LDS Hymns



#86 How Great Thou Art

-History: (Source: Wikipedia)

How Great Thou Art” is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) in Sweden in 1885. The melody is a Swedish folk song. It was translated into English by British missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two original verses of his own composition. It was popularized by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during the Billy Grahamcrusades.[1] It was voted the United Kingdom‘s favourite hymn by BBC‘s Songs of Praise.[2] “How Great Thou Art” was ranked second (after “Amazing Grace“) on a list of the favorite hymns of all time in a survey by Today’s Christian magazine in 2001.[3]

Boberg wrote the poem “O Store Gud” (O Great God) in 1885 with nine verses.[4][5]

Inspiration

The inspiration for the poem came when Boberg was walking home from church near Kronobäck, Sweden, and listening to church bells. A sudden awe-inspiring storm gripped Boberg’s attention, and then just as suddenly as it had made its violent entrance, it subsided to a peaceful calm which Boberg observed over Mönsterås Bay.[6] According to J. Irving Erickson:

Carl Boberg and some friends were returning home to Mönsterås from Kronobäck, where they had participated in an afternoon service. Nature was at its peak that radiant afternoon. Presently a thundercloud appeared on the horizon, and soon sharp lightning flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. The thunder pealed in loud claps. Then rain came in cool fresh showers. In a little while the storm was over, and a rainbow appeared.

When Boberg arrived home, he opened the window and saw the bay of Mönsterås like a mirror before him… From the woods on the other side of the bay, he heard the song of a thrush…the church bells were tolling in the quiet evening. It was this series of sights, sounds, and experiences that inspired the writing of the song.[7]

According to Boberg’s great-nephew, Bud Boberg, “My dad’s story of its origin was that it was a paraphrase of Psalm 8 and was used in the ‘underground church’ in Sweden in the late 1800s when the Baptists and Mission Friends were persecuted.”[8] The author, Carl Boberg himself gave the following information about the inspiration behind his poem:

“It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared.

“When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of ‘When eternity’s clock calling my saved soul to its Sabbath rest.’ That evening, I wrote the song, ‘O Store Gud.'”[9]

Publication and music

Boberg first published “O Store Gud” in the Mönsterås Tidningen (Mönsterås News) on 13 March 1886 .[10]

The poem became matched to an old Swedish folk tune.[11] and sung in public for the first known occasion in a church in the Swedish province of Värmland in 1888.[12] Eight verses appeared with the music in the 1890 Sions Harpan.[13]

In 1890 Boberg became the editor of Sanningsvittnet (The Witness for the Truth). The words and music were published for the first time in the 16 April 1891 edition of Sanningsvittnet. Instrumentation for both piano and guitar was provided by Adolph Edgren (born 1858; died 1921 in Washington D.C.), a music teacher and organist, who later migrated to the United States.[14]

Boberg later sold the rights to the Svenska Missionsförbundet (Mission Covenant Church of Sweden). In 1891 all nine verses were published in the 1891 Covenant songbook,Sanningsvittnet.[10] These versions were all in 3/4 time. In 1894 the Svenska Missionsförbundet sångbok[15] published “O Store Gud” in 4/4 time as it has been sung ever since).[14]

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