Poetry: Alexander – All Things Bright and Beautiful

It was recitation night, and I couldn’t speak.

Have you ever done a recitation night? Honestly, I am unsure if such things happen in public schools. I was homeschooled, and at the first co-op we ever were a part of, they hosted a recitation night. It wasn’t new that year or anything; this was something they seemed to do every year. And everyone capable of memorizing anything was supposed to participate. So that included me and my second youngest brother.
This prospect terrified me. But before I let myself think too far ahead to the actual recitation of anything, I looked for a poem. I have little memory of how I chose this poem (I think I was maybe 8 when this all went down), but the poem I came up with was “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Until recently, I couldn’t have told you who wrote this poem, but it has stuck around with me all these years.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;−

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,−
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;−

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who hath made all things well.

Cecil Frances Alexander

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Sometimes it reminds me of “This Is My Father’s World” and “How Great Thou Art.” I paired this text with a couple of tunes I knew as it was easier for me to memorize things when I could sing them. I chose the tune to Yankee Doodle Dandy! (I found out later that I couldn’t sing it, but we’ll get to that).

But I love this poem. It is of decent length, yet it has an uncomplicated beauty. This poem paints a picture of all the wonderful things God has created, including people in their various locations. Whatever we encounter – the changing seasons, the smallest creature, the most powerful person, the complexities of nature – all of them were created by God. We can enjoy them, care for them, and give thanks to God for them. While it was the perfect poem for a young girl who loved God’s creation to memorize, even now, I smile as I read this poem, thinking about all that God has blessed me with to be able to explore and this great world He has given us to care for, marvel at, and praise Him with. I love this poem. And since I loved it then, I memorized it.

Unfortunately, recitation night still happened. I’ll share a little secret with you: until my last two years of high school, I couldn’t say so much as a few sentences in front of my parents without getting nervous. Playing music wasn’t so bad, but speaking? Forget about it. But recitation night had arrived. My family sat close to the front of the church where we were meeting, and we watched as one by one all the other kids went up and gave their little performances. I remember two friends of mine who were fearless in their productions. I believe one of them dressed up! But then it was my turn.

I think I made it to the second verse before the tears came. I couldn’t finish. I tried, but it wasn’t going to happen. I sat down in shame and didn’t want to talk to anyone for the rest of the night. Eben now, I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that it was going to be ok. No one was probably going to remember that night but me (and well, now all of you) anyway, and I would learn how to speak in front of many more people than were there that night. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self what it meant that God had made even me and that one night of not being able to recite a poem was not the end of the world. But alas, I was eight years old.

Thankfully, my love of this poem wasn’t tarnished by that night. Even now, when I see parts of the poem on the spines of books or one of the verses, I think back on the poem, not the night, and how wonderful it is. Every good and perfect gift is from God, and He has given us a lot of great gifts. He has given us this world, all the creatures on it, all creation to marvel at, our families, and our vocations. Best of all, He has given us His Son “who hath made all things well.”

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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