O God of earth and altar

O God of earth and altar. Gilbert Keith Chesterton* (1874-1936). First published in EH (1906), and subsequently included in many hymnals. It has often been stated that it appeared in the Christian Social Union magazine The Commonwealth, but this is not so (see Bernard Massey, ‘O God of earth and altar. A Cautionary Tale’, Bulletin of the Hymn Society, 220, July 1999, pp. 240-1). The story that Chesterton wrote it for the tune AURELIA, which he thought ‘the typical tune for hymns’, is a characteristic piece of Chestertonian self-mockery, and need not be taken too seriously. The hymn is most frequently set to KING’S LYNN, an English folk tune collected by Vaughan Williams* and used by him...

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