For the Beauty of the Earth

Chaconne R. Benifield

“For the Beauty Of the Earth”

Praeludium & Fuga in C from “Ariadne Musica” J.C.F. Fischer (1656-1746)

Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917) was born at Spa Villa, Bath, England, and educated at Cambridge, earning his degree in Classics with honors. He taught Classics at Somersetshire College, and eventually retired from academics to become a writer, spending most of his life in Bath and the south-west of England. Pierpoint died at the age of 82.

While in Bath he published The Chalice of Nature and Other Poems, republished in 1878 as Songs of Love, The Chalice of Nature and Lyra Jesu. He also contributed hymns to the Churchman’s Companion, The Lyra Eucharistica, etc. He ultimately published seven volumes of poetry.

His most famous hymn is “For the Beauty of the Earth”, originally intended as a communion hymn. Pierpoint was 29 at the time he wrote this hymn, inspired by the beauty of the surrounding countryside. The story goes that Pierpoint was taking a walk one late spring day, in the lovely area surrounding his home in Bath. Overwhelmed with the beauty he saw, he sat down and wrote “For the Beauty of the Earth” (and the beauty of our minds and senses, and family, and friends, and the church, and…) This hymn is rather unique in that the only sentiment it expresses is gratitude.

Originally the refrain ended “Christ, our God, to Thee we raise this our Sacrifice of Praise.” (it now reads “Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise).

Concerning the postlude: Ariadne Musica is a collection of organ music by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, first published in 1702. The main part of the collection is a cycle of 20 preludes and fugues in different keys, so Ariadne Musica is considered an important precursor to J.S. Bach’s epochal _Well-Tempered Clavier_, in which Bach ‘finishes the job’ with a prelude and fugue in all 24 major and minor keys — Bach was the first to do this. Others have followed, e.g. Chopin’s set of preludes in all 24 major and minor keys, and Scriabin’s, and Shastakovich’s… Traditionally the first piece in all these sets is in C major, a precedent set by Fischer and followed by Bach et al.

The title refers to the Greek myth in which Theseus finds his way out of Minotaur’s labyrinth using a ball of thread that Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete, gave him. Similarly, the music in the collection can be said to guide the listener through a labyrinth of keys. Fischer also used Greek mythology to name the pieces in another large scale music collection of his, Musikalischer Parnassus (“Musical Parnassus” — Parnassus being the home of the Muses in Greek mythology).