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Paul Greenberg: Simple gifts, or: Boston in Little Rock

BY PAUL GREENBERG Published: April 21, 2013

The old Bible hymns that form the backbone of “Appalachian Spring,” composed as the most awful of wars was finally ending, can be picked out with the comfort of recognition, like safe harbor in a sea of troubles. After a great war comes great peace. The peaceful past comes gently back, and we remember where and who we once were.

The swelling, restorative music ascends, buttressed by folk song after folk song, alternating between lush and lustrous, as if illuminated by light from above, culminating in that old Shaker hymn:

'Tis the gift to be simple,

'tis the gift to be free

'Tis the gift to come down

where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves

in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley

of love and delight ...

When true simplicity

is gain'd,

To bow and to bend

we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn,

will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning

we come 'round right ...

Somewhere in a mountain meadow, an 8-year-old boy who loved to run and climb, whose picture was in all the wire photos out of Boston, plays forever. And the music, like simple gifts, never ends. There is no terror there, only peace. As there will yet be in this world. We shall overcome. Some day.