A Celebration of Women Writers

"HYMN IX. " by Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743 - 1825)

First Publication: Hymns in Prose for Children. by Anna Lætitia Barbauld. London: J. Johnson, 1781. pp. 63-76.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


COME, let us walk abroad; let us talk of the works of God.

Take up a handful of the sand; number the grains of [Page 64]  it; tell them one by one into your lap.

Try if you can count the blades of grass in the field, or the leaves on the trees.

You cannot count them, they are innumerable; much more the things which God has made.

The fir groweth on the [Page 65]  high mountain, and the grey willow bends above the stream.

The thistle is armed with sharp prickles; the mallow is soft and woolly.

The hop layeth hold with her tendrils, and claspeth the tall pole; the oak hath firm root in the ground, and resisteth the winter storm. [Page 66] 

The daisy enamelleth the meadows, and groweth beneath the foot of the passenger: the tulip asketh a rich soil, and the careful hand of the gardener.

The iris and the reed spring up in the marsh; the rich grass covereth the meadows; and the purple heathflower enliveneth the waste ground. [Page 67] 

The water-lilies grow beneath the stream; their broad leaves float on the surface of the water: the wall-flower takes root in the hard stone, and spreads its fragrance amongst broken ruins.

Every leaf is of a different form; every plant hath a separate inhabitant. [Page 68] 

Look at the thorns that are white with blossoms, and the flowers that cover the fields, and the plants that are trodden in the green path. The hand of man hath not planted them; the sower hath not scattered the seeds from his hand, nor the gardener digged a place for them with his spade.

Some grow on steep rocks, [Page 69]  where no man can climb; in shaking bogs, and deep forests, and desert islands: they spring up every where, and cover the bosom of the whole earth.

Who causeth them to grow every where, and bloweth the seeds about in winds, and mixeth them with the mould, and watereth them with soft rains, and cherisheth them [Page 70]  with dews? Who fanneth them with the pure breath of Heaven; and giveth them colours, and smells, and spreadeth out their thin transparent leaves?

How doth the rose draw its crimson from the dark brown earth, or the lily its shining white? How can a small seed contain a plant? How doth every plant know [Page 71]  its season to put forth? They are marshalled in order: each one knoweth his place, and standeth up in his own rank.

The snow-drop, and the primrose, make haste to lift their heads above the ground. When the spring cometh, they say, here we are! The carnation waiteth for the full strength of the year; and the [Page 72]  hardy laurustinus cheereth the winter months.

Every plant produceth its like. An ear of corn will not grow from an acorn; nor will a grape stone produce cherries; but every one springeth from its proper seed.

Who preserveth them alive through the cold of winter, [Page 73]  when the snow is on the ground, and the sharp frost bites on the plain? Who saveth a small seed, and a little warmth in the bosom of the earth, and causeth them to spring up afresh, and sap to rise through the hard fibres?

The trees are withered, naked, and bare; they are like dry bones. Who breath-[Page 74] eth on them with the breath of spring, and they are covered with verdure, and green leaves sprout from the dead wood?

Lo, these are a part of his works; and a little portion of his wonders.

There is little need that I should tell you of God, for every thing speaks of him. [Page 75] 

Every field is like an open book; every painted flower hath a lesson written on its leaves.

Every murmuring brook hath a tongue; a voice is in every whispering wind.

They all speak of him who made them; they all tell us, he is very good. [Page 76] 

We cannot see God, for he is invisible; but we can see his works, and worship his foot-steps in the green sod.

They that know the most, will praise God the best; but which of us can number half his works?

[Page 77]

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom