People, Look East

First of all, if you have not read Laurel Mass?’s recent post about this season, you need to go read it, now.

Yesterday was the Second Sunday of Advent, and one of the hymns we sang yesterday was “People, Look East.” The text is by the English poet Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), who is probably best known for her hymn “Morning Has Broken” (usually sung to BUNESSAN). No, Cat Stevens did not write it: Eleanor Farjeon did, in 1931. “People, Look East” is usually sung to a Besan?on carol called, appropriately enough, BESAN?ON. (Besan?on, by the way, is known as “the greenest city in France.” That has nothing to do with this tune, but that certainly is a claim to fame!)

This tune is also well known as the tune for an old French carol, “Berger, secoue ton sommeil profond,” usually rendered in English as “Shepherds, Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep.” But since that’s a Christmas carol, and it’s not Christmas yet, today we’ll stick with Farjeon’s Advent text. It speaks beautifully of preparing our hearts even as we’re preparing our homes for the celebration of Christmas. As yesterday’s Gospel was about John the Baptist crying “Prepare the way of the Lord!” I thought this hymn would be an appropriate close to our worship.

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Rose, is on the way.

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
He for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Bird, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Star, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Him who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.


About revjatb

I am a father of six who is trying to do his best! My interests are varied. I have one blog, KnowTea, that is primarily focused on liturgy and worship and another one, Bengtsson's Baking, that is about, well, baking! I hope you enjoy both of them, and if you have any questions, please contact me!
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One Response to People, Look East

  1. Laurel says:

    Thanks for the mention, and thanks for printing the lyrics to “People Look East”, which is one of my favorites. Fargeon’s lyrics here (and in “Morning has Broken”) bring the natural world into the circle of life and adoration without being sentimental or sappy in any way.
    And the rhythms! The word “carol” comes from “caroler” (French), which comes from “choraula” (Latin) which is derived from “choraules) Greek, which stems from “choros” which is a circling dance. There is a lot of information about carols in the preface to “The Oxford Book of Carols”.
    In our Christmas iconography Mary rides a donkey to the manger, wise men have camels, shepherds walk, angels fly, and…we get to dance!

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