Teach me the measure of my days

if you do not hear the tune, click here.

Teach me the measure of my days,
thou Maker of my frame.  
I would survey life's narrow space,
and learn how frail I am.

A span is all that we can boast,
an inch or two of time.  
We are but vanity and dust
in all our flower and prime.

See the vain race of mortals move
like shadows over the plain.  
They rage and strive, desire and love,
but all the noise is vain.

What should I wish or wait for then,
from creatures, earth, and dust?  
They make our expectations vain,
and disappoint our trust.

Now I forbid my carnal hope,
my fond desires recall.  
I give my mortal interest up,
and make my God my all.

#485 in Hymnal: A Worship Book

Words:  based on Psalm 39, Isaac Watts, Psalms of David, 1719, alt.
   Tune:  The Brethren's Tune and Hymn Book, 1872

            Isaac Watts, though a strong-willed soul among mortals, was ever mindful of his frailty (he suffered recurring illness) as a human being, especially compared with the great, high majesty of God. In this text his tightly written, vivid poetry reins in our daily struggles and gives perspective to scattered lives - "I give my mortal interest up, and make my God my all."

            Though the words, originally titled "The vanity of man as mortal," are based on Psalm 39:4-7, this hymn has had a scripture citation of Psalm 90:12 in The Brethren's Hymn Book (1867). The fourth stanza has been omitted and slight alterations made in the first two stanzas.

            The tune, "mortality," is a haunting, natural, minor tune with an unusually wide melodic range. In its original source, the music was pitched a major third higher. As was typical for The Brethren's Tune and Hymn Book, the melody in the middle voice was harmonized by a soprano and bass part. The harmony, with its open fifths and occasional dissonances, supports the melody's austere folk style.

from Hymnal Companion

return to "Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs" webpage

return to Long Green Valley Church "Worship" page