God is gone up

Sunday after Ascension Day

An anthem that will be sung many times during this season of Ascensiontide is Gerald Finzi’s exuberant ‘God is gone up’. The text comprises two middle stanzas of a seven-stanza poem by the colonial American Puritan minister, physician, and poet Edward Taylor (1642–1729). The stanza ‘God is gone up’ is essentially a recasting of verses from Psalms 47 and 24; the other stanza of the present text actually precedes it in the original, the last of a series of stanzas describing Christ’s ascension in dazzling terms and introducing ‘this tune’ (i.e., ‘God is gone up...’). The poem was not written for Ascension Day, which Puritans of course did not celebrate, but rather as one of a whole collection of ‘Preparatory Meditations’ – devotions before celebrating the Lord’s Supper, which the Calvinist Puritans did take very seriously. Nevertheless it has everything to do with the Ascension and is appropriately sung then. The original text follows:

20. Meditation. Phil. 2.9.  God hath highly Exalted him.

View all ye Eyes above, this Sight which flings
     Seraphick Phancies in Chill Raptures high,
A Turffe of Clay, and yet bright Glories King
     From dust to Glory Angell like to fly.
     A Mortall Clod immortalizde, behold,
     Flyes through the skies Swifter than Angells could.

Upon the Wings he of the Winde rode in
     His Bright Sedan, through all the silver Skies,
And made the Azure Cloud his Charriot bring
     Him to the Mountain of Celestiall joyes.
     The Prince o’th’Aire durst not an Arrow spend
     While through his Realm his Charriot did ascend.

He did not in a Fiery Charriot’s shine,
     And Whirlewinde, like Elias upward goe.
But th’golden Ladders Jasper rounds did climbe
     Unto the Heavens high from Earth below.
     Each Step had on a Golden Stepping Stone
     Of Deity unto his very Throne.

Methinks I see Heavens Sparkling Courtiers fly,
     In flakes of Glory down him to attend:
And heare Heart Cramping notes of Melody,
     Surround his Charriot as it did ascend
     Mixing their Musick making e’ry String
     More to inravish as they this tune sing.

God is Gone up with a triumphant shout
     The Lord with Sounding Trumpets melodies.
Sing Praise, Sing Praise, Sing Praise, Sing Praises out,
     Unto our King Sing praise Seraphickwise.
     Lift up your Heads ye lasting Doore they sing
     And let the King of Glory Enter in.

Art thou ascended up on high, my Lord,
     And must I be without thee here below?
Art thou the sweetest Joy the Heavens afford?
     Oh! that I with thee was! what shall I do?
     Should I pluck Feathers from an Angells Wing,
     They could not waft me up to thee my King.

Lend mee thy Wings, my Lord, I’st fly apace.
     My Soules Arms stud with thy strong Quills, true Faith,
My Quills then Feather with thy saving Grace,
     My Wings will take the Winde thy Word displai’th.
     Then I shall fly up to thy glorious Throne
     With my strong Wings whose Feathers are thine own.

     Edward Taylor
     Preparatory Meditations, Series I