42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh

I have read a fiery gospel

“Be swift my soul to answer him, be jubilant my feet.” Written a hundred and fifty-nine years ago today, this rousing abolitionist song remains a fiery call for freedom from tyranny.

Jerry Stratton, November 18, 2020

I have read a fiery gospel

A hundred and fifty-nine years ago, on November 18, 1861, Julia Ward Howe heard the song John Brown’s Body (lies a-mouldering in the grave) sung by Union troops in Upton’s Hill just outside of Washington, DC. She was inspired in the night with new lyrics to go along with the melody, literally couldn’t sleep until she put the lyrics to paper.

The rest is history. Her new lyrics over an old melody have uplifted generations of Americans from the soldiers of the Civil War through the mourners of John F. Kennedy.

But that is not the entire story. It’s common knowledge that the melody is from the older John Brown’s Body, and mostly common knowledge that the John Brown in the song was not the abolitionist John Brown who raided Harper’s Ferry back in 1859. People just naturally made the association after the raid.

What is not common knowledge is that Julia Ward Howe’s husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, was part of an abolitionist group that funded John Brown before the raid. How much they supported the raid is unknown, but it was very likely more than just chance inspiration that inspired Julia Ward Howe to take a melody from a song that had become linked with John Brown the abolitionist and marry it to a rousing anti-slavery battle hymn.

Assuming that the basics of the story are correct, Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics on November 18, 1861.1 It was published in The Atlantic Monthly of February 1862. There were still three years of war to follow.

Many modern singers change the semi-final verse2 from “let us die to make men free” to “let us live to make men free”. This originally struck me as wrong and as an affront to the incredible sacrifices of Union soldiers who gave their lives to end slavery in the United States.

I still prefer the original lyrics when I play it myself, but I’m coming around to not just accepting the change but supporting it. The original lyrics were written during a war, for soldiers and families of soldiers, to destroy an evil in pure form. Evil always returns, and not always in such an obvious manner. It is always a fight to keep men free, and evil often masks itself behind good intentions. Ronald Reagan famously said that we are always one generation away from slavery. Reagan and Abraham Lincoln both warned us that we must dedicate not only our dying but our living to keeping America a land of the free.

Natalie Solent: Immoral act

There are always people who wish to import hirelings and slaves, to enable human trafficking at the border; there are always people who wish to impose rules they don’t follow on everyone else, who claim to stamp their boots upon our faces for the good of all. Who want to tell us how much we’re allowed to make, where we’re allowed to work, and when we’re allowed to work. That mob violence is justice. That our work and our lives are not as essential as theirs. As Lincoln less-famously said about the political establishment of his time,

They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of kingcraft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people—not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument and this argument of the judge is the same old serpent that says, “You work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it.” — Abraham Lincoln (The Life and Writings of Abraham Lincoln)

The serpent continues to speak through the mouths of men like “the judge”, Stephen Douglas’s political heirs: you are not capable of freedom. We will assume the burden of choice for you.

And the song replies, it is not for men to enslave you but God to transfigure you. In the one lies evil; the other, grace. The way we fight the ideology of slavery today is not by dying, but by living. Live free, as author Sarah Hoyt often says, and “we win, they lose.”

Among just reasons for war, the ending of slavery must list high, and this song is a reminder that out of great carnage can come great good—if we remain committed to freedom. But that commitment must remain after the war is done. There is great bravery in dying for freedom, but there’s also bravery in living for freedom when all around you are living to submit to the Stephen Douglases of the world. That, also, is a bravery worth singing of.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires; I have read His fiery gospel; I have heard His trumpet call. It will never sound retreat.

I originally created this music file for use with the piano script to show off the new clipper script in Astounding Scripts’s Catalina edition. In the middle of the melody I inserted some backmasking using GarageBand; the clipper script can reveal that backmasking. But it’s a great song, and it deserves more than a passing reference in a frivolous snippet.

As is becoming usual, I provide the piano files here as separate treble and bass clefs. So you can play it like this:

  • piano [ Battle\ Hymn\ bass.txt ] Battle\ Hymn.txt

You can save it as a MIDI file by just adding --save glory.midi to the end of the line. Or you can turn it into separate MIDI files by playing each part separately:

  • piano Battle\ Hymn.txt --save treble.midi
  • piano Battle\ Hymn\ bass.txt --save bass.midi

Then you can import the two MIDI files into GarageBand—or any music program that supports MIDI files—to apply whatever instrument settings you want to the two tracks individually. I used Toccata Organ for the treble clef in the first and third verse, and switched to Chamber Choir for the middle verse. I used Tuba for the bass clef throughout.

You can copy and paste the melodies from this page, or download the zip file (Zip file, 4.0 KB). The zip file also includes the MIDI files I used in GarageBand.

The treble clef:

  • # The Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • # Julia Ward Howe, William Steffe
  • # treble clef
  • --key B-
  • --tempo 92
  • 4 "-D F" | 8 "-D. F." 16 "-D F" 8 "-D. F." 16 "-C E" 8 "-B. -D." 16 "-D F" 8 "F. B." 16 "F C"
  • 8 "F. D." 16 "F D" 8 "F. D." 16 "E C" 4 "D B"
  • 8 "F. B." 16 "F A" | 8 "E. G." 16 "E G" 8 "E. G." 16 "F A" 8 "G. B." 16 "F A" 8 "G. B." 16 "E G"
  • 8 "-D. F." 16 "E G" 8 "-D. F." 16 "-B -D" 4 "-D F"
  • 8 "-D. F." 16 "-D F" | 8 "-D. F." 16 "-D F" 8 "-D. F." 16 "-C E" 8 "-B. -D." 16 "-D F" 8 "F. B." 16 "F C"
  • 8 "F. D." 16 "F D" 8 "F. D." 16 "E C" 4 "-D B"
  • 4 "F B" | "G C" "G C" "F B" "F A" | 2 "F. B." 4 R
  • # Refrain
  • 4 "-D. F." 8 "-C E" "-B. -D." 16 "-D F" 8 "D. B." 16 "E C"
  • 2 "F D" 4 "F B" R | "E. G." 8 "F A" "G. B." 16 "F A" 8 "G. B." 16 "E G" | 2 "-D F" "-B -D"
  • 4 "-D. F." 8 "-C E" "-B. -D." 16 "-D F" 8 "-D. B." 16 "E C" | 2 "F D" 4 "F B" "F B"
  • "G C" "G C" "F B" "F A" | 2 "F. B." 4 R

The bass clef:

  • # The Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • # Julia Ward Howe, William Steffe
  • # bass clef
  • --key B-
  • --tempo 92
  • 4 "-B B" | 8 "-B. B-." 16 "-B B" 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B F" 8 "-B. F." 16 "-B B" 8 "-D. B." 16 "F A"
  • 8 "B. B." 16 "B B" 8 "B. B." 16 "F A" 4 "-B B"
  • 8 "-D. B." 16 "-D B" | 8 "E. B." 16 "E B" 8 "E. B." 16 "E B" 8 "E. +E." 16 "E +E" 8 "E. +E." 16 "E B"
  • 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B B" 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B F" 4 "-B B"
  • 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B B" | 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B B" 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B F" 8 "-B. F." 16 "-B B" 8 "D. B." 16 "F A"
  • 8 "B. B." 16 "B B" 8 "F. B." 16 "F A" 4 "-B B"
  • 4 "-D B" | "E B" "E +E" "F D" "F C" | 2 "-B. D." 4 R
  • # Refrain
  • 4 "-B. B." 8 "-B B" "-B. F." 16 "-B B" 8 "-B. B." 16 "-B B"
  • 2 "-B B" 4 "-D B" R | "E. B." 8 "E B" "E. B." 16 "E B" 8 "E. B." 16 "E B" | 2 "-B B" "-B F"
  • 4 "-B. B." 8 "-B B" "-B. F." 16 "-B F" 8 "-B. F." 16 "-B F" | 2 "-B B" 4 "-D B" "-D B"
  • "E +E" "E C" "F D" "F +E" | 2 "-B. D." R

Finally, here’s a very moving rendition of this song from Judy Garland. She sang it in honor of John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963:


Be swift my soul to answer him; be jubilant, my feet.

  1. Depending on how late she wrote the lyrics, it could have been in the early morning of November 19.

  2. Howe wrote a sixth verse that wasn’t originally published and isn’t usually included today.

  1. <- How Great Thou Art