by Paul and Bev Patterson
THERE ARE TWO aspects of every hymn, melody and lyrics. This tune is originally from an old Scottish folk song, but the lyrics come from Eleanor Farjeon. In 1931 Eleanor was asked to write a song to be part of a praise book. She was part of a literary group and didn’t just want a vacuous praise song, but praise that came out of the depths. So she started reading the book of Lamentations. These lyrics come out of the despair of lament, but also the assurance that “Because of the Lord’s great love we’re not consumed for his compassions never fail and they’re new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” She wrote her lyrics for the Scottish folk melody. Then in 1972 Yusuf (a.k.a. Cat Stevens) popularized this hymn with his folk version. What brought it to my (Paul’s) mind was that in the midst of going against the things that are despairing in life there is this constant refrain, this baseline of creation that always brings us back to the hope that is in God. But despair and hope are not distant from one another; they are always going back and forth.