“My Life Flows On In Endless Song”

This song for a Sunday seems to flow naturally from the Baron’s post, that letter to members of the Connecticut State Police.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness ’round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?

Here Enya sings the ‘secular’ version of this hymn, the one popularized by the late Pete Seeger who removed any Christian references found in the original poem.

Some information on the original:

“How Can I Keep From Singing?” (also known by its incipit “My Life Flows On in Endless Song”) is a Christian hymn with music written by American Baptist minister Robert Wadsworth Lowry. The song is frequently, though erroneously, cited as a traditional Quaker hymn. The original composition has now entered into the public domain, and appears in several hymnals and song collections, both in its original form and with a revised text.

I chose Enya’s version because of her ringing clarity and because of the way she lengthens some of the lines. This makes her version sound closer to the musical intentions and sentiments of the original composer’s time and place – i.e., late 19th century American Baptist hymnody. Many modern choral groups shorten the musical line. If you learned it Enya-style those later arrangements seem too casual.

More Wikipedia information here.

Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?


7 thoughts on ““My Life Flows On In Endless Song”

  1. Pingback: An Unconstitutional Law Is Null and Void | Gates of Vienna

    • A lot of discovery for everyone – I’d not heard of Eva Cassidy until you provided this link. And now I’m back, having spent several hours listening to her fine, fine voice.

      Her version of this post-Civil War hymn is a good vehicle for her range, but not in the spirit of those who created the hymn. I’ve heard the Star Spangled Banner stretched the same way, beyond its original setting and that doesn’t work for me either.

      However, her voice is incredible. And who knew anyone could move beyond Garland’s “Over the Rainbow”? Eva Cassidy transcended Garland’s effort and sailed away, umm, past the rainbow.

      It’s a jolt when a singer one likes dies so young. She was, in fact, five weeks older than my daughter and they partake of that particular generation’s zeitgeist. Shelagh loved music and definitely would’ve liked Eva Cassidy’s work.

      It’s even more of a jolt when one only discovers a great musical talent after they’ve died. However I have no doubt that this woman’s voice still goes on in endless song…

    • SyB, this reminded me that what unites us is more important than anything that we disagree over- and had me in tears.

      • I think I won’t go there.

        Often Enya can move me when I’d rather stay where I am…

        …maybe later when I’ve recovered from Eva Cassidy.

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