History

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It is simply amazing to research and learn about how the Hymns we sing today came about in the yesterday’s of our time, this Hymn is an example of that kind of time.  How Great Thou Art did NOT start off looking even remotely like what we sing today.  One of the reasons is because it was originally written as a Swedish poem. Another reason for the difference is translation across languages, including German (1907), Russian (1912) and English (1925).  Additionally, the tune has changed also because of similarities to other traditional hymns/poems published.

The original title for the poem/hymn was “O Store Gud”, which stands for “O Great God”, as it was written in 1885 by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940), containing nine verses total.  Today’s version are considerable shorter and have a tone that is less archaic (personal observation) and clunky as presented in the English language.  The modern day version is an established and treasured Hymn of the Faith, which was really presented to the world by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows being sung to audiences around the world.

Historical Differences

It is truly amazing how much this Hymn has changed, been updated and re-worked such that our Creator, King and Sovereign God can be exalted by way of song.

The Covenant Hymnbook

A modern example of the closer translation of the original was published as “O Store Gud”, O Great God in the 1973 edition of The Covenant Hymnbook:

O mighty God, when I behold the wonder
Of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thine,
And how thou leadest all from realms up yonder,
Sustaining earthly life with love benign,

Refrain:
With rapture filled, my soul thy name would laud,
O mighty God! O mighty God! (repeat)

When I behold the heavens in their vastness,
Where golden ships in azure issue forth,
Where sun and moon keep watch upon the fastness
Of changing seasons and of time on earth.

When crushed by guilt of sin before thee kneeling,
I plead for mercy and for grace and peace,
I feel thy balm and, all my bruises healing,
My soul is filled, my heart is set at ease.

And when at last the mists of time have vanished
And I in truth my faith confirmed shall see,
Upon the shores where earthly ills are banished
I’ll enter Lord, to dwell in peace with thee.

New Century Hymnal

Another translation which is said to be more true to the original wording and meaning of the poem, is presented in 1995 included in the New Century Hymnal. The title for this specific translation is “O Mighty God, When I Survey in Wonder“.

O mighty God, when I survey in wonder
The world that formed when once the word you said,
The strands of life all woven close together,
The whole creation at your table fed,

Refrain: (vss 1-3)
My soul cries out in songs of praise to you,
O mighty God! O mighty God! (repeat)

When your voice speaks in rolls of thunder pealing,
Your lightning power bursts in bright surprise;
When cooling rain, your gentle love revealing,
Reflects your promise, arcing through the skies.

The Bible tells the story of your blessing
So freely shed upon all human life;
Your constant mercy, every care addressing,
relieving burdened souls from sin and strife.

And when at last, the clouds of doubt dispersing,
You will reveal what we but dimly see;
With trumpet call, our great rebirth announcing,
we shall rejoin you for eternity.

Refrain: (verse 4)
Then we will sing your praise forever more,
O mighty God! O mighty God! (repeat)

Commonly Used Today

Most hymnbooks have this version printed.  The title, as translated into meaning, is “How Great Thou Art!”

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Refrain:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Verse 2:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
(Repeat Refrain.)

Verse 3:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
(Repeat Refrain.)

Verse 4:
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

(Repeat Refrain.)

Access

Unfortunately today, even though there are vast reaches into multiple languages and the English speaking version being known as being written by Stuart K. Hine, it is still not public domain for sheet music.  Several images are provided below, which are low resolution, but will provide a better idea of what several of these translations looked in the form of a music scale.

How Great Thou Art | Hymnal Image

HOW GREAT THOU ART! by Carl Boberg, Stuart K. Hine

Available Sizes: 600p | Full Size (varies)

How Great Thou Art | Shape Notes

HYMN-HGTA-ShapeNotes-HowGreatThouArt-Preview

Available Sizes: 600p | Full Size (varies)

How Great Thou Art | Standard Notes

HYMN-HGTA-WhiteLowResHow-Great-Thou-Art-Preview

Available Sizes: 600p | Full Size (varies)

O Store Gud | w/Folkmelodi

HYMN-OSG-OStoreGud-Preview

Available Sizes: 600p | Full Size (varies)

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