WE PLOW THE FIELDS written in 1782
Matthias Claudius (1740-1815) had no intention of writing a hymn. A German journalist, he was merely writing a poem about a group of peasants gathering for a banquet. The 17-verse poem, originally titled “Paul Erdmann’s Fest”, describes friends coming to Paul Erdmann’s house and enjoying the fellowship there. It commends Paul Erdmann for his hospitality, and praises God as the ultimate source of the feast.
Jane Campbell, a British music teacher, made the free translation of this poem into its present English form. She contributed it to a new hymnal in 1861, along with some other hymns. Since that time, it has become a favorite harvest hymn in many churches. The hymn gained new popularity when John Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz included it in their 1960s musical, Godspell.
I can remember singing this song as a solo in the 4th or 5th grade at Rosy Mound School in Grand Haven, Michigan, during a Thanksgiving program. I had to sing it with an English accent…
The thoughts of this hymn are valid in any time and in any place, though. God has given us all the good things we have, and He deserves our thanks.
Read this hymn, and – today – enjoy the blessing of good friends and a good God.
We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land;
but it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all His love.
He only is the Maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
the winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread. (Chorus)
We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
the seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
no gifts have we to offer, for all Thy love imparts,
but that which Thou desirest, our humble, thankful hearts. (Chorus)