Now the Green Blade Rises

During this time whilst we can’t sing together in worship we are aiming to post a different hymn each week.  For some Sundays it will be the obvious hymn in Common Praise for a particular Sunday and a brief commentary – partly with reference to The Penguin Book of Hymns edited by Ian Bradley – will be published with our hymn choice for the week.  The words of the hymn will be provided alongside a recording of the hymn, courtesy of Lucy Colbourne at home whilst Lancaster University is in lockdown.  This will have been recorded by Billy Colbourne (Assistant Organist) and includes use of his Hauptwerk organ also at home, with the sounds of Salisbury Cathedral’s organ.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

Now the Green Blade Rises

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid him, Love whom we had slain,
thinking that he never would awake again,
laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
he that for the three days in the grave had lain,
quick from the dead our risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
then your touch can call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

J. M. C. Crum

Tune: Noel Nouvelet
Old French Melody
arr. Alan Bullard

CCLI - 1073121

 

                                                                              

Hymn Commentary 

Before we look at the words of Now the Green Blade Rises and its author, my first comment relates to the tune.  Known as Noel Nouvelet, the tune’s title is translated as “Christmas new” and its initial fame comes from it being a French Christmas carol.  Probably originating from the 15th century, the composer is unknown and the melody contains much of the medieval folk spirit; indeed, I wonder if it might have even started life as a secular tune.  So this multi-purpose tune has had several lives and, in this country, it was first published as a Christmas Carol with the title "Sing We Now of Christmas".

As a tune, it must have appealed!  Research hasn’t revealed whether the hymn’s author, John Macleod Campbell Crum (1872-1958), had this tune in mind when he wrote the words.  However, it’s nice to think that a tune originally famed with telling the story of Christ’s birth is now equally known as a tune that speaks of re-birth in a hymn that likens Christ’s resurrection to ‘wheat that springs up green’.  John Crum was born in Che­shire and died in Farn­ham, Sur­rey.  He was a graduate of New Coll­ege, Ox­ford and or­dained as a dea­con in 1897, becoming a priest in 1900.  He wrote children’s books and, as an extension of this, he captured the imagination in his hymns.  For those in the northern hemisphere who live in areas where springtime usually coincides with Easter, the image of new growth speaks loud and clear - I recall that I suggested you sang last week’s hymn loud and very loud but your neighbours may be pleased to know that Now the Green Blade Rises is better sung lightly and with the same brightness that should surround all Easter hymns.

In this four-verse hymn the rising of Jesus is highlighted straight away in the first line: ‘Now the green blade rises’.  And, for three verses, the basics of the Easter story are brought to life.  The word ‘Love’ is used as a metaphor for Christ and is sung six times during the hymn, but notably at the end of each verse: ‘Love is come again’.  Also notice in verse two ‘Love whom we had slain’, we having previously sung ‘love lives again’ in verse one…perhaps the wrong way round.  Then we move to verse four and our own struggles; but there is an immediate response in the second line: ‘Then your touch can call us back to life again."   In Thine be the Glory last week we were invited to share in the celebration of the resurrection; this week we are encouraged to let our lives benefit from it too.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

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