


O Brother Wind, air, clouds and rain
By which all creatures Ye sustain,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice!
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Refrain

O Sister Water, flowing clear.
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
O Brother Fire, who lights the night,
Providing warmth, enhancing sight.

Refrain

Dear Mother Earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

Refrain

All ye who are of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part.
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
As Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Refrain

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The present melody, Sine Nomine, was composed by Ralph Vaughn Williams around the turn of 20th century.

All Creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Refrain

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Refrain

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Refrain

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

Refrain

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

Refrain

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Refrain

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Refrain


score

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Listen to the melody

'White Day' in Japan is always March 14th, when traditionally boys give a romantic gift to girls. It is similar to Valentine's Day but in Japan, only girls give gifts to boys on Valentine's day.

The 'tradition' was invented by a confectionary company selling white chocolate in the 1970's and the custom has spread to Korea, Taiwan and some major cities in China.

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