from the desk of…Duck watching

By Diane O’Brien ,Lt. Colonel

Cecil Frances Humphreys was born in Dublin in 1818 and died in 1895. She was involved in charities caring for the deaf and was an “indefatigable visitor of poor and sick.”

But her most influential work has moved many hearts. She was a poet, writing numerous hymns for children, which include the words of “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” “There is a Green Hill Far Away” and “Once in Royal David’s City.” These are known by Christians the world over, as is her translation of “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.” The first mentioned is one of my favorite hymns that I have sung since childhood. It’s in The Song Book of The Salvation Army, number 25, if you want to read it in its entirety.

Many years ago I read a lovely collection of poems and stories called “I turn to ducks.” The title comes from a poem written by 2nd Lieutenant Frank W. Harvey, a British soldier during World War 1. The dedication line of this—his most well-known poem—reads thus: “To E.M., Who drew them in Holzminden Prison.” They shared a cell in that notorious WW1 Prisoner of War camp, and when Harvey was returned there after a spell of solitary confinement, over the head of his bed his cellmate had produced a chalk drawing of ducks on a pond. It lifted Harvey’s spirits and led to him writing his most famous poem, “Ducks.” This is the third stanza:


When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured


He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones;

Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) He made, and then

He made the comical ones in case the minds of men

Should stiffen and become

Dull, humourless and glum,

And so forgetful of their Maker be

As to take even themselves – quite seriously.

Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:

All God’s jokes are good – even the practical ones!

And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit

Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it.

And he’s probably laughing still at the sound that came                         out of its bill!

In the last few weeks we have all experienced upheaval and change, even concern. And right now many corps are welcoming new officers, and officers’ children are looking for new friends. Finding my way around a new grocery store is stressful, let alone the challenge of a new city! However, I learned a great lesson from my officer parents, who endured many moves during their years of service. They would always marvel that in every place the Army assigned them, God provided them a place of beauty within minutes of their quarters, to rest and refresh their souls.

In recent days of upheaval and change, my heart has been comforted by a vision of the beauty God gives us daily. I’ve been turning to ducks to lift my heart to God who has made all things well. I see a smiling God and I think I’ve heard his laughter, too. He will continue to bring peace and joy even if we walk through stormy times. As the song says:


All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.


Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,

He made their tiny wings:


He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we might tell

How great is God Almighty,

Who has made all things well:


Or as it says in Lamentations 3:22-24 (NAS): The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

I pray that you may find the joy of God flooding your heart as you seek his presence in the miniature miracles of life.


Sharing is caring!