When students in her Sunday school class were struggling with some of their lessons, Irish hymn writer and poet Cecil Frances Alexander began writing small hymns to help the children grasp the concepts and commit them to memory. Those simple texts were published together in Hymns for Little Children (1848) and included All Things Bright and Beautiful – under the title Maker of Heaven and Earth – in a series of hymns explaining the Apostles’ Creed.
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
English folk tune Royal Oak is one tune that is sung with Alexander’s text. Named for an oak tree at Boscobel, Shropshire, England, in which the on-the-run King Charles II hid during the Battle of Worcester (1651), Royal Oak was first published in The Dancing Master (1686) as the loyalist song The Twenty-Ninth of May. Two centuries later, Martin F. Shaw arranged the tune matching it with Alexander’s text and published it in Song Time (1915) to create the hymn we know today.
With childlike simplicity in mind, I created a fun and cheerful piano medley pairing two different hymn tunes used for All Things Bright and Beautiful (Royal Oak and William Monk’s All Things Bright) with another nature-themed hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King. I gave it a bit of bounce, a bit of flair, and a little “bird tweet” at the end. My impish side wanted to title it All Bright and Beautiful Critters (very fitting for the personality of this medley!) but my serious side won out and I used the more formal All Bright and Beautiful Creatures.
But no matter the title, I think it turned out pretty durn cute and I hope you enjoy it.
Did you know?
Some fun updates have been made to the text of All Things Bright and Beautiful in a few hymnals around the world.
The United Church in Canada added an extra verse celebrating the beauty of Canadian geography:
The rocky mountain splendour,
the lone wolf’s haunting call,
the great lakes and the prairies,
the forest in the fall.
And a completely revised version of All Things Bright and Beautiful appears in the Australian hymn book, Together in Song, using images of wildflowers, palm trees, colored walls of gorges, mountain ranges, billabongs, and a verse that reads:
The many-coloured corals,
the creatures of the sea,
of bushland, field or desert,
on farms, or roaming free.
I like to think Cecil Frances Alexander would approve of these new verses and see them as an extension of her original purpose – help children (of all ages) understand God’s love using simple language and images from the world they see.