October is Black History Month, and so I’ve chosen ‘Deep River’, one of the best-loved of all African American spirituals, as my hymn of the week. Spirituals were the songs through which African American slaves expressed their faith, their yearning for freedom, and their hope of deliverance, drawn from the promises in the Bible. Some are lively and up-tempo (‘Joshua fit de battle of Jericho’); others, like ‘Deep River’, have slow, haunting melodies, and words expressing weariness and sorrow as well as aspiration and hope. We don’t know who the author was, or who composed the music for ‘Deep River’. Although simple, the words have rich layers of meaning, especially the central image drawn from the crossing of the Israelites over Jordan into the Promised Land of Canaan. ‘Campground’ refers to the outdoor ‘camp meetings’ where slaves sang, preached and prayed together, but it signifies here the ultimate ‘campground’ – Heaven. ‘Gospel-feast’ recalls both Luke 14:13–14, where Jesus speaks of the feast to which the poor and suffering are invited, and the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’ of Revelation 21:9.

‘Deep River’ first appeared in print in 1877, but only became widely known in the early twentieth century. The black English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor transcribed the music for piano in 1905, and the prominent black singer and composer Henry T. Burleigh published an influential arrangement in 1913. It was the first piece to be recorded (in 1924) by the great African American contralto, Marian Anderson (1897–1993). In 1939, Anderson – by then famous – was banned from singing before an integrated audience in Washington D.C.’s Constitution Hall, just because of the colour of her skin. Such was the outrage that an outdoor recital was organised, with support from Eleanor Roosevelt and the President. Over 75,000 people attended, and millions more listened on radio as Anderson sang from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Listening to her rendition of ‘Deep River’ on the recording I’ve chosen is an intensely moving experience. This beautiful spiritual continues to resonate powerfully for people in America – and beyond. I’ve provided a link to a modern arrangement of the music for two violins and piano, with an eloquent accompanying video, recorded just a month ago for the ‘Songs of America’ series.

Deep river,
My home is over Jordan,
Deep river, Lord,
I want to cross over into campground.


Oh don’t you want to go to that Gospel-feast,
That promised land where all is peace?
Lord, I want to cross over into campground.

I’ll go into heaven, and take my seat,
Cast my crown at Jesus’ feet.
Lord, I want to cross over into campground.

Oh, when I get to heaven, I’ll walk all about,
There’s nobody there for to turn me out.
Lord, I want to cross over into campground.

My chosen hymn this week is ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’. It is easy to see why people love this hymn. It evokes a feeling of calmness, peace, and quiet through phrases like ‘without a word’, ‘deep hush’, ‘tender whisper’, ‘dews of quietness’. It encourages us to open ourselves to a world where the ‘silence of eternity’ is ‘interpreted by love’. We can all appreciate those times when the ‘strain and stress’ is lifted from our souls and we experience the beauty of peace in our lives. The final line refers to the ‘still small voice’ Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:12): God was not in the earthquake, wind, or fire, but in the ‘still small voice of calm’. 

The popularity of the hymn also owes much to the lovely tune ‘Repton’ – its repeated final line of each verse contributing to the mood of quiet contemplation. Originally written by Hubert Parry (1848–1918) for an aria in his oratorio Judith (1888), it was set to ‘Dear Lord and Father’ by Parry’s friend George Gilbert Stocks (1877–1960), director of music at Repton School. But who was the ‘author’ of this hymn? 

The six verses we sing were part of a strange poem, ‘The Brewing of Soma’, published in 1872 by the American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. As a Quaker, Whittier greatly disliked noise or physical activity of any kind in religious services, and did not approve of hymns. His lengthy poem compared emotionalism in Christian worship to the sensual ecstasy achieved in some Indian religions by use of a hallucinogenic drug brewed from Soma (a plant). Some years later, however, William Garrett Horder (1841–1922), a Congregationalist minister in England, saw the potential of these six verses, and published them in his collection Congregational Hymns (1884). 

So perhaps we really owe the hymn to Horder, even though the words are by Whittier. From many performances available, I’ve chosen one by The Graduate Choir of New Zealand, recorded in 2012, which includes a beautiful arrangement of the third verse by David Willcocks (the fourth verse is omitted).

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
     Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives thy service find,
     In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
     Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
     Rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
     O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity,
     Interpreted by love!

 

With that deep hush subduing all
     Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of thy call,
As noiseless let thy blessing fall
     As fell thy manna down.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
     Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
     The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
     Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire,
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
     O still, small voice of calm!

                        John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–92)


Will Your Anchor Hold?

A hymn that seems distinctly relevant to our current situation is an old favourite: ‘Will Your Anchor Hold’. The words are by the poet and hymn-writer Priscilla Jane Owens, a schoolteacher from Baltimore, Maryland and a Sunday School teacher at Union Square Methodist Episcopal Church for over fifty years. Most of her hymns, including this one, were written for her Sunday School students. In 1883, only a year after its publication, this hymn became the official hymn of the Boy’s Brigade, founded that year in Glasgow. Its emblem was an anchor, with the words ‘Sure’ and ‘Steadfast’, taken, as in Owens’s hymn, from Hebrews 6:19, which speaks of our Christian hope as ‘an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast’. There are other hymns based on nautical imagery, but Owens exploits the metaphor with particular skill and imagination – I like the ‘cables passed from His heart to mine’, and the idea of heaven having a ‘harbour bright’ where we will ‘anchor fast … for evermore’. The rousing tune is by William J. Kirkpatrick (1838–1926), a carpenter and musician in Philadelphia who published over fifty collections of hymn tunes, and apparently died while at his desk writing another one! I’ve chosen a wonderful performance by the choir of Ely Cathedral, from a CD recorded in 1999 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the RNLI.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Saviour’s hand;
And the cables passed, from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, through strength divine.

It will firmly hold in the Straits of Fear –
When the breakers tell that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.

It will surely hold in the Floods of Death –
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.

When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbour bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past for evermore.

                                                Priscilla Jane Owens (1829–1907)

It will come as no surprise that my hymn this week is ‘We Plough the Fields, and Scatter’. What may surprise you is that what we think of as a quintessentially ‘English’ hymn is, in fact, a translation based on a German poem of the eighteenth century. It first appeared as seventeen verses in praise of country life included in a short story by Matthias Claudius published in 1782. Then, when made into a song of six verses and chorus, published in a collection for schools in 1800, it became very popular. In 1861 Jane Montgomery Campbell, daughter of the vicar of St. James’s, Paddington, translated it as three verses of eight lines with a chorus to form the English hymn we know. She translated many German hymns and published a music book for children, but this harvest hymn is her most famous work. The refrain comes from James 1:17, but what makes the hymn so memorable is its strong rhythmic structure and praise of the God who provides the food we depend on for life. Attempts have been made to update the words (‘We plough the fields with tractors, / With drills we sow the land’), but this hardly seems necessary. The lively and joyous tune by J. A. P. Schultz (1747–1800), known as ‘Wir Pflügen’, was first published as a setting for the German text, but Campbell’s English words fit it perfectly. I’ve chosen a lovely ‘Songs of Praise’ version of 2018, from All Saints’ Church, Northampton.

We plough the fields, and scatter
     The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
     By God’s almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter,
     The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes, and the sunshine,
     And soft, refreshing rain.
          All good gifts around us
             Are sent from heav’n above;
          Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,
             For all His love.

 

He only is the maker
     Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
     He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,
     By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
     He gives our daily bread.

 

We thank thee then, O Father,
     For all things bright and good,
The seed-time and the harvest,
     Our life, our health, our food:
Accept the gifts we offer
     For all thy love imparts,
And, what thou most desirest,
     Our humble, thankful hearts.

                                    Matthias Claudius (1740–1815)

               trans. Jane Montgomery Campbell (1817–78)

My hymn this week is ‘All Creatures of our God and King’ – the greatest of all hymns on the theme of God as creator and sustainer of life. 

The words we sing are a free translation of the ‘Cantico di fratre sole’ (‘Canticle of brother Sun’) by St Francis of Assisi. He based it on Psalm 148, but, charmingly, names each element and creature in terms of human relationships: the fire is our ‘brother’, the water our ‘sister’, and so on, thus emphasizing the interconnectedness of all creation. 

As well as grandeur, there is a tenderness running through the hymn – even death is ‘kind and gentle’. The English translation is by William Henry Draper, then Rector of Adel, near Leeds, who made it for a children’s Whitsuntide procession in the early twentieth century. Draper was a leading figure in the High Church Oxford Movement, and translated many ancient hymns. 

The German tune, ‘Lasst Uns Erfreuen’ (‘Let us rejoice’) dates from the early seventeenth century, and Draper’s hymn was first set to it in The English Public School Hymn Book of 1919.

 I’ve chosen a performance by the Cambridge Singers in an arrangement by John Rutter (starting with a bright fanfare), and give all the words below (the fifth and sixth verses are left out in this performance, which is a pity, I think).

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing
    Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam,
    O praise him, O praise him,
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
    O praise him, alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice:

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
    Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light:

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
    O praise him, alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them his glory also show:

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
    O sing ye, alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on him cast your care:

And thou, most kind and gentle death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
    O praise him, alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod:

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship him in humbleness;
    O praise him, alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One:
    O praise him, O praise him,
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

                St Francis of Assisi (1182–1226)

 

  trans. William Henry Draper (1855–1933)

My hymn this week is the famous Welsh anthem, ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’ – one of those hymns that stretch out beyond the confines of ‘church’ to become popular songs. Written in Welsh by William Williams in 1762, a translation into English appeared about ten years later.

 Williams was a priest in the Church of Wales, but left to become a travelling Methodist preacher and a prolific hymn-writer, earning the nickname ‘sweet singer of Wales’. The word ‘Redeemer’ in the first line was originally ‘Jehovah’, because the hymn is based on the story in Exodus 13–16 of the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt and their forty-year travel through the wilderness (the ‘barren land’). 

God (‘Jehovah’) provided them with manna (the ‘bread of heaven’), water from the rock (the ‘crystal fountain’), and led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night until, eventually, they crossed Jordan into the promised land of Canaan.

 In John 6:30–35, Jesus refers to this story, describing himself as ‘the bread of life’. Various tunes were used for the hymn, but in 1905 John Hughes (1873–1932), a Welsh Baptist, composed ‘Cwmn Rhondda’ and this became indissolubly linked to ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’. 

According to legend, in the First World War, German soldiers were so impressed with the melodious singing of this hymn by Welsh troops that they took it up and sang it themselves.

 I’ve chosen a stirring rendition by a Welsh Chapel congregation, and – a bonus track – a lovely version sung feelingly by Harry Secombe (in a snowy Rhondda valley) with the Treorchy Male Choir.

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
    Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
    Hold me with thy powerful hand:
        Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
    Feed me till I want no more.

Open thou the crystal fountain,
    Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
    Lead me all my journey through:
        Strong deliv’rer, Strong deliv’rer,
    Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
    Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
    Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
        Songs of praises, Songs of praises,
    I will ever give to thee.

                                        William Williams (1717–91)

                              trans. Peter Williams (1722–96) and others

My hymn this week is ‘Here am I, Lord’, written in 1979 by Daniel L. Schutte, at that time a young Jesuit studying theology, now Composer-in-Residence at the University of San Francisco. It is an enormously popular hymn, sung by all Christian denominations. 

The words are based on moments in the Bible where a prophet is called by God – Samuel (1 Samuel 3), Isaiah (6:8), Jeremiah (1:5–6) – and where they all express their feelings of human weakness and self-doubt. A great hymn of vocation and consecration, it is no surprise that ‘Here I am, Lord’ became an anthem of the Movement for the Ordination of Women. (My wife Patti remembers it sung at one of the first women’s ordination services, at St Paul’s in 1994.) But Schutte’s hymn speaks to and inspires all of us on our spiritual journey, when at some point we have to say ‘Here I am Lord, and I’m going to trust you to be with me whatever I may have to face’. 

The tune is Schutte’s own composition. I’ve chosen an uplifting congregational ‘Songs of Praise’ version, recorded at St Andrew’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Glasgow in 2016, and a performance by the Cathedral Choir of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa in 2019, where the young singers all hold hands and sing with feeling an arrangement that beautifully catches the note of hesitation and trust in ‘Is it I, Lord?’.

I, the Lord of sea and sky,

I have heard my people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin

My hand will save.

I, who made the stars of night,

I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear my light to them?

Whom shall I send?

 

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.

 

I, the Lord of snow and rain,

I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them,

They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone,

Give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak my word to them,

Whom shall I send?

 

I the Lord of wind and flame,

I will tend the poor and lame,

I will set a feast for them.

My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide

Till their hearts be satisfied.

I will give my life to them.

Whom shall I send?

 

Here I am, Lord . . .                               Daniel L. Schutte (1947– )

Who would true valour see

My hymn for this week is ‘Who Would True Valour See’ by John Bunyan, who died on 30 August 1688. It first appeared in 1684 as a song celebrating the courage and constancy of Mr Valiant-for-Truth, a character in the second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Surprisingly, it didn’t get into the hymnbooks until 1906, when Percy Dearmer included it in the English Hymnal. Dearmer, alas, freely altered Bunyan’s robust language, fearing that modern church people would not want to sing about hobgoblins or foul fiends. I’m glad to say the original version has now come back into use – though when Patti and I got married we cheerfully pluralized the words

(‘Here’s two will constant be … They’ll labour night and day / To be true Pilgrims’). It’s a finely-crafted poem, making resourceful use of two-syllable as well as single-syllable rhymes leading up to the final, unrhymed ‘pilgrim’ in each verse.

The hymn epitomizes the spirit of Bunyan himself, not only as author of one of the greatest books about the Christian life, but as a prisoner of conscience who spent twelve years in Bedford prison for his nonconformist religious beliefs – true valour indeed.

The tune is known as ‘Monks Gate’, because it came from a traditional folk song collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from a woman in the village of Monks Gate, near Horsham in Sussex, and he recognized how wonderfully it would fit the rhythms of Bunyan’s lines.

I’ve chosen a rousing performance by the choir and congregation at Southwark Cathedral (where there is a beautiful John Bunyan window), and, as a bonus, Maddy Prior’s jaunty folk-song style rendition.

Who would true valour see,
     Let him come hither:
One here will constant be,
     Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
     To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
     With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound:
     His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
But he will have a right
     To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend,
     Can daunt his spirit:
He knows he at the end
     Shall life inherit.
Then, fancies, fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
     To be a pilgrim.

                                    John Bunyan (1628–88)

Now Thank We All Our God

My hymn this week is ‘Nun danket alle Gott’, by Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran pastor at Eilenburg in Saxony, translated into English as ‘Now Thank We All Our God’. Amazingly, this heart-warming hymn of thanksgiving and praise appeared during the Thirty Years’ War in central Europe (1618–1648), a time of famine, disease, suffering and death on an apocalyptic scale. Rinkart saw thousands of his parishioners die, including his own wife. In the nineteenth century Catherine Winkworth translated this great hymn into English. A pioneer in higher education for women, she produced hundreds of translations of German hymns and their chorale tunes. Rinkart based the first two verses on Ecclesiasticus 50:22–3, ‘Now bless the God of all, who everywhere works great wonders, who fosters our growth from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy. May he give us gladness of heart, and may there be peace in our days in Israel, as in the days of old.’ The words praise God’s ‘countless gifts of love’ to us with a strong forward movement leading to a final verse praising all three Persons of the Trinity. The majestic tune ‘Nun danket’ is by Johann Crüger (1598–1662), a well-known Lutheran composer and contemporary of Rinkart. I’ve chosen a wonderful performance by massed choirs and a congregation of about 5,000 people at the Royal Albert Hall, included in the BBC Songs of Praise ‘Big Sing’ of October 2012.

Now thank we all our God,
    With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
    In whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms
    Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
    And still is ours to-day.

Oh may this bounteous God
    Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
    And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us still in grace,
    And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
    In this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
    The Father, now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns
    With them in highest heaven;
The One eternal God,
    Whom earth and heaven adore,
For thus it was, is now,
    And shall be evermore!

                              Martin Rinkart (1586–1649)

                                    trans. Catherine Winkworth (1827–78)

My hymn this week is ‘Tell Out, My Soul’, by the contemporary hymn-writer, Timothy Dudley-Smith. Written in 1961, it was inspired by the first line of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) in The New English Bible. 

The King James Version may be more familiar – ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’ – but what struck Dudley-Smith was the directness and strength of the modern translation: ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord’. 

The hymn was an immediate success, and Dudley-Smith went on to write around 400 more. An Evangelical, and later Bishop of Thetford, he was a leading figure in the Church Pastoral Aid Society (set up to support poorer parishes). 

The four verses here ‘tell out’ the words of Mary as she expresses her sense of what it means for her to be the bearer of Christ and how this will change the world forever. 

We perhaps forget how radical her exultant words are – she is far from the silent, demure figure we often see portrayed. In 1969 the hymn was set to ‘Woodlands’ by Walter Greatorex (1877–1949), a grand, sweeping melody with a dramatic high note on ‘soul’ in each first line.

 I’ve chosen a fine performance by the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, recorded in 1995.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
Tender to me the promise of his word;
In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age to same;
His holy name, the Lord, the Mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by;
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
To children’s children and for evermore!
Timothy Dudley-Smith (1926– )

My hymn choice this week was inspired by looking out the window one morning and remembering that beautiful hymn, ‘Morning has Broken’. 

It’s a good example of a hymn written to order. When Percy Dearmer was putting together a new edition of his Songs of Praise in 1931, he asked Eleanor Farjeon to write a hymn ‘on the theme of thanksgiving for each day as it comes’ – and it had to fit the Scottish Gaelic tune ‘Bunessan’. 

Being an amazingly inventive writer (later famous as a children’s author), Farjeon produced this delightful hymn. 

The words and lilting rhythm of the music together evoke the freshness of that morning in Eden, as Adam and Eve delight in the first blackbird, rain, grass, light. 

At a time when we are concerned about the effects of climate change on our world, this hymn becomes ever more relevant. Farjeon had a strong interest in religion all her life (her father was Jewish), and on her seventieth birthday she was received into the Roman Catholic Church. 

She described this as a natural progression, flowing out of her ‘increasing sense of the immortal spirit from a source I could only think of as God’. Cat Stevens (as he then was) made ‘Morning has Broken’ a worldwide hit in the early 1970s, and I’ve included his version to take us all back to our youth. 

But I’ve also given a link to a 2013 performance by pupils from Milkwood Junior School, Mossel Bay, in the Western Cape province of South Africa. If the hand-bell performers here don’t bring a smile to your face . . .

Morning has broken
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
   Like the first bird.
       Praise for the singing,
       Praise for the morning,
       Praise for them springing
          Fresh from the Word.

Sweet the rain’s new fall
Sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall
   On the first grass.
       Praise for the sweetness
       Of the wet garden,
       Sprung in completeness
          Where his feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight!
Mine is the morning
Born of the one light
   Eden saw play!
       Praise with elation,
       Praise ev’ry morning,
       God’s re-creation
          Of the new day!

                                                Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965)

My hymn this week has impressive cross-European credentials: written in French by a Swiss Protestant to fit a tune by a German Lutheran and translated into English by a Lancashire-born Baptist pastor.

It is ‘A toi la gloire, O Ressuscité ’ – better known to us as ‘Thine be the Glory, Risen, Conquering Son’.

The author was Edmond L. Budry, a minister in the Free Evangelical Church in French-speaking Switzerland. He wrote it in 1884, to the tune of ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’, a chorus from Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabaeus (1746). 

The tune ‘Maccabaeus’ became famous beyond the oratorio (it is still whistled by the audience at the Last Night of the Proms). In the early twentieth century, Richard B. Hoyle, a Baptist pastor at Kingston-upon-Thames, translated the words into English. 

He was a skilled translator (fluent in twelve languages), and ‘Thine be the Glory’ was published in 1924 in the first edition of the hymnbook of the World Student Christian Federation. 

The words draw on the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection and St Paul’s inspired passage on death and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 (esp. verses 55 and 57). 

Although certainly this is one of the Church’s great ‘hymns of triumph’, it should not, I think, sound ‘triumphalist’. 

Handel’s music is strong and confident, not brash or foot stamping. With that in mind, my chosen performance is by the choir of York Minster, recorded in 1996.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory, thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.

Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting:

Thine be the glory . . .

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors through thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above:

Thine be the glory . . .

                                                            Edmond L. Budry (1854–1932)

  1. Richard B. Hoyle (1875–1939)

 

My hymn this week is ‘Steal Away to Jesus’, one of the most famous of all African-American Spirituals – those songs that were such a source of consolation and hope for an enslaved people. 

The term ‘spiritual’ derives from Colossians 3:16 and the songs invariably draw on stories from the Bible – especially ones depicting the triumph of the weak over their enemies, or speaking of deliverance from oppression. In ‘Steal Away’, Jesus understands and shares the suffering of slaves. In stealing away (secretly?) to Jesus, homeless slaves were also ‘stealing away home’. 

That little word ‘home’ is so moving in this context, representing as it does a place free of earthly pain and sorrow. The images of ‘thunder’ and ‘green trees bending’ causing poor sinners to ‘tremble’ suggest that a great change will come – heralded by the trumpet that sounds ‘within-a my soul’. The words are attributed to a slave called Wallace Willis, written sometime before 1862. 

At the time they may have had a double meaning, referring also to schemes to help escaped slaves get to the North and Canada, but their message that ‘freedom’ will come is as relevant as ever. In singing hymns like these prayerfully and as an expression of our common humanity we all ‘steal away home’. 

Of the many versions available, I’ve chosen the great rolling basso profundo voice of Paul Robeson, recorded in 1934, and a beautiful choral setting by the composer Moses Hogan, editor of The Oxford Book of Spirituals

The links are below, with the words following.

My hymn for this week is ‘In Heavenly Love Abiding’.

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home
I ain’t got long to stay here

My Lord, He calls me
He calls me by the thunder
The trumpet sounds within-a my soul
I ain’t got long to stay here

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home
I ain’t got long to stay here

Green trees are bending
Po’ sinner stand a-trembling
The trumpet sounds within-a my soul
I ain’t got long to stay here

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus
Steal away, steal away home
I ain’t got long to stay here

My hymn for this week is ‘In Heavenly Love Abiding’. Written by the Welsh poet Anna Letitia Waring, and published in her first collection, Hymns and Mediations (1850), it is all about trusting in God, even when the storm is roaring ‘without’ (i.e. outside). The reference to God’s love ‘abiding’ alludes to John 15:10 and the second verse summarises Psalm 23. There are also echoes of Psalm 34:1–8 throughout. Waring had a remarkable knowledge of the Bible: she taught herself Hebrew to read the Old Testament in the original language. Although brought up a Quaker, she was baptized into the Church of England at the age of nineteen. She not only published poetry and hymns, she lived out her faith as an active prison visitor and a worker for the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society. The tune most often used for her beautiful hymn is ‘Penlan’, composed in 1898 by David Jenkins (1848–1915), Professor of Music at University College, Aberystwyth. The performance I’ve chosen is, fittingly, one recorded for Songs of Praise in 2016 in St Germans Church, Cardiff. The words are under the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SFxG0h57kk

In heavenly love abiding,
    No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
    For nothing changes here:
The storm may roar without me,
    My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
    How can I be afraid?

Wherever he may guide me
    No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me
    And nothing can I lack:
His wisdom ever waketh,
    His sight is never dim;
He knows the way he taketh,
    And I will walk with him.

Green pastures are before me,
    Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
    Where the dark clouds have been:
My hope I cannot measure,
    My path to life is free;
My saviour has my treasure,
    And he will walk with me.

                        Anna Letitia Waring (1823–1910)

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My hymn for the week of ‘Sea Sunday’ could be no other than ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’, known in the Royal Navy as ‘The Sailor’s Hymn’ and often sung at great naval occasions.

 Written in 1860 by William Whiting, master of Winchester College Choristers’ School, it was included the following year in the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern

There are echoes of Psalm 107:23–30, and of lines from Milton’s Paradise Lost, but the structure is Trinitarian, the first three verses praying to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ending in the fourth with the resounding ‘O Holy Trinity of love and power’. 

The powerful tune to which it is always sung is ‘Melita’, composed by John Bacchus Dykes (1823–76), vicar of St Oswald’s, Durham who wrote nearly 300 hymn tunes. 

Here, the rising swell of the music enacts the movement of the sea, achieving a wonderful integration of thought, feeling, and melody. 

I’ve chosen a sensitive and moving performance by the choir of Wells Cathedral, recorded in 1986. The words follow the link below:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
    O hear us when we cry to thee,
    For those in peril on the sea.

O Saviour, whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amid its rage didst sleep:
    O hear us when we cry to thee,
    For those in peril on the sea.

O sacred Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
Who bad’st its angry tumult cease,
And gavest light and life and peace:
    O hear us when we cry to thee,
    For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go:
    And ever let there rise to thee
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
                                    William Whiting (1825–78)