Alan Carroll: This is My Song

In 1899 , the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, wrote a symphonic tone poem, “Finlandia.” The second half of this tone poem was a choral hymn, which was a celebration of Finnish patriotism, because Finland had just nearly freed herself from oppressive rule by their large neighbor, Russia. A YouTube video that includes beautiful images of Finland and a recording of “Finlandia” as played by the Helsinki Philharmonic and sung by the Polytech Male Choir can be found in the references.[i] The two stanzas as translated to English are all about the glories of Finland and the great victory won.

 

O Finland, behold, your day is dawning

The threat of night has been banished away

And the lark of morning in the brightness sings

As though the very firmament would sing

The powers of the night are even finished

by the morning light

 

O, rise Finland, rise up high

Your head wreathed with great memories

O rise, Finland, you showed to the world

That you drove away the slavery

And that you did not bend under oppression

your day has come, O land of my birth.

 

The music is both soaring and poignant. As a result this music has been used for about ten different hymns, songs, and even national anthems. [ii] A majority are hymns with a definite Christian emphasis. The lyrics below for “This is My Song” are much more universal. A twenty-two-year old poet, Lloyd Stone in 1934, wrote the first two stanzas. The third stanza was composed in 1939 by a woman, Georgia Harkness (1891- 1974), who was a trailblazing Methodist theologian. [iii]1. This is my song, O God of all the nations,

  1. 1. This is my song, O God of all the nations,
    A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
    This is my home, the country where my heart is;
    Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
    But other hearts in other lands are beating,
    With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
    2. My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
    And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
    But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
    And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
    O hear my song, O God of all the nations,
    A song of peace for their land and for mine.3. This is my prayer, O Ruler of all nations:
    let thy reign come; on earth thy will be done.
    In peace may all earth’s people draw together
    And hearts united learn to live as one.
    O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
    Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

 

The lyrics written for Sibelius’ tone poem capture the pride that Finns had in their native land, and their ability to throw off the slavery and oppression of Russian rule. It is stirring, and is used to this day as a Finnish national song. But it is only focused on their homeland. In this world we need to realize that other folks in other lands are just as proud of their homelands. So lyrics in the hymn, “This is my song”, tell of the intense love of country, but reflect on the same love that others have for their own nations. Musically, the simple but four-note poignant phrase that begins the third and fifth lines in the first stanza illustrates this feeling best.[iv]

This is my song - Sibelius 1.jpeg

 

in lines three and four the verse states:

This is my home, the country where my heart is.

here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;”

but In lines five and six the song replies:

But other hearts in other lands are beating

with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”

 

These lines warn us against the Islamic sins of Istikbar (arrogance) and hasad (jealousy).[v]   The feeling of superiority of a religion leads to aggressive behavior. The antidote to jealousy is social interaction, which fosters a sense of interdependence, thereby reducing violence among individuals. The antidote to both of these sins is friendship across international borders. Through international friendship we learn that all people that we meet are citizens of God’s world. Then, as sung in stanza three, through prayer and reverence, no matter what our religious tradition, we can move toward a more peaceful and understanding planet.

 

                                   —-References—-

[i] Jean Sibelius, Finlandia, as performed by Polytech Male Choir and the Helsinki Philharmonic, Gilda Tabarez, ed., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lCnguTtsSQ

[ii] “Finlandia Hymn”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finlandia_Hymn, accessed April 14, 2016.

[iii] Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness, “This is my Song,” Chalice Hymnal          (St Louis: Chalice Press 1995), Hymn No. 722.

[iv] “This is my Song”, sung by the Harvard University Choir

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lCnguTtsSQ

[v] Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 108.