We blossom and flourish
As leaves on a tree
And wither and perish
But naught changeth Thee.
What is it about this (half-)verse that so resonates? It won’t be the religion, I don’t do religion and it only comes in at the end. It will be in part that it’s been there in my awareness since schooldays, and all those gruesome assemblies where we stood up while masters came in, sat down, stood up, prayed, sat down, were talked at, stood up, sang, (or muttered, in my case), sat down, were lectured at, stood up, prayed, sat down, stood up, masters went out. Fifteen minutes a day, every schoolday for five years. But you wouldn’t think that would engender much affection, though there is something about this hymn being musically so simple, even I could sing it. (I was never a singer: quietly removed from school choir at age seven.) I sing it occasionally now, early in the morning on the beach, when I’m sure nobody is in earshot.
No, it must be the language. The words are all basic, old words of English. No prefixes, suffixes, long words, imports. The four verbs: blossom, flourish, wither, perish: four ancient words of English for four fundamental processes of life. The sentence structure: subject and intransitive verb, four times over: as basic as it gets, connected by and, the simplest conjunction. One simile, again, of unanswerable directness. The plain, pure rhythm; the plain, pure rhyme.
Thank you, Walter Smith. For when I use language, this is a model for how I want to use it.