Yesterday we mused on ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. As a child I liked it because it contains the word ‘manifold’.

‘Join with all nature in manifold witness….’

I also heard about the ‘manifold mercies of God’, ‘manifold trials and temptations’. It was the King James Bible (1611) I was brought up with. I didn’t know what it meant.

Teenage friends who were interested in scooters, motorbikes and cars talked about manifolds. I switched off but still liked the word.

But then I heard the song ‘Ernie’ ‘who drove the fastest milk cart in the west’. It tells of Ernie’s rivalry with the baker ‘two ton Ted from Teddington’ for the affections of ‘a widow known as Sue’.

A duel between Ernie and Ted results in Ernie’s sad demise. The song concludes:

‘But a woman’s needs are manifold and Sue, she married Ted
But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed…’

Wikipedia says ‘The word manifold comes from the old English word ‘manigfeald’ (from the Anglo-Saxon manig (many) and feald (repeatedly).

So a woman’s needs are many and repeated? Hmmm. Enough said – I will get myself into trouble.

Whatever happens in the inlet manifold and the exhaust manifold in my car engine it is repeated and often… it is a place where one pipe becomes many or many pipes become one.

‘Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.’

So Thomas Chisholm, the ‘old shoe’ is saying that the seasons, heavens and nature are a ‘many and repeated’ witness to his god’s faithfulness mercy and love. Many become one.

I get it.


Great is thy faithfulness – written by Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960) in 1923

 ‘Manifold mercies’ – e.g. Nehemiah 9: 19, 27, 31, ‘Manifold trials and temptations’ – 1 Peter 1:6, James 1:2

‘Ernie’ was written and performed by Benny Hill (1971)

Wikipedia – origin of ‘manifold’ and the sum total of my car mechanics knowledge

One thought on “Manifold

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