“Come, Let Us Dream” Hymn Study
TITLE: "Come, Let Us Dream"
AUTHOR: John Middleton
TUNE: O WALY WALY
COMPOSER: English folk melody
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3157
SCRIPTURE: Exodus 34:1-4; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 1:51-53; Luke 4:18-19; Revelation 21:3-4
TOPICS: ascend; aspire; blindness; cost; death/dying; dream; evil; fear; freedom & liberation; gift/giving; sacrifice; peace; hate; healing; justice; lame; life/living; human love; humility; martyr; mission & outreach; new day; openness; pride; prison; rise/rising; shalom; sin; war; wrong
John Middleton was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1947. He attended Vanderbilt Law School, served as a Naval legal officer, and graduated from Candler School of Theology. He has served local United Methodist churches in West Tennessee and western Kentucky, was Director of Connectional Ministries for the Memphis Annual Conference, led the Memphis Conference delegation to the 2000 General Conference, and was a member of the Discipleship Ministries. He is married, the father of one daughter, and a retired Elder in The United Methodist Church. He is the author of several hymns and articles on the Discipleship Ministries website, including:
- Hymn: "Come, Let Us Dream"
- Hymn: "Beloved Child, Beloved Community"
- Hymn: "We Honor God with Simple Lives" with tune writer Dan Damon
- Hymn: "We Honor God with Simple Lives," alternate GERMANY tune
- Hymn: "What Does It Mean to Have It All" with tune writer Dan Damon
- Article: "When It’s Time to Change Worship"
O WALY WALY is a folk tune of Scottish, English, or Irish origin that has been sung since the 1600s. The tune name is a lament that translates "Woe is me." It takes its name from the opening line of the lyric, "Waly, waly, gin Love be bonny":
O Waly, waly, up the bank,
And waly, waly, doun the brae (hill),
And waly, waly, yon burn-side (riverside),
Where I and my love want to go
The tune is widely known with the folk song "The Water Is Wide":
The water is wide, I can-not cross o'er.
And neither have I the wings to fly.
Build me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my true love and I.
The tune has been widely used, arranged, and recorded to the present day, including by composers Benjamin Britten, John Rutter and Mack Wilberg. It has been recorded by numerous artists, including The Kingston Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, Bob Dylan, Janet Baker, Sarah Brightman, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Tom Chapin, and many more. It has become a popular hymn tune, with hymns by Brian Wren, John Bell, Fred Pratt Green, Hal Hopson and many others. It appears three times in Worship & Song, arranged by Dean McIntyre:
- 3051, "A Star Shone Bright" (F. Richard Garland)
- 3124, "How Shall I Come Before the Lord" (Dean B. McIntyre)
- 3157, "Come, Let Us Dream" (John Middleton)
It appears three times in The Faith We Sing:
- 2027, "Now Praise the Hidden God of Love" (Fred Pratt Green)
- 2076, "O Blessed Spring" (Susan Palo Cherwien)
- 2283, "For All the Saints" (John Bell)
It is used four times in The Upper Room Worshipbook:
- 140, "O Day of Peace" (Carl P. Daw, Jr.)
- 141, "The Gift of Love" (Hal Hopson)
- 142, "Before the Earth Had Yet Begun" (Herbert O’Driscoll)
- 143, "Come Follow Me" (Michael Hudson)
It appears twice in The United Methodist Hymnal:
- 408, "The Gift of Love" (Hal Hopson)
- 643, "When Love Is Found" (Brian Wren)
"Come, Let Us Dream" is the second hymn text by retired United Methodist pastor John Middleton. It came as an extension of his first hymn, "Beloved Child, Beloved Community," which was an exploration of personal and corporate experiences of belovedness in the writings of Henry Nouwen and Martin Luther King, Jr. The fifth stanza of that first hymn was inspired by the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the subject. "Come, Let Us Dream" explores that idea more fully.
Stanza 1 unfolds God’s vision of a new day for earth shared in Isaiah 65.
Stanza 2 adds the flow of justice to God’s vision: the lame shall walk, the blind shall see, doors swing open, prisoners are set free, the lowly are raised, the proud brought low.
Stanza 3: We will dwell in peace when hatred ends and war ceases.
Stanza 4: Achieving God’s vision of the new day comes at a cost for some – the sacrifice of life itself.
Stanza 5: Although the world may continue to scorn its prophets and slay its martyrs and dreamers, the dream lives on as long as there are other lives to live.
Melody: The melody of O WALY WALY consists of eight notes within the D octave. The first three phrases form a rising then falling arch form while the last phrase is the reverse – falling then rising.
Harmony: The basic harmonic structure of the arrangement is a simple I-vi-II-V7-I-V7-I with the structural chords interspersed with numerous ornamenting and passing harmonies. The structural or cadence chords support the important and rhyming words of each phrase, set to the long half notes of the melody.
Rhythm: The basic rhythm of the accompaniment is three short notes leading to a long note at the structural chord. The fourth, fifth and sixth half-phrases contain an extra ornamental note prior to the structural chord. The predominant harmonic rhythm is a change on every half measure, with passing and ornamental harmonies in between.
Form: Musically, the four phrases do not repeat. They thus have an ABCD form. Textually, the hymn consists of two rhymed couplets, AABB, with no internal rhymes. This hymn, with only eight measures, is a good example of how tight and compact the hymn form can be.
Sound: Understanding the technicalities of O WALY WALY’s form and structure and its component parts does not account for its popularity. All of these elements combine to produce a whole that is, quite simply, beautiful and satisfying to sing, to play, and to experience. The tune has an extra quality that cannot be accounted for by its individual components or in a technical analysis of their combination. It is this extra quality, in addition to the interplay of the other musical elements and text, that have made it a favorite hymn tune.