The Original All Things Bright and Beautiful

Cecil Frances Humphreys (later Alexander) was a Victorian era woman heavily involved in the revitalization of the Church of England. She married William Alexander, later Archbishop of Armagh and member of the House of Lords. She was a prolific writer of hymns and poems, and worked much of her life with the poor. Like most Victorians who were in her same situation, she was an elitist snob who looked down on those she helped, as somehow deserving their lot in life as part of divine will.

One of her most famous hymns is “All Things Bright and Beautiful” from her 1848 book of “Hymns for Children.” In the hymn, she describes God as the author of all things good in the world. I will reprint it here in its entirety. You might even know it, so sing along.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

All things bright …

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

All things bright …

The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;−

All things bright …

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,−
He made them every one:

All things bright …

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;−

All things bright …

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright …


Notice the third verse. “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate.” One that might not be obvious is that the poor man does not own a gate; he is waiting at the gate of the rich man’s castle, either hoping for work or a charitable handout. As I stated, she was an elitist snob; devoting so much of her time and energy to those she looked down on.

In the 20th century, as the Church of England tried to maintain membership and bow to societal changes, this verse is regularly omitted or left unsung.

This hymn has been used in many things. There was a wonderful television series called “All Creatures Great and Small” about a veterinarian in Yorkshire. One of my favorites is the parody by Monty Python. Mrs. Alexander made the common mistake of only attributing the good things in the world to God. However, as Monty Python pointed out, a simple reading of the bible will show that God is the author of ALL things, even those dull and ugly. Please listen to it on Youtube and enjoy.


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