Julia Ward Howe wrote these lyrics in the heart of the Civil War. Her purpose was to provide some wholesome lyrics for the tune of “John Brown’s Body Lies A-moldering in the Grave.” She accomplished that and more. When President Abraham Lincoln first heard the hymn, he asked to have it sung again.


The text is filled with biblical allusions. The expression, “grapes of wrath” refers to Revelation 14:19; the sounding trumpet is probably from Revelation 8. For the Christian, the message of this song is that God’s Truth is Eternal. Although circumstances may appear overwhelmingly difficult, God will still accomplish His purposes, and His truth will endure.


It can be dangerous to identify political causes or even national patriotism with God’s truth. Nations may rise and fall, but God’s truth remains forever. “His truth is marching on.”


Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword—

His truth is marching on.


CHORUS

Glory! Glory, Hallelujah!

Glory! Glory, Hallelujah!

Glory! Glory, Hallelujah!

His truth is marching on!


I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps,

They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps—

His day is marching on.


CHORUS


He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat,

He is sifting out the heats of men before His judgement seat;

O be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.


CHORUS


In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;

As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,

While God is marching on.



CHORUS


After that, the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.  I Corinthians 15:24-26


© 2017 by Robert K. Brown and Mark R. Norton – All rights reserved

Paraphrased by Music Director, David K. Bakken, Ed.D.

IMAGE: Calla Lily Valley, Big Sur, California