By Wanda Billbe
The Moore American
MOORE — Discovering the history behind old songs makes them all the more treasured, including the story behind “How Great Thou Art.”
The song is based on a Swedish poem written by Carl Boberg in 1885.
Carl was walking home from church and was listening to church bells ringing along the way.
A sudden storm captured Carl’s attention as it made its violent entrance and then just as suddenly, everything calmed.
When he returned home he opened his window and saw the bay of Mönsterås stretched out like a mirror before him.
From the woods on the other side of the bay, he heard the song of a thrush and the church bells were softly tolling in the quiet evening.
The original poem was titled “O Store Gud.” (O Great God) and had nine verses. On April 16, 1891, the words and music were published for the first time.
The first English translation of “O Store Gud” was by E. Gustav Johnson (1893–1974), then a professor of North Park College in Illinois.
His translation of verses 1, 2, and 7-9 was published in the United States in the Covenant Hymnal as “O Mighty God” in 1925.
It went through several more English translations, ending in Stuart Hine’s final rendition “The Manna Music” version of this song was made popular by the Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957.
George Beverly Shea sang it more than 100 times during this crusade because the people just wouldn’t let them stop.
Elvis Presley’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art” was a major factor in the revival of “O Store Gud” in Sweden.
It’s amazing that a song penned so many years ago can take you back to its beginning — moments after a horrendous storm to peaceful surroundings and a greater appreciation for God’s Greatness.
“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.
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.”