Greenfields (How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours)
DESCRIPTION: "How tedious and tasteless the hours When Jesus no longer I see; Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers Have all lost their sweetness to me. The midsummer sun shines but dim, The fields strive in vain to look gay...."
AUTHOR: Words: almost certainly John Newton (1725-1807)?
EARLIEST DATE: 1779? (published with tune in 1808 in the Missouri Harmony)
KEYWORDS: religious Bible nonballad
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Randolph 625, "How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours" (1 text, 1 tune)
AbrahamsRiddle, pp. 112-114, "How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sandburg, p. 154, "Greenfields" (1 text, 1 tune)
Old Harp Singers of Eastern Tennessee, "Greenfields" (on OldHarp01)
cf. "Delights in Christ (tune)"
cf. "Edgefield" (same words, different tune)
NOTES: The uncertainty about the authorship of this hymn derives from the fact that many early sources do not credit it. The earliest record seems to be The Original Sacred Harp, which credits John Newton in his book Olney Hymns, 1779. The tune is "Delights in Christ." - PJS, (RBW)
(The Missouri Harmony version, to the tune "Greenfields," precedes the Sacred Harp publication, but with no author listed. Note that there is another tune, "Greenfield," in the Missouri Harmony; it's not the same. The Missouri Harmony also sets the words to the tune "Harpeth.")
Moderns, of course, will know it (if at all) to the tune "Greenfields." The Sacred Harp also sets this to the tune "Edgefield," by J. T. White, but that version seems less popular.
Since the song does in fact appear in the Olney Hymns, which is mostly John Newton's work, the attribution to Newton seems pretty strong. But Newton rarely documented his writing process, so we can't say much more. For background on Newton, see the notes to "Amazing Grace." - RBW
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