“Jerusalem the Golden”
After that everyone stood up. They all opened their mouths and tried to sing ‘Jerusalem, the Golden.’ Not many of them knew the words or the tune… — On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 24, “Going to Church”
When Mrs. Tower has the girls stand and sing “Jerusalem, the Golden,” (no song title is given in the surviving manuscript for On the Banks of Plum Creek) not many knew the words or music. “Miserable squiggles went up Laura’s backbone and the insides of her ears crinkled.” Ma commented later that hymnbooks were used “nowadays,” and it seems that the Walnut Grove Congregational Church may have gotten them before the Ingalls family left for Dakota Territory. In letters, Laura Ingalls Wilder referred to Pure Gold for the Sunday School as the hymnal Ma brought from Walnut Grove. By the time the Hard Winter was over, the Ingalls family apparently had memorized the songs in this hymnal, and Wilder used a number of favorites in the De Smet Little House books.
“Jerusalem, the Golden” was written by Bernard of Morlaix at the Abbey of Cluny (at Bretagne, France) during the 12th century. It was translated from the Latin by John Neale in 1858. John Mason Neale (1818-1866) was born in London, the son of a clergyman. Neale became a High Clergyman, and he was instrumental in the restoration of many churches in England. Neale adapted and translated many ancient and medieval works throughout his life. He and his collaborators produced over 400 hymns and carols.
The music of “Jerusalem, the Golden” is “Ewing,” composed by Alexander Ewing in 1853. Ewing (1830-1895) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and was a decorated army officer who also studied law. Music was his passion. He composed “Ewing” while a member of the Harmonic Choir in Aberdeen.
1. Jerusalem, the golden! With milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, -oh, I know not, what joys await me there,
What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.
2. They stand, those halls of Zion, all jubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel, and all the martyr throng.
The Prince is ever in them, the daylight is serene.
The pastures of the blessed are decked in glorious sheen.
3. There is the throne of David, and there from toil released,
The shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast.
And they who with their Leader have conquered in the fight,
For ever and for ever are clad in robes of white.
4. Oh, sweet and blessed country, the home of God’s elect!
Oh, sweet and blessed country, that eager hearts expect!
Jesus, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest;
Who art, with God the Father, And Spirit ever blest.
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“Jerusalem the Golden” (BPC 24)