Hymn Story

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Hymn lists

by book of Bible

The words to this hymn were written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), the wife of William Alexander, the Anglican Bishop of Ireland.

Mrs. Alexander was a prolific author, and a number of her books and writings were published during her lifetime.

She was inspired to write this hymn when trying, with difficulty, to teach a group of children the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed.  When traditional teaching methods failed, she decided to write a series of hymns based on various phrases of the creed.  She based this hymn on the phrase, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  It was those last words, “maker of heaven and earth,” that particularly inspired her.  The hymn celebrates “Each little flow’r that opens” and “Each little bird that sings.”  It speaks of “glowing colors” and “tiny wings.”  But, most of all, it affirms that “The Lord God made them all.”

Mrs. Alexander wrote other hymns to illustrate other phrases of the Apostles Creed.  They include “Once in Royal David’s City”—”There Is a Green Hill Far Away”—and “He Is Coming! He Is Coming!”  She thought of these as children’s hymns, and published them in a collection of hymns entitled Hymns for Little Childrenin 1848.  It was a fabulously successful hymnal that went through nearly seventy editions during her lifetime and one hundred editions altogether.

Mrs. Alexander was quite generous with her time and money.  She donated the profits from Hymns for Little Children to a school for the deaf.  She was active in a ministry to unwed mothers, and was also instrumental in establishing a nursing service in her area.

While this hymn maintained its popularity through the years, it received a big boost when the English veterinarian, James Herriot, at the suggestion of his young daughter, named his first book, All Creatures Great and Small, after a phrase from the first verse of this hymn.  He subsequently wrote three additional books that he named after the other three lines of the first verse of this hymn—All Things Bright and BeautifulAll Things Wise and Wonderful—and The Lord God Made Them All.  His books became quite popular, and inspired a movie as well as a long-running television series.

Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan