A Gift to be Simple

I seem to be sharing a lot of poetry at the moment. Thanks to the “Singalong” on BBC Radio 3 Breakfast I have been reintroduced to this Shaker song. The Beeb’s version this morning, sung a capella and without harmony by a Shaker congregation, is a wonder. Here are the words.

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Til by turning, turning, we come round right.

‘Tis the gift to be gentle, ’tis the gift to be fair,
‘Tis the gift to wake and breathe the morning air;
And ev’ry day to walk in the path we choose,
‘Tis the gift that we pray we may ne’er come to lose.

When true simplicity is gained…

‘Tis the gift to be loving, ’tis the best gift of all,
Like a quiet rain, it blesses where it falls;
And if we have the gift we will truly believe
‘Tis better to give than it is to receive.

When true simplicity is gained…

It occurs in Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, discussed here and played here, but in some ways the simple version is more powerful: the lyrics are a wonder. There are lots of versions even so: Judy Collins; Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss, other artists trying their hand at this anthem for simple gifts.

I could say I am back with Strabo watching boys collecting fruit, or with Mary Oliver waking in gratitude, but really I’m back in school assembly, and that raft of all-but-Humanist aspirational songs we used to sing: When a Knight Won His Spurs; Glad that I Live am I (for which I can’t find a version I like). Maybe this one is the best just because of, well, its innate simplicity.

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