We Plough The Fields And Scatter ~ Lyrics
We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
Are sent from heav’n above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all his love.
He only is the Maker
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,
By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
He gives our daily bread. Refrain
We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food:
No gifts have we to offer
For all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts. Refrain
Meter: 76 76 D and Refrain. German lyrics by Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815), translated by Jane Montgomery Campbell (1817 – 1878). Public Domain.
Wir Pflügen ~ Recordings
- Tune: Wir Pflügen, composed by Johann Abraham Schulz (1747 – 1800) and harmonised by John Bacchus Dykes (1823 – 1876). Public Domain
- Performances ℗ 2020 Richard M S Irwin. All rights reserved. UKTU21900221
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This well-known harvest hymn might appear to come from the English countryside, but it has rather different origins. It is the Peasant’s Song from a sketch by Matthias Claudius in Paul Erdmann’s Fest (Hamburg, 1782), depicting a harvest thanksgiving in a North German farmhouse. Based upon a song heard sung at the home of one of the farmers. Claudius was for some time an atheist, but later renewed his Christian faith. At the time of writing this hymn he was editor of the local paper in Hesse Darmstadt, where he was also a Commissioner of Agriculture.
Originally seventeen verses long, each verse followed by a refrain, the hymn was translated into English by Miss Jane Montgomery Campbell. This translation, though not very literal, attempts to preserve the spirit of the original. It first appeared in Rev Charles S Bere’s A Garland of Songs (1861) and subsequently in the Appendix (1868) to Hymns Ancient and Modern, where verse 3 was revised to the present text from the original:
line 5 – No gifts have we to offer… (rev. Accept the gifts we offer) line 7 – But that which thou desirest… (rev. And, what thou most desirest…)
This alteration was probably introduced to make the hymn suitable for services where harvest produce was on view or offered by the worshippers, although the English Hymnal continues to use the original words.