Muir and the Master Builder - Lyrics

by Brian McNeill


Introduction from the liner notes of the album The Back o' the North Wind:

John Muir (1838-1914) is much better known in America than in Scotland.

A lowlander from the town of Dunbar, Muir's early childhood was blighted by the severe Calvinism of his father Daniel, and when the family emigrated to America in 1849, that Calvinism became even more restrictive. On the family's Wisconsin farm, the young Muir was worked to the point of exhaustion, and because Daniel would allow no books other than the bible in the household, forced to educate himself clandestinely. When he finally left home, Daniel Muir never even bade him farewell.

John won a brief term at the University of Wisconsin, but dropped out, and began the wanderings across America that were to be the beginning of his true vocation. By 1868 he had found his real love - the Sierra mountains of California. He lived in them for many years, supporting himself any way he could, exploring them, theorizing them, and writing about them - his book My First Summer in the Sierra is now considered a classic.

By the turn of the century, Muir was a public figure, a confidant of President Theodore Roosevelt, and one of the first effective conservationists. His name is now is associated particularly with the giant redwood trees which populate the conservation area he founded - Yosemite National Park.


Lyrics

I asked the Master Builder
Why did he make John Muir
From the seed of a man, so hard and unforgiving.
A father who tried to use the Gospel to ensure
That his son's life would never be worth living

And the Lord's voice answered on the High Sierra wind
From the mountains where the clear waters lie, saying:
"Hold the bravest heart, above the gravest of sins
And I'll show you how to make a hero rise"

Chorus:
Leave Calvin and the Bible
To the parish o' Dunbar
Give a blind man back his eyes to find
The brightest o' the stars
Then lead him to the altar of a better God by far
In the vale of the redwood cathedral

I asked the Master Builder, how did he find a way
To put the man in the mountains
And the mountains in the man?
How long did he search to find the uncommon clay
That he needed for his Master builder's plan?
And the Lord's voice came down from the High Sierra skies
Saying: "Take a heart, - of hard Scottish stone
Plant the seed of a wild place, deep down inside
And I'll show you how to call a hero home"

Chorus:
Leave Calvin and the Bible
To the parish o' Dunbar
Give a blind man back his eyes to find
The brightest o' the stars
The lead him to the altar of a better God by far
In the vale of the redwood cathedral

And as I stand by the thunder of the roaring mountain falls
And hear California call you saviour
I cannot help but wonder, had a different fortune called
Would you have done the same for Scotland the Brave -
Your home and your father's

Chorus:
Leave Calvin and the Bible
To the parish o' Dunbar
Give a blind man back his eyes to find
The brightest o' the stars
The lead him to the altar of a better God by far
In the vale of the redwood cathedral

God lives above the redwoods, so men say
Looking down, straight and true at the best of all his treasures
And if a man should stand among them to pray
It's against them the Lord would take his measure.
And who grew straighter than long Johnny Muir?
A redwood of flesh, blood and bone
Filled by the Master Builder with a passion so pure
For the mountains no single man can own.

Chorus:
Leave Calvin and the Bible
To the parish o' Dunbar
Give a blind man back his eyes to find
The brightest o' the stars
They lead him to the altar of a better God by far
In the vale of the redwood cathedral.

Lyrics & music © Copyright 1991 by Brian McNeill.


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