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November 11, 2010

Singing Isaiah: A Family Lullaby in Wales.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to sing to me a lullaby, which her mother (my Welsh grandmother) used to sing to her. The words went:

O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My Heav’n, my home forever more!

I never knew where the lullaby had come from, though I had an idea that it was something to do with the Irish immigrants in our family who came to South Wales at the end of the nineteenth century looking for work in the ironworks and the mines. My great-grandfather, my grandmother’s father, was Irish.

I was thinking about this lullaby the other day, and I was doing some research. To my surprise, I discovered that the lullaby was part of Isaiah 62.4, It just shows how ignorant I am of the Bible. I am not sure whether my mother and grandmother know this, but I will ask them when I next ring home.

When I read the full scripture though, what struck me was how beautiful it was, how right it was too for the Irish immigrants, even if that is not where the lullaby tradition in my family came from. It’s a little like hiraeth too, that longing for homes that have disappeared, friends who passed on and loved ones lost to us. Even as you read the lines (which I quote in full below), it is obvious that the joys described will only be experienced in restfulness and peace after death. I think I had a sense of this even as a child.

I’ve reached the land of corn and wine,
And all its riches freely mine;
Here shines undimmed one blissful day,
For all my night has passed away.

O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My Heav’n, my home forever more!

A sweet perfume upon the breeze,
Is borne from ever vernal trees,
And flow’rs, that never fading grow
Where streams of life forever flow.


The zephyrs seem to float to me,
Sweet sounds to Heaven’s melody,
As angels with the white robed throng
Join in the sweet redemption song.


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