Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord

The American FlagI recently received and email from my parents that included today’s quote, and it was so inspiring that I thought I would share. I had heard this quote since I was a child, but never realized the origin and the context of it.

“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord.” – The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe, written November 1861 and first published February 1862

This quote is the opening line of the patriotic hymn “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” that was written and made popular during the civil war. I remember singing this song as a kid with silly lyrics like “Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, he is coming down the alley in a 67 Ford” and “Glory glory hallelujah, teacher hit me with the ruler”. How many of you did that? Do kids still do that today? Actually, the email that sparked me to look into this hymn had a link to a group of high school choirs with a childrens choir in the mix. I’ll bet they sing it with some funny words too.

But seriously, when you look into the words and origin of this hymn, it’s quite inspiring. The original melody came from popular spiritual written in 1856 but was then adopted with new words written by a Union soldier about the abolitionist John Brown’s body, how though he was dead his soul is marching on in the army of the Lord. Julia Ward Howe reportedly had heard it while seeing a review of the troops in Virginia and the next morning wrote the lyrics we know today. You can read the full account in Wikipedia.

So, here is a song, that was being used by soldiers in the northern army as a marching cadence with an anti-slavery theme and motivation for their cause; it then is transformed into a patriotic anthem of the righteous cause of God. The truth that those who oppress others and those who reject the living God will meet the sword of His justice is nothing less than chilling. And the willingness that American soldiers have, from the revolution until this present day, to die that others may be free is profound. Read the lyrics, i think you will be as amazed as I was.

Here are the full lyrics of the song Battle Hymn of the Republic as it was originally penned by Julia Ward Howe in November 1861. The version published in February 1862 is a little different, and then another verse was added later that year or as late as 1863. There are a bazillion recordings of this song on Youtube, so enjoy!

Lyrics to Original Version of Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
He is trampling out the wine press, where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He hath loosed the fateful lightnings of his terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watchfires of an hundred circling camps
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps,
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read a burning Gospel writ in fiery rows of steel,
As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal,
Let the hero born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Our God is marching on.

He has sounded out the trumpet that shall never call retreat,
He has waked the earth’s dull sorrow with a high ecstatic beat,
Oh! be swift my soul to answer him, be jubilant my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the whiteness of the lilies he was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that shines out on you and me,
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
Our God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, he is succour to the brave,
So the world shall be his footstool, and the soul of Time his slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.


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