• Geoffrey Burgon
  • Songs of the Creation (1989)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the 1989 Southern Cathedrals Festival by the Dean and Chapter of Chichester from funds bequeathed by the late Walter Hussey, formerly Dean of Chichester.

  • org
  • SATB
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Songs of Creation



I First Day

Hail, sacred Light, which highly dost excel,
And dost our Sorrows and our Fears dispel!
When first appearing thou didst strike the Sight
With darting Beams, all glorious fair and bright.
And wondrous charming, [Oh!] how great and full
How sweet thy Shine! How ravishing thy Rays!
Proclaiming loud thy [great] Creator’s Praise,
When marvellously he had now decreed,
That Day should night, and Night should Day succeed;
That this His Works and Wonders might display,
And shadow forth this own eternal Day;
[Whilst that should temper the Day’s increasing Drought,
Moisten the Air, and make the earth to sprout.]
He gave the Word, and Day did straight appear,
Till Day at length declined, and Night drew near.
Night, which hovering with her sable Wing,
Doth ease and Rest to wearied Mortals bring.
Thus Nights and Days, and Days and Nights do fly,
Returning in their Course successively;
Each with its Comforts, though of different kinds,
Both for our active and our drooping Minds.
Since then both Day and Night such Blessings bring,
By Day and Night let’s bless our Lord and King,
The King of all the World, in whom we move
And live, and are, the mighty God above.

II Second Day

Hark how God’s Word the Waters does command,
That they forthwith obey, and parted stand!
Two different ways, how does it them divide?
Some upwards mount, and some again subside.
In Vapours part ascend, the Clouds to fill,
Part to refresh the Earth, in Rain distill.
Mark how his Voice doth cut the Flames of Fire,
What whistling Winds do blow, and then retire:
How through the Air his pointed Arrows fly,
And how his Thunder rattles in the Sky;
He thunders, and the proudest Atheist shakes.
His Voice the Mountains and the Rocks doth rend,
And tallest Cedars fall at his Command.
Which yet to lowly Shrubs no Hurt will bring;
These, and their humble Valleys, laugh and sing,
Sing, O ye Valleys, whom the Lord doth crown;
On you he drops his welcome Blessings down.
When I perceive it rain in timely Showers,
I see on you he fruitful Favours pours;
But when from Clouds a wat’ry Torrent spins,
Methinks Heaven weeps for our unwept-for Sins.
And when on high I spy his beauteous Bow,
By this he does his Truth and Mercy show.
Oh that I could to him make some Return,
And that I cannot do it better, mourn!
Oh from these Eyes that Floods of Tears might fall!
Tears for my Sins, which for them loudly call;
And that for my Thoughts, as Vapours, may arise,
And mount to thee, my God, above the Skies;
To my own Guilt, and Pardon supplicate,
And never cease thy Praise to celebrate.

III Third Day

Lo here, within the Waters liquid Womb
The unborn Earth lay, as native Tomb;
Whilst she at first was buried in the Deep,
And all her Forms and Seeds were fast asleep.
The Almighty Word then spake, and straight was heard,
The Earth her Head up from the Waters reared,
The Waters soon, as frighted, fled apace,
And all were swiftly gathered to one Place.
See now the Earth, with Life and Verdure crowned,
Spring from her Bed, gay, vigorous and sound:
Her Face ten thousand Beauties now adorn,
With Blessings numberless from Plenty’s Horn.
Here, there, and ev’rywhere they richly flow,
For us Almighty Bounty them does strow.
The Hills and Dales, the Lawns and Woods around,
God’s Wisdom, Goodness and his Power resound.
Both far and near his Wonders they proclaim,
How vilely then is wretched Man to blame,
If he forget to praise that liberal Hand,
Out-spread from Sea to Sea, from Land to Land?

IV Fourth Day

Thou Lamb of God, and spacious World’s vast light,
Of thee how shall I sing? of thee how write?
For here I find the Danger is,
With Bards of old, the Way to miss.
Of thee a God, they strangely wond’ring made,
And to thy Fire devoutly Homage paid.

The ancient Bards did see, and do, no more.
But I a brighter Sun than thee adore.
The Sun, I mean, that gave thee Light,
A Sun ten thousand times more bright.
[Ah! who can thee sufficiently admire
Oh God, my Sun, of thee enough desire?]

Hail, thou faint Image of the Eternal Sun!
Of that with thee my Race I now could run!
Of that I could with thee obey!
And oh that I did never stray!
But with thee always keep within my Line,
And with thee always in his Service join.

Thy influential Heat all places warms,
And ev’ry Creature feels thy living Charms,
The Fields do laugh, the Woods to sing,
The Hills do dance, the Valleys spring.
The Fields and Groves, the Meads and Pastures live
By heat, which God to thee at first did give.

The Plants, and Birds, and Beasts do all conspire
In this; and thee do eagerly Desire.
Nothing we meet with here below,
But what by thee doth live and grow.
Oh! how thou dost with Youth and Vigour fill
Thy subject Earth, with Lifeless would be still.

Me with new Life from God thou dost inspire,
That seeing thee burn with rapt’rous Fire,
Thou art the Glory of they Lord:
Thou art the Image of his Word:
And I with thee now praise my LORD and thine,
The he my Sun, may ever on me shine.

V Fifth Day

The waters now are truly living made,
But how is this? The Almighty Word has said;
[He said] Now let the Waters living be.
The admiring Angels then did Wonders see.
For straight the mighty wonders of the Deep,
As if awakened from their wat’ry Sleep,
Did now in num’rous Shoals themselves display,
And made appear a Fifth more glorious Day,
Fairer than any that had gone before.
Oh! who can God sufficiently adore,
Who this Day generated so rich a Store?
A Day most fair! When his almighty Skill
Did all the Seas, and Lakes, and Rivers fill.
Armies of birds out of the Waters rise,
And soaring mount towards the smiling Skies.
Here skipping Fishes cut the lambent Air,
There living Castles mighty things declare;
And swiftly rolling through the spacious Main,
This Day proclaim, with all their finny Train.
O let not Man forget with these to raise
Both Heart and Voice to his great Maker’s Praise.

VI Sixth Day
(extracts)

When first the teeming Waters had brought forth
Their Birds, from East to West, from South to North,
Fish filled the Sea, and Fowls the Air,
The Earth alone remaining bare,
For though it had been furnished out so well,
Yet no inhabitant on Earth did dwell.

...

But still the Heir was wanted to appear,
Till God at length was pleased to draw near:
And as the Earth his Feet did touch,
The blooming Earth did straightaway blush;
Her dust a lovely red did richly dye:
No Tyrian Stain could with it ever vie.

And from her ruddy Earth there did raise
A beauteous Form, such as no mortal Eyes
Have ever yet on Earth beheld,
Since hither we have been expelled,
From Eden’s glorious East, with beasts to dwell
In this vile World, which Sin has made an Hell.

The Beasts and Birds did all admiring stand,
So fair a Shape to view, which God’s own Hand
Had just produced with art divine,
In which all Beauties did combine.
And lo! a rushing Breath from heaven came,
Which kindled presently the vital Flame.

The noble Godlike Form was then proclaimed
The King of Earth, and God’s Viceregent named.
His subjects did him recognise,
Whose glory did them all surprise,
It was God’s Glory which on him did rest,
And with majestick Awe did him invest.