MMORTAL, INVISIBLE, GOD ONLY WISE
Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908)
This Christian hymn was written in 1867 and is sung to the tune St. Denio. Reportedly the favourite hymn of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the original final two stanzas were different, but this is how the words appear in most hymnals. The parody, as anyone who has ever run a choir will tell you, rings all too true.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish but nought changeth thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.
ODE TO THE CHOIR
Immortal, invisible, God only knows
How tenors and basses, sopranos, altos
At service on Sunday are rarely the same
As those who on Friday to choir practice came.
Unready, unable to sight-read the notes,
Nor counting, nor blending, they tighten their throats.
The descant, so piercing, is soaring above
A melody only a mother could love.
They have a director, but no one knows why.
No one in the choir deigns to turn him an eye.
It’s clear he is waving, he wants them to look
But each of them stands with his nose in the book.
Despite the offences the music rings out.
The folks in the pews are enraptured no doubt.
Their faces seem blissful, their thoughts appear deep,
But it is no wonder – they’re all fast asleep.