Peace Prayer & Battle Hymn

Here’s the way it works. We progress through musical brackets voting on two songs at each post. I’ll keep the poll open for 72 hours in this round. So if you have strong feelings, tell your friends to come vote.

In randomizing the brackets below the 6-seeds, I found this intriguing clash of sentiment pitting texts by Saint Francis against Julia Ward Howe. Oh yes, it’s top-ten “Prayer of Saint Francis” versus 1960 Grammy-winner “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Sebastian Temple published his setting of the peace prayer of Saint Francis in 1967. FEL, I think. The liturgical folk music movement was just about to crest. Mr Temple, native South African, then Londoner, has been one of many to set it, mostly after 1967. His setting has, by far, the most traction in the Catholic imagination given its number 9 standing in the NPM poll of a few years back. It was presumably a favorite of Princess Diana, and was a musical selection at her 1997 funeral.

The other piece is much older, the text dating back to the 60’s of the 19th century. The music was originally linked to another set of words. But eventually the abolitionist’s text won out in the public imagination. The wikipedia link above has a boatload of fascinating information.

Julia Ward Howe on the 1861 inspiration of the words:

I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, ‘I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to Peace Prayer & Battle Hymn

  1. John Donaghy says:

    A very side comment. Temple’s “Peace Prayer” is sung in Spanish with a text very close to the original. Howe’s is also sung in Spanish with a very different text. It is sometimes, very unliturgicly, sung as a Gloria, since the refrain is “GLoria, Alleluja, en el nombre del Señor,” even though it has not trinitarian content in Spanish.

  2. Interesting how both of these “teams” have distinctly opposite societal associations, the Temple (even as gussed up for Diana by the redoubable Mark Hayes arangement) with the primeval hootenanny era of Repp and Wise and the equivilent of the Catholic Summer of Love; and the however eschatologtically solid Howe with the patriotic notion of militancy, rather than the ecclesial.
    Musically, I prefer the orchestrated Hayes version of the hippy tune (I did meet Temple once at which he’d played it on a nylon classical) and loathe the Grammy version of “Mine eyes..” by Roy Ringwald (the section with the men chanting “truth is marching, truth is MARCHING” is so kitschy, as is the trumpet duet obligato, arggh.)
    Not gonna vote, tho’. I’ll just remain a color commentator on the headphones.

  3. Liam says:

    Well, my indelible association with the Battle Hymn was as the recessional for RFK’s funeral at St Pat’s. I was 7 and I remember staying home from school that day (he was our Senator) and watching that funeral. What an awful spring that was. I don’t have a problem with militancy per se, so that redeems whatever flaws it might otherwise have. (I agree with Chas about the Ringwald arrangement – awful – but fortunately, we’re not voting on that particular arrangement, just that Todd made passing reference to it, right?).

    The Temple however noble the text, is a setting that drains the vibrancy of the text with a kind of Muzaky banality (well, it reminds me of Walt Whitman Mall circa 1970). Especially that cheap sense of elevation at SO-OH-OHL.

  4. Liam, out of curiosity (tho’ I suspect not) have you ever “done” the Mark Hayes arr. of the Temple? Silk purse from sow’s ear.
    Wow, now we have your demographic. That spring/summer was, in Oakland, I was going from junior to senior year in HS. The world was truly upside down. MLK assassination changed everything in an instant; I really believe that was the moment that “hope” went south (awful pun) and when we became entrenched in “tribalism” that still defines us to this moment. Both MLK and Malcolm were leading the movement to at least detente, and tho’ I was a “Eugene” kid, RFK’s incomprehensible murder sealed the deal that Malcolm predicted in ’63 (chickens coming home.)
    So, for me, the musical mnemonic remains the Mozart “Requiem” at JFK’s funeral in 63. Foreshadow.

  5. Liam says:


    No, I haven’t. But your commendation of it is a considerable thing should I have a chance to encounter it in the future (not possible in my parish, but that parish could change, shall we say).

    Your memory of the Mozart Requiem is of the Erich Leinsdorf-BSO effort at Boston’s Holy Cross Cathedral, not the low Requiem itself at St Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, right? (At least if Mr Day’s contrasting of the two events is accurate.) I don’t remember JFK, but my earliest datable memory happens to be that month, when we had to enroll my special-needs sister at the Astor School for Children in Rhinebeck NY and I remember the awfulness of that day. I was 2.75 years old; family trauma meant more than JFK at that time.

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