Simple Gifts by Elder Joseph Brackett
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when you find yourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right.
This old Shaker hymn was written by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848. A simple verse, with a compellingly sweet tune, few outside of the Shaker communities had heard it until Aaron Copland adapted it for his score for Martha Graham’s ballet, Appalachian Spring.
Since then, Simple Gifts has been recorded by Weezer and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was a central theme in Michael Flately’s Lord of the Dance. It’s been sung by punk rock bands, played by drum corps and marching bands, performed at Presidential inaugurations and at memorial services.
Isn’t is fascinating that even at the most elaborate of occasions, we long for Simple Gifts. When Joseph Brackett penned this hymn, it only had one verse. Maybe the key to its popularity lies in the truth that we long for the simple, to be where we ought to be.
And maybe when we’re willing to bow and to bend, we will come ’round right.