In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. -Genesis 1:1, 31
The words to this hymn were written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, the wife of William Alexander, the Anglican Bishop of Ireland. Fanny, as she was known to her family and friends, was born in 1818 in Dublin, Ireland, the third and final child to a wealthy and prominent family.
The introverted Fanny showed an interest in poetry at a very young age, the earliest of which first appeared in a family weekly magazine. Her writing was greatly influenced by clergymen and proponents of the influential Oxford movement. Fanny was a prolific author, and a number of her books and writings were published during her lifetime.
She was inspired to write "All Things Bright and Beautiful" when trying, with difficulty, to teach a group of children the meaning of the Apostles' Creed. When traditional teaching methods failed, she decided to write a series of hymns based on various phrases of the creed.
She based this hymn on the phrase, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." The hymn celebrates "each little flower that opens" and "each little bird that sings," and speaks of "glowing colors" and "tiny wings," but most of all it affirms that "the Lord God made them all."
Fanny wrote other hymns to illustrate other phrases of the Apostles' Creed, including such famous hymns as "Once in Royal David's City" and "There Is a Green Hill Far Away." She thought of these as children's hymns and published them in a collection of hymns entitled Hymns for Little Children. It was a wildly successful hymnal that went through nearly seventy editions during her lifetime and one hundred editions altogether.
Mrs. Alexander was quite generous with her time and money, donating the profits from her hymn collection to a school for the deaf. She was active in ministry to unwed mothers, and was instrumental in establishing a nursing service in her area. She was known for her devotion to the poor, mentally handicapped, the deaf, and the sick. Upon her death in 1895 in Londonderry, the cathedral bell began to ring, announcing her passing to the city, and her family was surprised by the outpouring of thousands of condolences.
As we sing this hymn on Sunday, may we sing with gusto, offering heartfelt praise and thanksgiving for all things bright and beautiful in our world!
The ivy-clad Llanwenarth House in the Usk Valley near Abergavenny, on the estate where Cecil Alexander was inspired to write "All Things Bright and Beautiful."
The "purple-headed mountains" and "river running by"
of the Usk Valley referred to in the hymn
"All Things Bright and Beautiful" penned at Llanwenarth House by Irish composer Cecil Alexander.
Prayer for Today
Praise to thee, O Lord, for all creation. Give us thankful hearts that we may see all the gifts we share and every blessing, for all things come of thee. Amen.