O God of Earth and Altar

This is a hymn about the fallibility of human leaders, which asks forgiveness for sin.

It was written by English writer, apologist and Roman Catholic convert GK (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton (1874 – 1936), and first published in 1906.

With meter D, tunes, it is set to include:
  • KINGS LYNN a traditional tune arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
  • LLANGLOFFAN - a Welsh tune, composer unknown
  • ELLACOMBE - composer unknown, from the Gesangbuch der Herzogl. Hofkapelle, W├╝rtemberg, 1784

The first verse was used by writer Bruce Dickinson as the opening of an Iron Maiden song, Revelation.    The second verse contains references to the Litany from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. 


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Vocals with steel-guitar accompaniment, tune KINGS LYNN

Massed choir with organ and brass tune KINGS LYNN

Contemporary version - lead singer with band and percussion:

Instrumental - piano, tune ELLACOMBE:

Background about the writer, and the hymn by a choir with organ:


O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
For sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

See also

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