Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Jesus Christ the Apple Tree"

I am all kinds of embarrassed: On Friday night my UCC friend, Justin Schwartz mentioned a hymn he played at his church called "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree."

I frowned when he said it and so I had him repeat the hymn title.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree? I had never heard it before.

"It's beautiful!" Justin said.

Well, sure enough, I checked it out the next day and discovered one of the most hauntingly beautiful hymns I have ever heard. But more than just a lovely hymn, the words are striking. Each one drives deeply home.

Even more interesting to me is that, as wonderfully British as it may sound, it was actually sung in the hill country of the American south. In that context, it almost sounds like a Sacred Harp Song.

Whatever the case, it is an incredible hymn:

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the applle tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Elizabeth Poston (October 24, 1905 - March 18, 1987)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FigrgO8EAYA

1 comment:

bopsy said...

This hymn sounds English because its provenance is English. It was first collected in New Hampshire and a similar poem existed earlier in London. As an Anglican Catholic I first sang this hymn in a festival of Lessons and Carols twenty years ago and loved it. It is much more widely sung in England at Christmas than it is here. It's such a great piece.