We Plow the Fields and Scatter
Matthias Claudius, 1782
The first time I ever heard this week’s hymn – and it’s something of a scandal that it took so long – I was in high school, and I went to a local production of the musical Godspell. The play seems innocent enough now, though the film, whose opening features a large group of young people of both sexes taking their shoes off and cavorting in a public fountain, is embarrassingly silly. It’s notable, I guess, that the one song I remember clearly from the play is the one whose words and melody the playwright simply took straight from the old traditional hymnals. It’s the harvest hymn “We Plow the Fields and Scatter,” sung to the melody Wir Pfluegen, German for “We Plow,” composed specifically for the text.
There’s a story behind the poem. After he recovered from a grave illness, the poet, Matthias Claudius (1740-1815), returned to the faith of his childhood and had begun to write religious verses. One of the poems was a dedication to God of the farmer’s life and ways, the sea…
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