Trump Time Capsule #64: A Hymn for the Election

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader gives the background for the hymn you hear performed above by the London Philharmonic Choir. (The singing starts about 35 seconds in.) It has an Atlantic angle, in that the lyrics are by one of the magazine’s founders and editors, James Russell Lowell. There’s a modern-day angle too:

I’ve had an ear-worm on and off for the last few weeks and finally identified it as the hymn “Once to every man and nation”. (The lyrics are by James Russell Lowell, as you probably know.)

I think I can thank Donald Trump for putting this in my head.

   Once to ev'ry man and nation
   Comes the moment to decide,
   In the strife of truth and falsehood,
   For the good or evil side;
   Some great cause, some great decision,
   Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
   And the choice goes by forever
   'Twixt that darkness and that light.

Ryan, McConnell, Pence, Giuliani, Christie, Rubio, and others on the sidelines or on the wrong side: once to ev’ry man and nation. You are making a choice that matters and that you will regret.


For the record and in case you missed it, it is worth seeing the Lawrence O’Donnell interview last night with the extraordinary parents of Capt. Khan, a Muslim immigrant who was killed in Iraq. They also speak to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. For me, the Khans have offered as close as we have come to a Joseph Welch moment in this campaign. The link to the show is here; an embed is below.