’Tis the gift to be simple

’Tis the gift to be simple. Shaker spiritual, 19th century, probably by Joseph Brackett, Jr. (1797-1882).  This is a Shaker song, described by them as a ‘Gift Song from Mother’s work’ (referring to Ann Lee, known as ‘Mother Ann’. See ‘Shaker hymnody’*). David Holbrook*, who printed it in the Cambridge Hymnal* (1967), dated it from between 1837 and 1847. The Hymnal 1982 Companion agreed, noting that this was ‘a period of renewed spiritual dedication’ among the Shakers. Various theories are given in The Hymnal 1982 Companion, notably one attributing the song in several manuscripts to Elder Joseph Brackett (1797-1882) of Alfred, Maine, and given credence by an eye-witness account of Brackett...

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