03 March 2009

Lorenzo Lyons

Missionary pastor to the Hawai'ian Islands; author of the revered anthem Hawai'i Aloha

Lorenzo Lyons (b. 18 April 1807; d. 6 October 1886) completed his theological studies at Auburn Theological Seminary and was ordained to the ministry on 20 September 1831. Soon afterward, the twenty-seven year old Lyons and his wife Elizabeth "Betsy" Curtis (b. 10 January 1813, Elbridge, Onondaga County, New York; d. 14 May 1837) set sail from New Bedford for the Sandwich Islands, where they arrived in 1832. They had two sons, Curtis Jerre Lyons (b. 27 June 1833) and Luke Lyons (b. 4 June 1836; d. 21 October 1837). Rev. Lyons married a second time to Lucia Garratt Smith of Truxton, Cortland County, New York (b. 17 April 1808; d. October 1886, Waimea);

Until his death at Waimea on 6 October 1886, "Father Lyons" devoted himself to the pastoral care of the native people of the Island of Hawai'i. Lyons was known for his great love for the Hawai'ian language. "An interminable language," he remarked. "It is one of the oldest living languages of the earth, as some conjecture, and may well be classed among the best. The thought to displace it, or to doom it to oblivion by substituting the English language, ought not for a moment to be indulged. Long live the grand old, sonorous, poetical Hawaiian language!"

The best known and most beloved of Lyons' hymns is Hawai'i Aloha, whose words Lyons set to the tune of "I Left it All With Jesus" by James McGranahan. Hawai'i Aloha is sung at gatherings large and small, formal and informal, often while standing in a circle with joined hands. It is a vital feature of the inauguration of the Governor of Hawai'i and the opening sessions of both houses of the state legislature. Traditionally, hands are raised overhead while singing the last verse and chorus, in a gesture important to the Hawai'ian sovereignty movement.

Listen to the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's performance of the beautiful Hawai'ian verses that are a lasting legacy of Ka Makua Laiana, haku mele o ka aina Mauna, "Father Lyons, lyric poet of the mountain country."

Hawai`i Aloha

E Hawai`i, e ku`u one hanau e, Ku`u home kulaiwi nei,
`Oli no au i na pono lani ou, E Hawai`i, aloha e.

E hau`oli na `opio o Hawai`i nei. `Oli e! `Oli e!
Mai na aheahe makani e pa mai nei mau ke aloha, no Hawai`i .

E ha`i mai kou mau kini lani e, Kou mau kupa aloha, e Hawai`i ,
Na mea `olino kamaha`o no luna mai , E Hawai`i, aloha e.

Na ke Akua e malama mai ia `oe, Kou mau kualono aloha nei,
Kou mau kahawai `olinolino mau, Kou mau mala pua nani e.

English Translation

O Hawai`i, O sands of my birth, my native home,
I rejoice in the blessings of heaven, O Hawai`i, aloha.

Be happy, youth of Hawai`i . Rejoice! Rejoice!
Gentle breezes blow love always for Hawai`i .

May your divine throngs speak, your loving people, O Hawai`i,
The holy light from above, O Hawai`i, aloha.

It is God who protects you, your beloved ridges,
Your ever-glistening streams, your beautiful flower gardens.