Behind the Hymn: For the Beauty of the Earth
Folliott Sandford Pierpoint was born in Bath, England in 1835. After being educated at Queens College in Cambridge, he taught at Somersetshire College. He contributed hymns to various publications and published at least two song books.
He wrote numerous poems, but For the Beauty of the Earth is the only one he is remembered for today. The hymn was originally written as a Eucharistic hymn. The Eucharist is what we refer to as The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.
The phrase, “Christ our God to thee we raise, This our sacrifice of praise,” reflected the idea of sacrifice in the Mass. Those words were later changed to “Lord of all, to thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.”
He was twenty-nine when he wrote For the Beauty of the Earth. The song was inspired by the beauty of the countryside that surrounded him. Pierpoint wrote praises of God for the beauties all around him into the lyrics. Take for instance beauty of the earth and sky, beauty of each hour, and the joy of human love that he incorporates into the lyrics.
The original poem contained eight stanza’s at four lines each. Usually four to six stanza’s are published in the current denominational hymnals.
The text from the original poem was changed for the 1916 hymnbook “Hymns Ancient and Modern” to make it a more general hymn.
Conrad Kocher composed the tune “Dix” in 1838.
Three years after Pierpoint released “For the Beauty of the Earth” William Chatterton’s Dix used the same tune for the song, “As with Gladness, Men of Old,” in the Christmas Carol.
Pierpoint died at age 82, in 1917. He published seven volumes of poetry during his lifetime.
The hymn is often sung at Thanksgiving and taught to children today.
The song is sung in the 1994 movie version of Little Women.
Pictures courtesy of MorgueFile