Revising a song: “Here I Am, Lord”

I'm not a Christian, but I really like some Christian songs. There's one such song that I quite like most of, but I'm not satisfied with the third verse, because I feel like it doesn't quite match the first two verses, thematically and structurally. So I'm wondering if any of you have any thoughts on improving that third verse.

The song is called “Here I Am, Lord”; it was written by a Jesuit priest named Dan Schutte in the '70s. It's a pretty tune: if you haven't heard the song, you can get a sense of it from the free iTunes sample. ...Although maybe they've changed the system and you now need iTunes to listen to that? If that doesn't work for you, try this version on YouTube—but I recommend changing the speed setting to 1.25 on the YouTube one, because most performers including the original author seem to prefer this song to be sung slowly but I think it works a lot better when sung a little faster.

So that's the tune. Below are the lyrics of the first two verses and choruses, which I think are mostly really nicely crafted (see below for notes). The problem comes with the third verse, but I'll get to that. In case it's not immediately obvious, the verses are from God's POV; the choruses are a human.

Verse 1:

I, the Lord of sea and sky,

I have heard my people cry;

All who dwell in dark and sin

My hand will save.

I who made the stars of night,

I will make your darkness bright;

Who will bear my light to them?

Whom shall I send?


Here I am, Lord.

Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord,

If you lead me;

I will hold your people in my heart.

Verse 2:

I, the Lord of snow and rain,

I have borne my people's pain;

I have wept for love of them.

They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone,

Give them hearts for love alone;

I will speak my words to them. * [see below]

Whom shall I send?

Chorus. [same as first chorus]

* There's only one line in the above that I have an issue with: I will speak my words to them doesn't seem to me to fit the established structure of the song. In the first verse, God says Who will bear my light to them?; it seems to me that the second verse should have a parallel question, which would also fit better with the following Whom shall I send? line. Mary Anne (who grew up singing the song, and introduced me to it) knows that line as Who will bear my words to them?, which seems like an excellent change, and I'm 95% satisfied with that—but possibly something like Who will speak my words to them? would be better still, to vary the verb to allow for a different one in third verse—see below. Also, I'm always tempted to change words to Word.

Okay, so with all that as background, here's the third verse as written—this is the one I want to change:

Verse 3:

I, the Lord of wind and flame,

I will tend the poor and lame.

I will set a feast for them,

My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide,

Till their hearts be satisfied.

I will give my life to them,

Whom shall I send?

Chorus. [all three choruses are the same, which is fine.]

Here are my thoughts:

I really like the way some of the sound patterns work in the first two verses. In the first verse, the sounds of the word Lord in the first line are echoed in heard in the second line; in the second verse, Lord in the first line is echoed in borne in the second line. And in the first verse, made/stars/night has sound-echoes in make/dark/bright. (I'm curious about whether there are specific names for those kinds of not-quite-rhyme—either the consonants matching but not the vowel, or the vowel and a succeeding consonant matching but not the final consonant(s). Nifty.)

Also in the first verse, the metaphor is reasonably consistent: talking about sky, then all who dwell in dark, then I who made the stars of night (the lights in the darkness), then I will make the darkness bright, then who will bear my light to them. There are bits that don't quite fit that light/dark metaphor (heard my people cry, my hand will save), but overall it's fairly solid.

In the second verse, the metaphor is pretty heavily mixed, but that's okay, I can cope.

But then in the third verse, there are a couple of significant problems:

  1. The line My hand will save, which makes sense grammatically in the first verse, feels out of place in the third verse. It seems like there should be something else there that (a) fits the food metaphor better, (b) refers to a personified characteristic (to match my hand from verse 1 and I have wept from verse 2), (c) fits grammatically with the preceding line, and (d) ends with a word that has a long a sound as the final vowel (to match save and away at the ends of the corresponding lines from the first two verses). I haven't come up with anything yet.
  2. The line I will give my life to them makes sense thematically, what with the supper and sacrifice and all, but it shifts away from the Who will [take] my [noun] to them pattern of the first two verses. But it wouldn't make sense to change to Who will give my life to them. And Who will drink my blood with them seems a little too gory, even given transubstantiation. :)
  3. ...This one is minor, but: I'm not totally thrilled with the phrase the poor and lame. The first two verses are about my people being in pain; I feel like verse 3 should say something like I have felt my people's hunger, only that neither rhymes nor scans. And I have minor twinges of political hesitation about the line as written too. So I don't love I will tend the poor and lame, but I can live with it.

So at a minimum, I would want that third verse to change to something like this:

I, the Lord of wind and flame,

I will tend the poor and lame.

I will set a feast for them,

[Something about food, something personified, ending with an "ay" sound.]

Finest bread I will provide,

Till their hearts be satisfied.

Who will [synonym for carry (could just be "bear")] my [one-syllable noun that gives benefit to the recipients and ideally is thematically relevant to food] to them,

Whom shall I send?

So if any of you have any ideas that fill those blanks, I would be satisfied with those minimal changes. But if any of you get inspired and want to write a whole new replacement drop-in third verse, I'd be interested to see that too.

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