2016-04-17 Notes from the Bench

“King Jesus Hath a Garden” by Rev. George Woodward arr. Richard Shephard

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate



“King Jesus Hath a Garden”
King Jesus hath a garden, full of divers flowers,
Where I rejoice with great delight, all times and hours.

There naught is heard but Paradise bird,
Harp, dulcimer, lute,
With cymbal, trump and timbal,
And the tender, soothing flute.

The Lily, white in blossom there, is Chastity:
The Violet, with sweet perfume, Humanity.

The bonny Damask-rose is known as Patience:
The blithe and thrifty Marigold, Obedience.

The Crown Imperial bloometh too in yonder place,
‘Tis Charity, of stock divine, the flower of grace.

Yet, ‘mid the brave, the bravest prize of all may claim
The Star of Bethlem Jesus blessed be his Name!

Ah! Jesu Lord, my heal and weal, my bliss complete,
Make thou my heart thy garden-plot, fair, trim and neat.
That I may hear this music clear:
Harp, dulcimer, lute,
With cymbal, trump and timbal,
And the tender, soothing flute.


“King Jesus Hath a Garden” is an English translation of a traditional seventeenth-century Dutch carol, “Heer Jesus heft een Hofken” written by Rev. George Woodward (1848-1934). The text of this carol is a metaphor comparing the virtues of the Christian life with a flower garden with Christ cultivating these virtues in us just as a gardener tends to the various flowers being grown in the garden. Woodward’s translation was first published in “Songs of Syon” in 1908. It was later published with a harmonization of the melody composed by Irish composer Charles Wood in “The Cowley Carol Book” in 1919. The English composer, Richard Shephard (b. 1949), composed the arrangement of this carol sung by our choir today that builds on Wood’s harmonization of the melody with a variety of organ interludes which bridges from one verse to the next.

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