[Greek: Erchesthe, o pistoi,
John of Damascus, called also St. John of Jerusalem, a theologian and poet, was the last but one of the Christian Fathers of the Greek Church. This eminent man was named by the Arabs "Ibn Mansur," Son (Servant?) of a Conqueror, either in honor of his father Sergius or because it was a Semitic translation of his family title. He was born in Damascus early in the 8th century, and seems to have been in favor with the Caliph, and served under him many years in some important civil capacity, until, retiring to Palestine, he entered the monastic order, and late in life was ordained a priest of the Jerusalem Church. He died in the Convent of St. Sabas near that city about A.D.780.
His lifetime appears to have been passed in comparative peace. Mohammed having died before completing the conquest of Syria, the Moslem rule before whose advance Oriental Christianity was to lose its first field of triumph had not yet asserted its persecuting power in the north. This devout monk, in his meditations at St. Sabas, dwelt much upon the birth and the resurrection of Christ, and made hymns to celebrate them. It was probably four hundred years before Bonaventura (?) wrote the Christmas "Adeste Fideles" of the Latin West that John of Damascus composed his Greek "Adeste Fideles" for a Resurrection song in Jerusalem.
Come ye faithful, raise the strain
* * * * *
'Tis the spring of souls today
The nobler of the two hymns preserved to us, (or six stanzas of it) through eleven centuries is entitled "The Day of Resurrection."
The day of resurrection,
Our hearts be pure from evil,
Now let the heavens be joyful,
Both these hymns of John of Damascus were translated by John Mason Neale.
"The Day of Resurrection" is sung in the modern hymnals to the tune of "Rotterdam," composed by Berthold of Tours, born in that city of the Netherlands, Dec.17, 1838. He was educated at the conservatory in Leipsic, and later made London his permanent residence, writing both vocal and instrumental music. Died 1897. "Rotterdam" is a stately, sonorous piece and conveys the flavor of the ancient hymn.
"Come ye faithful" has for its modern interpreter Sir Arthur Sullivan, the celebrated composer of both secular and sacred works, but best known in hymnody as author of the great Christian march, "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Hymns are known to have been written by the earlier Greek Fathers, Ephrem Syrus of Mesopotamia (A.D.307-373), Basil the Great, Bishop of Cappadocia (A.D.329-379) Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop of Constantinople (A.D.335-390) and others, but their fragments of song which have come down to us scarcely rank them among the great witnesses -- with the possible exception of the last name. An English scholar, Rev. Allen W. Chatfield, has translated the hymns extant of Gregory Nazianzen. The following stanzas give an idea of their quality. The lines are from an address to the Deity:
How, Unapproached! shall mind of man
Unuttered Thou! all uttered things
And lo! all things abide in Thee
This is reverent, but rather philosophical than evangelical, and reminds us of the Hymn of Aratus, more than two centuries before Christ was born.
ST. STEPHEN, THE SABAITE.
This pious Greek monk, (734-794,) nephew of St. John of Damascus, spent his life, from the age of ten, in the monastery of St. Sabas. His sweet hymn, known in Neale's translation, --
Art thou weary, art thou languid,
-- is still in the hymnals, with the tunes of Dykes, and Sir Henry W. Baker (1821-1877), Vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire.
KING ROBERT II.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus.
Robert the Second, surnamed "Robert the Sage" and "Robert the Devout," succeeded Hugh Capet, his father, upon the throne of France, about the year 997. He has been called the gentlest monarch that ever sat upon a throne, and his amiability of character poorly prepared him to cope with his dangerous and wily adversaries. His last years were embittered by the opposition of his own sons, and the political agitations of the times. He died at Melun in 1031, and was buried at St. Denis.
Robert possessed a reflective mind, and was fond of learning and musical art. He was both a poet and a musician. He was deeply religious, and, from unselfish motives, was much devoted to the church.
Robert's hymn, "Veni, Sancte Spiritus," is given below. He himself was a chorister; and there was no kingly service that he seemed to love so well. We are told that it was his custom to go to the church of St. Denis, and in his royal robes, with his crown upon his head, to direct the choir at matins and vespers, and join in the singing. Few kings have left a better legacy to the Christian church than his own hymn, which, after nearly a thousand years, is still an influence in the world:
Come, Thou Holy Spirit, come,
Thou of Comforters the best,
Oh, most blessed Light Divine,
Heal our wounds; our strength renew
The metre and six-line stanza, being uniform with those of "Rock of Ages," have tempted some to borrow "Toplady" for this ancient hymn, but Hastings' tune would refuse to sing other words; and, besides, the alternate rhymes would mar the euphony. Not unsuitable in spirit are several existing tunes of the right measure -- like "Nassau" or "St. Athanasius" -- but in truth the "Veni, Sancte Spiritus" in English waits for its perfect setting. Dr. Ray Palmer's paraphrase of it in sixes-and-fours, to fit "Olivet," --
Come, Holy Ghost in love, etc.
-- is objectionable both because the word Ghost is an archaism in Christian worship and more especially because Dr. Palmer's altered version usurps the place of his own hymn. "Olivet" with "My faith looks up to Thee" makes as inviolable a case of psalmodic[Footnote 7: "Proses" were original passages introduced into ecclesiastical chants in the 10th century. During and after the 11th century they were called "Sequences" (i.e. following the "Gospel" in the liturgy), and were in metrical form, having a prayerful tone. "Sequentia pro defunctis" was the later title of the "Dies Irae."]
The hymn is much too long to quote entire, but can be found in Daniel's Thesaurus in any large public library. As to the translations of it, they number hundreds -- in English and German alone, and Italy, Spain and Portugal have their vernacular versions -- not to mention the Greek and Russian and even the Hebrew. A few stanzas follow, with their renderings into English (always imperfect) selected almost at random:
Quantus tremor est futurus
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
O the dread, the contrite kneeling
When the trumpet's awful tone
The solemn strength and vibration of these tremendous trilineals suffers no general injury by the variant readings -- and there are a good many. As a sample, the first stanza was changed by some canonical redactor to get rid of the heathen word Sybilla, and the second line was made the third:
Dies Irae, dies illa
Day of wrath! that day foretold,
In some readings the original "in favilla" is changed to "cum favilla," "with ashes" instead of "in ashes"; and "Teste Petro" is substituted for "Teste David."
The varieties of music set to the "Hymn of Judgment" in the different sections and languages of Christendom during seven hundred years are probably as numerous as the pictures of the Holy Family in Christian art. It is enough to say that one of the best at hand, or, at least, accessible, is the solemn minor melody of Dr. Dykes in William Henry Monk's Hymns Ancient and Modern. It was composed about the middle of the last century. Both the Evangelical and Methodist Hymnals have Dean Stanley's translation of the hymn, the former with thirteen stanzas (six-line) to a D minor of John Stainer, and the latter to a C major of Timothy Matthews. The Plymouth Hymnal has seventeen of the trilineal stanzas, by an unknown translator, to Ferdinand Hiller's tune in F minor, besides one verse to another F minor -- hymn and tune both nameless.
All the composers above named are musicians of fame. John Stainer, organist of St. Paul's Cathedral, was a Doctor of Music and Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and celebrated for his works in sacred music, to which he mainly devoted his time. He was born June 6, 1840. He died March 31, 1901.
Rev. Timothy Richard Matthews, born at Colmworth, Eng., Nov.20, 1826, is a clergyman of the Church of England, incumbent of a Lancaster charge to which he was appointed by Queen Alexandra.
Ferdinand Hiller, born 1811 at Frankfort-on-the-Main, of Hebrew parentage, was one of Germany's most eminent musicians. For many years he was Chapel Master at Cologne, and organized the Cologne Conservatory. His compositions are mostly for instrumental performance, but he wrote cantatas, motets, male choruses, and two oratorios, one on the "Destruction of Jerusalem." Died May 10, 1855.
The Very Rev. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of Westminster, was an author and scholar whom all sects of Christians delighted to honor. His writings on the New Testament and his published researches in Palestine, made him an authority in Biblical study, and his contributions to sacred literature were looked for and welcomed as eagerly as a new hymn by Bonar or a new poem by Tennyson. Dean Stanley was born in 1815, and died July 18th, 1881.
THOMAS A KEMPIS.
Thomas a Kempis, sub-prior of the Convent of St. Agnes, was born at Hamerkin, Holland, about the year 1380, and died at Zwoll, 1471. This pious monk belonged to an order called the "Brethren of the Common Life" founded by Gerard de Groote, and his fame rests entirely upon his one book, the Imitation of Christ, which continues to be printed as a religious classic, and is unsurpassed as a manual of private devotion. His monastic life -- as was true generally of the monastic life of the middle ages -- was not one of useless idleness. The Brethren taught school and did mechanical work. Besides, before the invention of printing had been perfected and brought into common service, the multiplication of books was principally the work of monkish pens. Kempis spent his days copying the Bible and good books -- as well as in exercises of devotion that promoted religious calm.
His idea of heaven, and the idea of his order, was expressed in that clause of John's description of the City of God, Rev.22:3, "and His servants shall serve Him." Above all other heavenly joys that was his favorite thought. We can well understand that the pious quietude wrought in his mind and manners by his habit of life made him a saint in the eyes of the people. The frontispiece of one edition of his Imitatio Christi pictures him as being addressed before the door of a convent by a troubled pilgrim, --
"O where is peace? -- for thou its paths hast trod,"
-- and his answer completes the couplet, --
"In poverty, retirement, and with God."
Of all that is best in inward spiritual life, much can be learned from this inspired Dutchman. He wrote no hymns, but in his old age he composed a poem on "Heaven's Joys," which is sometimes called "Thomas a Kempis' Hymn":
High the angel choirs are raising
Sweetest strains from soft harps stealing,
These lines are not in the hymnals of today -- and whether they ever found their way into choral use in ancient times we are not told. Worse poetry has been sung -- and more un-hymnlike. Some future composer will make a tune to the words of a Christian who stood almost in sight of his hundredth year -- and of the eternal home he writes about.
"Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott."
Of Martin Luther Coleridge said, "He did as much for the Reformation by his hymns as he did by his translation of the Bible." The remark is so true that it has become a commonplace.
The above line -- which may be seen inscribed on Luther's tomb at Wittenberg -- is the opening sentence and key-note of the Reformer's grandest hymn. The forty-sixth Psalm inspired it, and it is in harmony with sublime historical periods from its very nature, boldness, and sublimity. It was written, according to Welles, in the memorable year when the evangelical princes delivered their protest at the Diet of Spires, from which the word and the meaning of the word "Protestant" is derived. "Luther used often to sing it in 1530, while the Diet of Augsburg was sitting. It soon became the favorite psalm with the people. It was one of the watchwords of the Reformation, cheering armies to conflict, and sustaining believers in the hours of fiery trial."
"After Luther's death, Melancthon, his affectionate coadjutor, being one day at Weimar with his banished friends, Jonas and Creuziger, heard a little maid singing this psalm in the street, and said, 'Sing on, my little girl, you little know whom you comfort:'"
A mighty fortress is our God,
* * * * *
The Prince of Darkness grim --
That word above all earthly powers --
Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, in Saxony, Nov.10, 1483. He was educated at the University of Erfurth, and became an Augustinian monk and Professor of Philosophy and Divinity in the University of Wittenberg. In 1517 he composed and placarded his ninety-five Theses condemning certain practices of the Romish Church and three years later the Pope published a bull excommunicating him, which he burnt openly before a sympathetic multitude in Wittenberg. His life was a stormy one, and he was more than once in mortal danger by reason of his antagonism to the papal authority, but he found powerful patrons, and lived to see the Reformation an organized fact. He died in his birthplace, Eisleben, Feb.18th, 1546.
The translation of the "Ein feste burg," given above, in part, is by Rev. Frederick Henry Hedge, D.D., born in Cambridge, March 1805, a graduate of Harvard, and formerly minister of the Unitarian Church in Bangor, Me. Died, 1890.
Luther wrote thirty-six hymns, to some of which he fitted his own music, for he was a musician and singer as well as an eloquent preacher. The tune in which "Ein feste Burg" is sung in the hymnals, was composed by himself. The hymn has also a noble rendering in the music of Sebastian Bach, 8-4 time, found in Hymns Ancient and Modern.
"Great God, What Do I See and Hear?"
The history of this hymn is somewhat indefinite, though common consent now attributes to Ringwaldt the stanza beginning with the above line. The imitation of the "Dies Irae" in German which was first in use was printed in Jacob Klug's "Gesangbuch" in 1535. Ringwaldt's hymn of the Last Day, also inspired from the ancient Latin original, appears in his Handbuchlin of 1586, but does not contain this stanza. The first line is, "The awful Day will surely come," (Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit). Nevertheless through the more than two hundred years that the hymn has been translated and re-translated, and gone through inevitable revisions, some vital identity in the spirit and tone of the one seven-line stanza has steadily connected it with Ringwaldt's name. Apparently it is the single survivor of a great lost hymn -- edited and altered out of recognition. But its power evidently inspired the added verses, as we have them. Dr. Collyer found it, and, regretting that it was too short to sing in public service, composed stanzas 2d, 3d and 4th. It is likely that Collyer first met with it in Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Devotion, Sheffield 1802, where it appeared anonymously. So far as known this was its first publication in English. Ringwaldt's stanza and two of Collyer's are here given:
Great God, what do I see and hear!
The dead in Christ shall first arise
Far over space to distant spheres
Bartholomew Ringwaldt, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Longfeld, Prussia, was born in 1531, and died in 1599. His hymns appear in a collection entitled Hymns for the Sundays and Festivals of the Whole Year.
Rev. William Bengo Collyer D.D., was born at Blackheath near London, April 14, 1782, educated at Homerton College and settled over a Congregational Church in Peckham. In 1812 he published a book of hymns, and in 1837 a Service Book to which he contributed eighty-nine hymns. He died Jan, 9, 1854.
Probably it was the customary singing of Ringwaldt's hymn (in Germany) to Luther's tune that gave it for some time the designation of "Luther's Hymn," the title by which the music is still known -- an air either composed or adapted by Luther, and rendered perhaps unisonously or with extempore chords. It was not until early in the last century that Vincent Novello wrote to it the noble arrangement now in use. It is a strong, even-time harmony with lofty tenor range, and very impressive with full choir and organ or the vocal volume of a congregation. In Cheetham's Psalmody is it written with a trumpet obligato.
Vincent Novello, born in London, Sept.6, 1781, the intimate friend of Lamb, Shelley, Keats, Hunt and Hazlitt, was a professor of music who attained great eminence as an organist and composer of hymn-tunes and sacred pieces. He was the founder of the publishing house of Novello and Ewer, and father of a famous musical family. Died at Nice, Aug.9, 1861.
ST. FRANCIS XAVIER.
"O Deus, Ego Amo Te."
Francis Xavier, the celebrated Jesuit missionary, called "The Apostle of the Indies," was a Spaniard, born in 1506. While a student in Paris he met Ignatius Loyola, and joined him in the formation of the new "Society for the Propagation of the Faith." He was sent out on a mission to the East Indies and Japan, and gave himself to the work with a martyr's devotion. The stations he established in Japan were maintained more than a hundred years. He died in China, Dec.1552.
His hymn, some time out of use, is being revived in later singing-books as expressive of the purest and highest Christian sentiment:
O Deus, ego amo Te.
My God, I love Thee -- not because
After recounting Christ's vicarious sufferings as the chief claim to His disciples' unselfish love, the hymn continues, --
Cur igitur non amem Te,
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
E'en so I love Thee, and will love,
The translation is by Rev. Edward Caswall, 1814-1878, a priest in the Church of Rome. Besides his translations, he published the Lyra Catholica, the Masque of Mary, and several other poetical works. (Page 101.)
"St. Bernard" -- apparently so named because originally composed to Caswall's translation of one of Bernard of Clairvaux's hymns -- is by John Richardson, born in Preston, Eng., Dec.4, 1817, and died there April 13, 1879. He was an organist in Liverpool, and noted as a composer of glees, but was the author of several sacred tunes.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH.
"Give Me My Scallop-Shell of Quiet."
Few of the hymns of the Elizabethan era survive, though the Ambrosian Midnight Hymn, "Hark, 'tis the Midnight Cry," and the hymns of St. Bernard and Bernard of Cluny, are still tones in the church, and the religious poetry of Sir Walter Raleigh comes down to us associated with the history of his brilliant, though tragic career. The following poem has some fine lines in the quaint English style of the period, and was composed by Sir Walter during his first imprisonment:
Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
Blood must be my body's balmer,
Over the silver mountains
The musings of the unfortunate but high-souled nobleman in expectation of ignominious death are interesting and pathetic, but they have no claim to a tune, even if they were less rugged and unmetrical. But the poem stands notable among the pious witnesses.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.
"O Domine Deus, Speravi in Te."
This last passionate prayer of the unhappy Mary Stuart just before her execution -- in a language which perhaps flowed from her pen more easily than even her English or French -- is another witness of supplicating faith that struggles out of darkness with a song. In her extremity the devoted Catholic forgets her petitions to the Virgin, and comes to Christ:
O Domine Deus, Speravi in Te;
My Lord and my God! I have trusted in Thee;
One would, at first thought, judge this simple but eloquent cry worthy of an appropriate tone-expression -- to be sung by prison evangelists like the Volunteers of America, to convicts in the jails and penitentiaries. But its special errand and burden are voiced so literally that hardened hearers would probably misapply it -- however sincerely the petitioner herself meant to invoke spiritual rather than temporal deliverance. The hymn, if we may call it so, is too literal. Possibly at some time or other it may have been set to music but not for ordinary choir service.
The sands of time are sinking,
* * * * *
But, glory, glory dwelleth
This hymn is biographical, but not autobiographical. Like the discourses in Herodotus and Plutarch, it is the voice of the dead speaking through the sympathetic genius of the living after long generations. The strong, stern Calvinist of 1636 in Aberdeen was not a poet, but he bequeathed his spirit and life to the verse of a poet of 1845 in Melrose. Anne Ross Cousin read his two hundred and twenty letters written during a two years' captivity for his fidelity to the purer faith, and studied his whole history and experience till her soul took his soul's place and felt what he felt. Her poem of nineteen stanzas (152 lines) is the voice of Rutherford the Covenanter, with the prolixity of his manner and age sweetened by his triumphant piety, and that is why it belongs with the Hymns of Great Witnesses. The three or four stanzas still occasionally printed and sung are only recalled to memory by the above three lines.
Samuel Rutherford was born in Nisbet Parish, Scotland, in 1600. His settled ministry was at Anworth, in Galloway -- 1630-1651 -- with a break between 1636 and 1638, when Charles I. angered by his anti-prelatical writings, silenced and banished him. Shut up in Aberdeen, but allowed, like Paul in Rome, to live "in his own hired house" and write letters, he poured out his heart's love in Epistles to his Anworth flock and to the Non-conformists of Scotland. When his countrymen rose against the attempted imposition of a new holy Romish service-book on their churches, he escaped to his people, and soon after appeared in Edinburgh and signed the covenant with the assembled ministers. Thirteen years later, after Cromwell's death and the accession of Charles II. the wrath of the prelates fell on him at St. Andrews, where the Presbytery had made him rector of the college. The King's decree indicted him for treason, stripped him of all his offices, and would have forced him to the block had he not been stricken with his last sickness. When the officers came to take him he said, "I am summoned before a higher Judge and Judicatory, and I am behooved to attend them." He died soon after, in the year 1661.
The first, and a few other of the choicest stanzas of the hymn inspired by his life and death are here given:
The sands of time are sinking,
* * * * *
Oh! well it is for ever --
* * * * *
The little birds of Anworth --
I have borne scorn and hatred,
They've summoned me before them,
A reminiscence of St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy (chap.4) comes with the last two stanzas.
The tender and appropriate choral in B flat, named "Rutherford" was composed by D'Urhan, a French musician, probably a hundred years ago. It was doubtless named by those who long afterwards fitted it to the words, and knew whose spiritual proxy the lady stood who indited the hymn. It is reprinted in Peloubet's Select Songs, and in the Coronation Hymnal. Naturally in the days of the hymn's more frequent use people became accustomed to calling "The sands of time are sinking," "Rutherford's Hymn." Rutherford's own words certainly furnished the memorable refrain with its immortal glow and gladness. One of his joyful exclamations as he lay dying of his lingering disease was, "Glory shineth in Immanuel's Land!"
Chretien (Christian) Urhan, or D'Urhan, was born at Montjoie, France, about 1788, and died, in Paris, 1845. He was a noted violin-player, and composer, also, of vocal and instrumental music.
Mrs. Anne Ross (Cundell) Cousin, daughter of David Ross Cundell, M.D., and widow of Rev. William Cousin of the Free church of Scotland, was born in Melrose (?), 1824. She wrote many poems, most of which are beautiful meditations rather than lyrics suitable for public song. Her "Rutherford Hymn" was first published in the Christian Treasury, 1857.
"Verzage Nicht Du Hauflein Klein."
The historian tells us that before the battle of Lutzen, during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), King Gustavus of Sweden, in the thick fog of an autumn morning, with the Bohemian and Austrian armies of Emperor Ferdinand in front of him, knelt before his troops, and his whole army knelt with him in prayer. Then ten thousand voices and the whole concert of regimental bands burst forth in this brave song:
Fear not, O little flock, the foe
Be of good cheer, your cause belongs
As true as God's own word is true,
Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer!
The army of Gustavus moved forward to victory as the fog lifted; but at the moment of triumph a riderless horse came galloping back to the camp. It was the horse of the martyred King.
The battle song just quoted -- next to Luther's "Ein feste Burg" the most famous German hymn -- has always since that day been called "Gustavus Adolphus' Hymn"; and the mingled sorrow and joy of the event at Lutzen named it also "King Gustavus' Swan Song." Gustavus Adolphus did not write hymns. He could sing them, and he could make them historic -- and it was this connection that identified him with the famous battle song. Its author was the Rev. Johan Michael Altenburg, a Lutheran clergyman, who composed apparently both hymn and tune on receiving news of the king's victory at Leipsic a year before.
Gustavus Adolphus was born in 1594. His death on the battlefield occurred Nov.5, 1632 -- when he was in the prime of his manhood. He was one of the greatest military commanders in history, besides being a great ruler and administrator, and a devout Christian. He was, during the Thirty Years' War (until his untimely death), the leading champion of Protestantism in Europe.
The English translator of the battle song was Miss Catherine Winkworth, born in London, Sept.13, 1827. She was an industrious and successful translator of German hymns, contributing many results of her work to two English editions of the Lyra Germania, to the Church Book of England, and to Christian Singers of Germany. She died in 1878.
The tune of "Ravendale" by Walter Stokes (born 1847) is the best modern rendering of the celebrated hymn.
"Befiehl Du Deine Wege."
Paul Gerhardt was one of those minstrels of experience who are --
"Cradled into poetry by wrong,
He was a graduate of that school when he wrote his "Hymn of Trust:"
Commit thou all thy griefs
Thou on the Lord rely,
* * * * *
Give to the winds thy fears;
Through waves and clouds and storms
Gerhardt was born at Grafenheinchen, Saxony, 1606. Through the first and best years of manhood's strength (during the Thirty Years' War), a wandering preacher tossed from place to place, he was without a parish and without a home.
After the peace of Westphalia he settled in the little village of Mittenwalde. He was then forty-four years old. Four years later he married and removed to a Berlin church. During his residence there he buried his wife, and four of his children, was deposed from the ministry because his Lutheran doctrines offended the Elector Frederick, and finally retired as a simple arch-deacon to a small parish in Lubben, where he preached, toiled, and suffered amid a rough and uncongenial people till he died, Jan.16, 1676.
Few men have ever lived whose case more needed a "Hymn of Trust" -- and fewer still could have written it themselves. Through all those trial years he was pouring forth his soul in devout verses, making in all no less than a hundred and twenty-five hymns -- every one of them a comfort to others as well as to himself.
He became a favorite, and for a time the favorite, hymn-writer of all the German-speaking people. Among these tones of calm faith and joy we recognize today (in the English tongue), --
Since Jesus is my Friend,
Thee, O Immanuel, we praise,
All my heart this night rejoices,
How shall I meet Thee,
-- and the English translation of his "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden," turned into German by himself from St. Bernard Clairvaux's "Salve caput cruentatum," and made dear to us in Rev. James Alexander's beautiful lines --
O sacred head now wounded,
A plain-song by Alexander Reinagle is used by some congregations, but is not remarkably expressive. Reinagle, Alexander Robert, (1799-1877) of Kidlington, Eng., was organist to the church of St. Peter-in-the-East, Oxford.
The great "Hymn of Trust" could have found no more sympathetic interpreter than the musician of Gerhardt's own land and language, Schumann, the gentle genius of Zwickau. It bears the name "Schumann," appropriately enough, and its elocution makes a volume of each quatrain, notably the one --
Who points the clouds their course,
Robert Schumann, Ph.D., was born in Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810. He was a music director and conservatory teacher, and the master-mind of the pre-Wagnerian period. His compositions became popular, having a character of their own, combining the intellectual and beautiful in art. He published in Leipsic a journal promotive of his school of music, and founded a choral society in Dresden. Happy in the cooeperation of his wife, herself a skilled musician, he extended his work to Vienna and the Netherlands; but his zeal wore him out, and he died at the age of forty-six, universally lamented as "the eminent man who had done so much for the happiness of others."
Gerhardt's Hymn (ten quatrains) is rarely printed entire, and where six are printed only four are usually sung. Different collections choose portions according to the compiler's taste, the stanza beginning --
Give to the winds thy fears,
-- being with some a favorite first verse.
The translation of the hymn from the German is John Wesley's.
Purely legendary is the beautiful story of the composition of the hymn, "Commit thou all thy griefs"; how, after his exile from Berlin, traveling on foot with his weeping wife, Gerhardt stopped at a wayside inn and wrote the lines while he rested; and how a messenger from Duke Christian found him there, and offered him a home in Meresburg. But the most ordinary imagination can fill in the possible incidents in a life of vicissitudes such as Gerhardt's was.
"When Thou My Righteous Judge Shalt Come."
Selina Shirley, Countess of Huntingdon, born 1707, died 1791, is familiarly known as the titled friend and patroness of Whitefield and his fellow-preachers. She early consecrated herself to God, and in the great spiritual awakening under Whitefield and the Wesleys she was a punctual and sympathetic helper. Uniting with the Calvinistic Methodists, she nevertheless stood aloof from none who preached a personal Christ, and whose watchwords were the salvation of souls and the purification of the Church. For more than fifty years she devoted her wealth to benevolence and spiritual ministries, and died at the age of eighty-four. "I have done my work," was her last testimony. "I have nothing to do but to go to my Father."
At various times Lady Huntingdon expressed her religious experience in verse, and the manful vigor of her school of faith recalls the unbending confidence of Job, for she was not a stranger to affliction.
God's furnace doth in Zion stand,
His thoughts are high, His love is wise,
Her great hymn, that keeps her memory green, has the old-fashioned flavor. "Massa made God BIG!" was the comment on Dr. Bellany made by his old servant after that noted minister's death. In Puritan piety the sternest self-depreciation qualified every thought of the creature, while every allusion to the Creator was a magnificat. Lady Huntingdon's hymn has no flattering phrases for the human subject. "Worthless worm," and "vilest of them all" indicate the true Pauline or Oriental prostration of self before a superior being; but there is grandeur in the metre, the awful reverence, and the scene of judgment in the stanzas -- always remembering the mighty choral that has so long given the lyric its voice in the church, and is ancillary to its fame:
When Thou, my righteous Judge, shalt come
I love to meet Thy people now,
O Lord, prevent it by Thy grace:
Among Thy saints let me be found,
The tune of "Meribah," in which this hymn has been sung for the last sixty or more years, is one of Dr. Lowell Mason's masterpieces. An earlier German harmony attributed to Heinrich Isaac and named "Innsbruck" has in some few cases claimed association with the words, though composed two hundred years before Lady Huntingdon was born. It is strong and solemn, but its cold psalm-tune movement does not utter the deep emotion of the author's lines. "Meribah" was inspired by the hymn itself, and there is nothing invidious in saying it illustrates the fact, memorable in all hymnology, of the natural obligation of a hymn to its tune.
Apropos of both, it is related that Mason was once presiding at choir service in a certain church where the minister gave out "When thou my righteous Judge shalt come" and by mistake directed the singers to "omit the second stanza." Mason sat at the organ, and while playing the last strain, "Be found at thy right hand," glanced ahead in the hymnbook and turned with a start just in time to command, "Sing the next verse!" The choir did so, and "O Lord, prevent it by Thy grace!" was saved from being a horrible prayer to be kept out of heaven.
"Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness."
Nicolaus Ludwig, Count Von Zinzendorf, was born at Dresden, May 26, 1700, and educated at Halle and Wittenberg. From his youth he evinced marked seriousness of mind, and deep religious sensibilities, and this character appeared in his sympathy with the persecuted Moravians, to whom he gave domicile and domain on his large estate. For eleven years he was Councillor to the Elector of Saxony, but subsequently, uniting with the Brethren's Church, he founded the settlement of Herrnhut, the first home and refuge of the reorganized sect, and became a Moravian minister and bishop.
Zinzendorf was a man of high culture, as well as profound and sincere piety and in his hymns (of which he wrote more than two thousand) he preached Christ as eloquently as with his voice. The real birth-moment of his religious life is said to have been simultaneous with his study of the "Ecce Homo" in the Dusseldorf Gallery, a wonderful painting of Jesus crowned with thorns. Visiting the gallery one day when a young man, he gazed on the sacred face and read the legend superscribed, "All this I have done for thee; What doest thou for me?" Ever afterwards his motto was "I have but one passion, and that is He, and only He" -- a version of Paul's "For me to live is Christ."
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day,
Lord, I believe were sinners more
Nearly all the hymns of the great Moravian are now out of general use, having accomplished their mission, like the forgotten ones of Gerhardt, and been superseded by others. More sung in Europe, probably, now than any of the survivors is, "Jesus, geh voran," ("Jesus, lead on,") which has been translated into English by Jane Borthwick (1854). Two others, both translated by John Wesley, are with us, the one above quoted, and "Glory to God, whose witness train." "Jesus, Thy blood," which is the best known, frequently appears with the alteration --
Jesus, Thy robe of righteousness
[Footnote 8: Born in Edinburgh 1813.]
"Malvern," and "Uxbridge" a pure Gregorian, both by Lowell Mason, are common expressions of the hymn -- the latter, perhaps, generally preferred, being less plaintive and speaking with a surer and more restful emphasis.
"Rise, My Soul, and Stretch Thy Wings."
This hymn was written early in the 18th century, by the Rev. Robert Seagrave, born at Twyford, Leicestershire, Eng., Nov.22, 1693. Educated at Cambridge, he took holy orders in the Established Church, but espoused the cause of the great evangelistic movement, and became a hearty co-worker with the Wesleys. Judging by the lyric fire he could evidently put into his verses, one involuntarily asks if he would not have written more, and been in fact the song-leader of the spiritual reformation if there had been no Charles Wesley. There is not a hymn of Wesley's in use on the same subject equal to the one immortal hymn of Seagrave, and the only other near its time that approaches it in vigor and appealing power is Doddridge's "Awake my soul, stretch every nerve."
But Providence gave Wesley the harp and appointed to the elder poet a branch of possibly equal usefulness, where he was kept too busy to enter the singers' ranks.
For eleven years he was the Sunday-evening lecturer at Lorimer's Hall, London, and often preached in Whitefield's Tabernacle. His hymn is one of the most soul-stirring in the English language:
[Illustration: S. Huntingdon]
Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings;
Rivers to the ocean run,
* * * * *
Cease, ye pilgrims, cease to mourn,
This hymn must have found its predestinated organ when it found --
"Amsterdam," the work of James Nares, had its birth and baptism soon after the work of Seagrave; and they have been breath and bugle to the church of God ever since they became one song. In The Great Musicians, edited by Francis Huffer, is found this account of James Nares:
"He was born at Hanwell, Middlesex, in 1715; was admitted chorister at the Chapel Royal, under Bernard Gates, and when he was able to play the organ was appointed deputy for Pigott, of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and became organist at York Minster in 1734. He succeeded Greene as organist and composer to the Chapel Royal in 1756, and in the same year was made Doctor of Music at Cambridge. He was appointed master of the children of the Chapel Royal in 1757, on the death of Gates. This post he resigned in 1780, and he died in 1783, (February 10,) and was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster.
"He had the reputation of being an excellent trainer of boy's voices, many of his anthems having been written to exhibit the accomplishments of his young pupils. The degree of excellence the boys attained was not won in those days without the infliction of much corporal punishment."
Judging from the high pulse and action in the music of "Amsterdam," one would guess the energy of the man who made boy choirs -- and made good ones. In the old time the rule was, "Birds that can sing and won't sing, must be made to sing"; and the rule was sometimes enforced with the master's time-stick.
A tune entitled "Excelsius," written a hundred years later by John Henry Cornell, so nearly resembles "Amsterdam" as to suggest an intention to amend it. It changes the modal note from G to A, but while it marches at the same pace it lacks the jubilant modulations and the choral glory of the 18th-century piece.
SIR JOHN BOWRING.
"In the Cross of Christ I Glory."
In this hymn we see, sitting humbly at the feet of the great author of our religion, a man who impressed himself perhaps more than any other save Napoleon Bonaparte upon his own generation, and who was the wonder of Europe for his immense attainments and the versatility of his powers. Statesman, philanthropist, biographer, publicist, linguist, historian, financier, naturalist, poet, political economist -- there is hardly a branch of knowledge or a field of research from which he did not enrich himself and others, or a human condition that he did not study and influence.
Sir John Bowring was born in 1792. When a youth he was Jeremy Bentham's political pupil, but gained his first fame by his vast knowledge of European literature, becoming acquainted with no less than thirteen continental languages and dialects. He served in consular appointments at seven different capitals, carried important reform measures in Parliament, was Minister Plenipotentiary to China and Governor of Hong Kong, and concluded a commercial treaty with Siam, where every previous commissioner had failed. But in all his crowded years the pen of this tireless and successful man was busy. Besides his political, economic and religious essays, which made him a member of nearly every learned society in Europe, his translations were countless, and poems and hymns of his own composing found their way to the public, among them the tender spiritual song, --
How sweetly flowed the Gospel sound
-- and the more famous hymn indicated at the head of this sketch. Knowledge of all religions only qualified him to worship the Crucified with both faith and reason. Though nominally a Unitarian, to him, as to Channing and Martineau and Edmund Sears, Christ was "all we know of God."
[Footnote 9: Exaggerated in some accounts to forty.]
Bowring died Nov.23, 1872. But his hymn to the Cross will never die:
In the cross of Christ I glory,
When the woes of life o'ertake me
When the sun of bliss is beaming
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure
Ithamar Conkey's "Rathbun" fits the adoring words as if they had waited for it. Its air, swelling through diatonic fourth and third to the supreme syllable, bears on its waves the homage of the lines from bar to bar till the four voices come home to rest full and satisfied in the final chord --
Gathers round its head sublime.
Ithamar Conkey, was born of Scotch ancestry, in Shutesbury, Mass., May 5th, 1815. He was a noted bass singer, and was for a long time connected with the choir of the Calvary church, New York City, and sang the oratorio solos. His tune of "Rathbun" was composed in 1847, and published in Greatorex's collection in 1851. He died in Elizabeth, N.J., April 30, 1867.