Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Silence, Frenzied, Unclean Spirit

At church on Sunday, I saw the hymn title listed above on my way to the hymn we were supposed to be singing, and I thought, What the heck was that?. I flipped back to it after the song was over, and then I liked the lyrics so much that I borrowed the hymnal to type them out here. Its longing for mental and spiritual peace is certainly speaking to me this month, when I'm being driven by the "tyrant voices" of my to-do list, and that overwhelmed feeling is so common to modern life I thought this might connect even with readers who aren't religious or Christian. The lyrics are by Thomas Troeger (and BTW, if you are interested in Christianity, the interview linked there is fantastic), the music by Carol Doran; it's number 264 in the United Methodist Hymnal, 1989.

"Silence, frenzied, unclean spirit!"
cried God's healing Holy One.
"Cease your ranting! Flesh can't bear it;
flee as night before the sun."
At Christ's words the demon trembled,
from its victim madly rushed,
while the crowd that was assembled
stood in wonder, stunned and hushed.

Lord, the demons still are thriving
in the gray cells of the mind:
tyrant voices, shrill and driving,
twisted thoughts that grip and bind,
doubts that stir the heart to panic,
fears distorting reason's sight,
guilt that makes our loving frantic,
dreams that cloud the soul with fright.

Silence, Lord, the unclean spirit
in our mind and in our heart;
speak your word that when we hear it,
all our demons shall depart.
Clear our thought and calm our feeling;
still the fractured, warring soul.
By the power of your healing
make us faithful, true, and whole.


  1. That is very nice. I needed to hear that myself, today. Kind of reminds me of "Be Still, My Soul," which I believe is an older hymn (it's in my Mormon hymnal, but I think it crosses denominations--I've got a version of Mahalia Jackson singing it, which is very, very nice).

  2. What a perfect text for ahem, those of us who have a hard time just relaxing and "being"!

  3. Clear our thought and calm our feeling . . .

    Perfect words! It's funny how they find us when we need them.

    Thanks for posting this Cheryl . . .

  4. now THAT'S a hymn.
    thanks for the link -- wonderful interview.

  5. You can sing it to Beethoven's 9th (AKA "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee") or to any tune that has an listing in your hymnal. (Often there's a metrical listing in the back so you can swap songs with verses if you like. Kind of like singing "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun.")

  6. Oh, Melinda, how interesting! I had to go get the words to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" because I couldn't remember them when singing to the different tune. I know all the verses by heart when sung traditionally. My husband is in for a surprise next Christmas when it comes time to sing carols!

  7. You might speed up the tempo a bit or else it'll take forever to sing. I heard it done as a bluegrass piece in double time. It's fun to belt out in the car, or in public if you're so inclined.

  8. Awkward poetry with forced rhymes, forced meters: Can't begin, sadly, to compare, poetically, with the words of "Joyful, Joyful."

    Try some Fanny Crosby hymns for comparison--or even very old southern gospel hymns. Listen: The melody must exist in the words as well.

    BTW, My great-grandfather was a hymn writer adn collector, and I myself have written lyrics for over 40 songs, most of them hymns or gospel songs. I used to memorize verse after verse of hymns as a child.

    1. This is a totally different text than "Joyful. . ." It is marvelous and very effective in its awkwardness and harshness.

    2. The text and music are a good marriage and quite fitting! The subject is not a pretty one, thus the discordance.

  9. We sang that yesterday to "Ebeneezer." While I can see the point of the commenter who questioned the quality of the poetry, I think it's the best available on the theme.

  10. Thanks for this, I do the graphics for our church and am currently typing with one hand...this allowed be to copy and paste rather than type!!

    Thanks again,