"Jesus the Very Thought of Thee."
The original of this delightful hymn is one of the devout meditations of Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk (1091-1153). He was born of a noble family in or near Dijon, Burgundy, and when only twenty-three years old established a monastery at Clairvaux, France, over which he presided as its first abbot. Educated in the University of Paris, and possessing great natural abilities, he soon made himself felt in both the religious and political affairs of Europe. For more than thirty years he was the personal power that directed belief, quieted turbulence, and arbitrated disputes, and kings and even popes sought his counsel. It was his eloquent preaching that inspired the second crusade.
His fine poem of feeling, in fifty Latin stanzas, has been a source of pious song in several languages:
Jesu, dulcis memoria
Jesus! a sweet memory
The five stanzas (of Caswall's free translation) now in use are familiar and dear to all English-speaking believers:
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
Nor voice can sing nor heart can frame
The Rev. Edward Caswall was born in Hampshire, Eng., July 15, 1814, the son of a clergyman. He graduated with honors at Brazenose College, Oxford, and after ten years of service in the ministry of the Church of England joined Henry Newman's Oratory at Birmingham, was confirmed in the Church of Rome, and devoted the rest of his life to works of piety and charity. He died Jan.2, 1878.
No single melody has attached itself to this hymn, the scope of selection being as large as the supply of appropriate common-metre tunes. Barnby's "Holy Trinity," Wade's "Holy Cross" and Griggs' tune (of his own name) are all good, but many, on the giving out of the hymn, would associate it at once with the more familiar "Heber" by George Kingsley and expect to hear it sung. It has the uplift and unction of John Newton's --
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
"GOD CALLING YET! SHALL I NOT HEAR?"
Gerhard Tersteegen, the original author of the hymn, and one of the most eminent religious poets of the Reformed German church in its early days, was born in 1697, in the town of Mors, in Westphalia. He was left an orphan in boyhood by the death of his father, and as his mother's means were limited, he was put to work as an apprentice when very young, at Muhlheim on the Ruhr, and became a ribbon weaver. Here, when about fifteen years of age, he became deeply concerned for his soul, and experienced a deep and abiding spiritual work. As a Christian, his religion partook of the ascetic type, but his mysticism did not make him useless to his fellow-men.
At the age of twenty-seven, he dedicated all his resources and energies to the cause of Christ, writing the dedication in his own blood. "God graciously called me," he says, "out of the world, and granted me the desire to belong to Him, and to be willing to follow Him." He gave up secular employments altogether, and devoted his whole time to religious instruction and to the poor. His house became famous as the "Pilgrims' Cottage," and was visited by people high and humble from all parts of Germany. In his lifetime he is said to have written one hundred and eleven hymns. Died April 3, 1769.
God calling yet! shall I not hear?
* * * * *
God calling yet! I cannot stay;
The hymn was translated from the German by Miss Jane Borthwick, born in Edinburgh, 1813. She and her younger sister, Mrs. Findlater, jointly translated and published, in 1854, Hymns From the Land of Luther, and contributed many poetical pieces to the Family Treasury. She died in 1897.
Another translation, imitating the German metre, is more euphonious, though less literal and less easily fitted to music not specially composed for it, on account of its "feminine" rhymes:
God calling yet! and shall I never hearken?
Dr. Dykes' "Rivaulx" is a sober choral that articulates the hymn-writer's sentiment with sincerity and with considerable earnestness, but breathes too faintly the interrogative and expostulary tone of the lines. To voice the devout solicitude and self-remonstrance of the hymn there is no tune superior to "Federal St."
The Hon. Henry Kemble Oliver, author of "Federal St.," was born in Salem, Mass., March, 1800, and was addicted to music from his childhood. His father compelled him to relinquish it as a profession, but it remained his favorite avocation, and after his graduation from Harvard the cares of none of the various public positions he held, from schoolmaster to treasurer of the state of Massachusetts, could ever wean him from the study of music and its practice. At the age of thirty-one, while sitting one day in his study, the last verse of Anne Steele's hymn --
So fades the lovely blooming flower,
-- floated into his mind, and an unbidden melody came with it. As he hummed it to himself the words shaped the air, and the air shaped the words.
Then gentle patience smiles on pain,
-- became --
See gentle patience smile on pain;
-- and with the change of a word and a tense the hymn created the melody, and soon afterward the complete tune was made. Two years later it was published by Lowell Mason, and Oliver gave it the name of the street in Salem on which his wife was born, wooed, won, and married. It adds a pathos to its history that "Federal St." was sung at her burial.
This first of Oliver's tunes was followed by "Harmony Grove," "Morning," "Walnut Grove," "Merton," "Hudson," "Bosworth," "Salisbury Plain," several anthems and motets, and a "Te Deum."
In his old age, at the great Peace Jubilee in Boston, 1872, the baton was put into his hands, and the gray-haired composer conducted the chorus of ten thousand voices as they sang the words and music of his noble harmony. The incident made "Federal St." more than ever a feature of New England history. Oliver died in 1885.
"MY GOD, HOW ENDLESS IS THY LOVE."
The spirited tune to this hymn of Watts, by Frederick Lampe, variously named "Kent" and "Devonshire," historically reaches back so near to the poet's time that it must have been one of the earliest expressions of his fervent words.
Johan Friedrich Lampe, born 1693, in Saxony, was educated in music at Helmstadt, and came to England in 1725 as a band musician and composer to Covent Garden Theater. His best-known secular piece is the music written to Henry Carey's burlesque, "The Dragon of Wantley."
Mrs. Rich, wife of the lessee of the theater, was converted under the preaching of the Methodists, and after her husband's death her house became the home of Lampe and his wife, where Charles Wesley often met him.
The influence of Wesley won him to more serious work, and he became one of the evangelist's helpers, supplying tunes to his singing campaigns. Wesley became attached to him, and after his death -- in Edinburgh, 1752 -- commemorated the musician in a funeral hymn.
In popular favor Bradbury's tune of "Rolland" has now superseded the old music sung to Watts' lines --
My God, how endless is Thy love,
* * * * *
I yield my powers to Thy command;
William Batchelder Bradbury, a pupil of Dr. Lowell Mason, and the pioneer in publishing Sunday-school music, was born 1816, in York, Me. His father, a veteran of the Revolution, was a choir leader, and William's love of music was inherited. He left his father's farm, and came to Boston, where he first heard a church-organ. Encouraged by Mason and others to follow music as a profession, he went abroad, studied at Leipsic, and soon after his return became known as a composer of sacred tunes. He died in Montclair, N.J., 1868.
"I'M NOT ASHAMED TO OWN MY LORD."
The favorite tune for this spiritual hymn, also by Watts, is old "Arlington," one of the most useful church melodies in the whole realm of English psalmody. Its name clings to a Boston street, and the beautiful chimes of Arlington St. church (Unitarian) annually ring its music on special occasions, as it has since the bells were tuned:
I'm not ashamed to own my Lord
Jesus, my God! -- I know His Name;
Dr. Thomas Augustine Arne, the creator of "Arlington," was born in London, 1710, the son of a King St. upholsterer. He studied at Eton, and though intended for the legal profession, gave his whole mind to music. At twenty-three he began writing operas for his sister, Susanna (a singer who afterwards became the famous tragic actress, Mrs. Cibber).
Arne's music to Milton's "Comus," and to "Rule Brittannia" established his reputation. He was engaged as composer to Drury Lane Theater, and in 1759 received from Oxford his degree of Music Doctor. Later in life he turned his attention to oratorios, and other forms of sacred music, and was the first to introduce female voices in choir singing. He died March 5, 1778, chanting hallelujahs, it is said, with his last breath.
"IS THIS THE KIND RETURN?"
Dr. Watts in this hymn gave experimental piety its hour and language of reflection and penitence:
Is this the kind return?
* * * * *
Let past ingratitude
United in loving wedlock with these words in former years was "Golden Hill," a chime of sweet counterpoint too rare to bury its authorship under the vague phrase "A Western Melody." It was caught evidently from a forest bird that flutes its clear solo in the sunsets of May and June. There can be no mistaking the imitation -- the same compass, the same upward thrill, the same fall and warbled turn. Old-time folk used to call for it, "Sing, my Fairweather Bird." It lingers in a few of the twenty- or thirty-years-ago collections, but stronger voices have drowned it out of the new.
[Footnote 10: The wood thrush.]
"Thacher," (set to the same hymn,) faintly recalls its melody. Nevertheless "Thacher" is a good tune. Though commonly written in sharps, contrasting the B flat of its softer and more liquid rival of other days, it is one of Handel's strains, and lends the meaning and pathos of the lyric text to voice and instrument.
"WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS."
This crown of all the sacred odes of Dr. Watts for the song-service of the church of God was called by Matthew Arnold the "greatest hymn in the English language." The day the eminent critic died he heard it sung in the Sefton Park Presbyterian Church, and repeated the opening lines softly to himself again and again after the services. The hymn is certainly one of the greatest in the language. It appeared as No.7 in Watts' third edition (about 1710) containing five stanzas. The second line --
On which the Prince of Glory died,
-- read originally --
Where the young Prince of Glory died.
Only four stanzas are now generally used. The omitted one --
His dying crimson like a robe
-- is a flash of tragic imagination, showing the sanguine intensity of Christian vision in earlier time, when contemplating the Saviour's passion; but it is too realistic for the spirit and genius of song-worship. That the great hymn was designed by the writer for communion seasons, and was inspired by Gal.6:14, explains the two last lines if not the whole of the highly colored verse.
One has a wide field of choice in seeking the best musical interpretation of this royal song of faith and self-effacement:
When I survey the wondrous Cross
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Were the whole realm of Nature mine,
To match the height and depth of these words with fitting glory of sound might well have been an ambition of devout composers. Rev. G.C. Wells' tune in the Revivalist, with its emotional chorus, I.B. Woodbury's "Eucharist" in the Methodist Hymnal, Henry Smart's effective choral in Barnby's Hymnary (No.170), and a score of others, have woven the feeling lines into melody with varying success. Worshippers in spiritual sympathy with the words may question if, after all, old "Hamburg," the best of Mason's loved Gregorians, does not, alone, in tone and elocution, rise to the level of the hymn.
"LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING."
This evergreen song-wreath to the Crucified, was contributed by Charles Wesley, in 1746. It is found in his collection of 1756, Hymns for Those That Seek and Those That Have Redemption in the Blood of Jesus Christ.
Love Divine all loves excelling,
* * * * *
Come Almighty to deliver,
* * * * *
Finish then Thy new creation;
Changed from glory into glory
The hymn has been set to H. Isaac's ancient tune (1490), to Wyeth's "Nettleton" (1810), to Thos. H. Bailey's (1777-1839) "Isle of Beauty, fare thee well" (named from Thomas Moore's song), to Edward Hopkins' "St. Joseph," and to a multitude of others more or less familiar.
Most familiar of all perhaps, (as in the instance of "Far from mortal cares retreating,") is its association with "Greenville," the production of that brilliant but erratic genius and freethinker, Jean Jacques Rousseau. It was originally a love serenade, ("Days of absence, sad and dreary") from the opera of Le Devin du Village, written about 1752. The song was commonly known years afterwards as "Rousseau's Dream." But the unbelieving philosopher, musician, and misguided moralist builded better than he knew, and probably better than he meant when he wrote his immortal choral. Whatever he heard in his "dream" (and one legend says it was a "song of angels") he created a harmony dear to the church he despised, and softened the hearts of the Christian world towards an evil teacher who was inspired, like Balaam, to utter one sacred strain.
Rousseau was born in Geneva, 1712, but he never knew his mother, and neither the affection or interest of his father or of his other relatives was of the quality to insure the best bringing up of a child.
He died July, 1778. But his song survives, while the world gladly forgets everything else he wrote. It is almost a pardonable exaggeration to say that every child in Christendom knows "Greenville."
"WHEN ALL THY MERCIES, O MY GOD."
This charming hymn was written by Addison, the celebrated English poet and essayist, about 1701, in grateful commemoration of his delivery from shipwreck in a storm off the coast of Genoa, Italy. It originally contained thirteen stanzas, but no more than four or six are commonly sung. It has put the language of devotional gratitude into the mouths of thousands of humble disciples who could but feebly frame their own:
When all Thy mercies, O my God
Unnumbered comforts on my soul
When in the slippery paths of youth
Another hymn of Addison --
How are Thy servants bless'd, O Lord,
-- was probably composed after the same return from a foreign voyage. It has been called his "Traveller's Hymn."
Joseph Addison, the best English writer of his time, was the son of Lancelot Addison, rector of Milston, Wiltshire, and afterwards Dean of Litchfield. The distinguished author was born in Milston Rectory, May 1, 1672, and was educated at Oxford. His excellence in poetry, both English and Latin, gave him early reputation, and a patriotic ode obtained for him the patronage of Lord Somers. A pension from King William III. assured him a comfortable income, which was increased by further honors, for in 1704 he was appointed Commissioner of Appeals, then secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1717 Secretary of State. He died in Holland House, Kensington, near London, June 17, 1719.
His hymns are not numerous, (said to be only five), but they are remarkable for the simple beauty of their style, as well as for their Christian spirit. Of his fine metrical version of the 23rd Psalm, --
The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
-- one of his earliest productions, the tradition is that he gathered its imagery when a boy living at Netheravon, near Salisbury Plain, during his lonely two-mile walks to school at Amesbury and back again. All his hymns appeared first in the Spectator, to which he was a prolific contributor.
The hymn "When all Thy mercies" still has "Geneva" for its vocal mate in some congregational manuals. The tune is one of the rare survivals of the old "canon" musical method, the parts coming in one after another with identical notes. It is always delightful as a performance with its glory of harmony and its sweet duet, and for generations it had no other words than Addison's hymn.
John Cole, author of "Geneva," was born in Tewksbury, Eng., 1774, and came to the United States in his boyhood (1785). Baltimore, Md. became his American home, and he was educated there. Early in life he became a musician and music publisher. At least twelve of his principal song collections from 1800 to 1832 are mentioned by Mr. Hubert P. Main, most of them sacred and containing many of his own tunes.
He continued to compose music till his death, Aug.17, 1855. Mr. Cole was leader of the regimental band known as "The Independent Blues," which played in the war of 1812, and was present at the "North Point" fight, and other battles.
Besides "Geneva," for real feeling and harmonic beauty "Manoah," adapted from Haydn's Creation, deserves mention as admirably suited to "Addison's" hymn, and also "Belmont," by Samuel Webbe, which resembles it in style and sentiment.
Samuel Webbe, composer of "Belmont," was of English parentage but was born in Minorca, Balearic Islands, in 1740, where his father at that time held a government appointment; but his father, dying suddenly, left his family poor, and Samuel was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker. He served his apprenticeship, and immediately repaired to a London teacher and began the study of music and languages. Surmounting great difficulties, he became a competent musician, and made himself popular as a composer of glees. He was also the author of several masses, anthems, and hymn-tunes, the best of which are still in occasional use. Died in London, 1816.
"JESUS, I LOVE THY CHARMING NAME."
When Dr. Doddridge, the author of this hymn, during his useful ministry, had finished the preparation of a pulpit discourse that strongly impressed him, he was accustomed, while his heart was yet glowing with the sentiment that had inspired him, to put the principal thoughts into metre, and use the hymn thus written at the conclusion of the preaching of the sermon. This hymn of Christian ardor was written to be sung after a sermon from Romans 8:35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Jesus, I love Thy charming name,
* * * * *
I'll speak the honors of Thy name
Earlier copies have --
The antidote of death.
Philip Doddridge, D.D., was born in London, June 26, 1702. Educated at Kingston Grammar School and Kibworth Academy, he became a scholar of respectable attainments, and was ordained to the Non-conformist ministry. He was pastor of the Congregational church at Northampton, from 1729 until his death, acting meanwhile as principal of the Theological School in that place. In 1749 he ceased to preach and went to Lisbon for his health, but died there about two years later, of consumption, Oct.26, 1752.
The hymn has been sometimes sung to "Pisgah," an old revival piece by J.C. Lowry (1820) once much heard in camp-meetings, but it is a pedestrian tune with too many quavers, and a headlong tempo.
Bradbury's "Jazer," in three-four time, is a melody with modulations, though more sympathetic, but it is hard to divorce the hymn from its long-time consort, old "Arlington." It has the accent of its sincerity, and the breath of its devotion.
"LO, ON A NARROW NECK OF LAND."
This hymn of Charles Wesley is always designated now by the above line, the first of the second stanza as originally written. It is said to have been composed at Land's End, in Cornwall, with the British Channel and the broad Atlantic in view and surging on both sides around a "narrow neck of land."
Lo! on a narrow neck of land,
O God, mine inmost soul convert,
The preachers and poets of the great spiritual movement of the eighteenth century in England abated nothing in the candor of their words. The terrible earnestness of conviction tipped their tongues and pens with fire.
Lady Huntingdon would have lent "Meribah" gladly to this hymn, but Mason was not yet born. Many times it has been borrowed for Wesley's words since it came to its own, and the spirit of the pious Countess has doubtless approved the loan. It is rich enough to furnish forth her own lyric and more than one other of like matter and metre.
The muscular music of "Ganges" has sometimes carried the hymn, and there are those who think its thunder is not a whit more Hebraic than the words require.
"COME YE SINNERS POOR AND NEEDY."
Few hymns have been more frequently sung in prayer-meetings and religious assemblies during the last hundred and fifty years. Its author, Joseph Hart, spoke what he knew and testified what he felt. Born in London, 1712, and liberally educated, he was in his young manhood very religious, but he went so far astray as to indulge in evil practices, and even published writings, both original and translated, against Christianity and religion of any kind. But he could not drink at the Dead Sea and live. The apples of Sodom sickened him. Conscience asserted itself, and the pangs of remorse nearly drove him to despair till he turned back to the source he had forsaken. He alludes to this experience in the lines --
Let not conscience make you linger,
During Passion Week, 1767, he had an amazing view of the sufferings of Christ, under the stress of which his heart was changed. In the joy of this experience he wrote --
Come ye sinners poor and needy,
-- and --
Come all ye chosen saints of God.
Probably no two hymn-lines have been oftener repeated than --
If you tarry till you're better
The complete form of the original stanzas is:
Come ye sinners poor and needy,
The whole hymn -- ten stanzas -- is not sung now as one, but two, the second division beginning with the line --
Come ye weary, heavy laden.
Rev. Joseph Hart became minister of Jewin St. Congregational Chapel, London, about 1760, where he labored till his death, May 24, 1768.
A revival song by Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1828), written about 1804, with an easy, popular swing and a sforzando chorus --
Turn to the Lord and seek salvation,
-- monopolized this hymn for a good many years. The tunes commonly assigned to it have since been "Greenville" and Von Weber's "Wilmot," in which last it is now more generally sung -- dropping the echo lines at the end of each stanza.
Carl Maria Von Weber, son of a roving musician, was born in Eutin, Germany, 1786. He developed no remarkable genius till he was about twenty years old, though being a fine vocalist, his singing brought him popularity and gain; but in 1806 he nearly lost his voice by accidently drinking nitric acid. He was for several years private secretary to Duke Ludwig at Stuttgart, and in 1813 Chapel-Master at Prague, from which place he went to Dresden in 1817 as Musik-Director.
Von Weber's Korner songs won the hearts of all Germany; and his immortal "Der Freischutz" (the Free Archer), and numerous tender melodies like the airs to "John Anderson, my Jo" and "O Poortith Cauld" have gone to all civilized nations. No other composer had such feeling for beauty of sound.
This beloved musician was physically frail and delicate, and died of untimely decline, during a visit to London in 1826.
"O HAPPY SAINTS WHO DWELL IN LIGHT."
Sometimes printed "O happy souls." This poetical and flowing hymn seems to have been forgotten in the making up of most modern church hymnals. Hymns on heaven and heavenly joys abound in embarrassing numbers, but it is difficult to understand why this beautiful lyric should be universally neglected. It was written probably about 1760, by Rev. John Berridge, from the text, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,"
The first line of the second stanza --
Released from sorrow, toil and strife,
-- has been tinkered in some of the older hymn-books, where it is found to read -- ,
Released from sorrows toil and grief,
-- not only committing a tautology, but destroying the perfect rhyme with "life" in the next line. The whole hymn, too, has been much altered by substituted words and shifted lines, though not generally to the serious detriment of its meaning and music.
The Rev. John Berridge -- friend of the Wesleys, Whitefield, and Lady Huntingdon -- was an eccentric but very worthy and spiritual minister, born the son of a farmer, in Kingston, Nottinghamshire, Eng., Mar.1, 1716. He studied at Cambridge, and was ordained curate of Stapleford and subsequently located as vicar of Everton, 1775. He died Jan.22, 1793. He loved to preach, and he was determined that his tombstone should preach after his voice was still. His epitaph, composed by himself, is both a testimony and a memoir:
"Here lie the earthly remains of John Berridge, late vicar of Everton, and an itinerant servant of Jesus Christ, who loved his Master and His work, and after running His errands many years, was called up to wait on Him above.
"Reader, art thou born again?
"No salvation without the new birth.
"I was born in sin, February, 1716.
"Remained ignorant of my fallen state till 1730.
"Lived proudly on faith and works for salvation till 1751.
"Admitted to Everton vicarage, 1755.
"Fled to Jesus alone for refuge, 1756.
"Fell asleep in Jesus Christ, -- " (1793.)
The once popular score that easily made the hymn a favorite, was "Salem," in the old Psalmodist. It still appears in some note-books, though the name of its composer is uncertain. Its notes (in 6-8 time) succeed each other in syllabic modulations that give a soft dactylic accent to the measure and a wavy current to the lines:
O happy saints that dwell in light,
Released from sorrow, toil and strife,
Another version reads:
-- -- and welcome to an endless life,
"THOU DEAR REDEEMER, DYING LAMB."
The author, John Cennick, like Joseph Hart, was led to Christ after a reckless boyhood and youth, by the work of the Divine Spirit in his soul, independent of any direct outward influence. Sickened of his cards, novels, and playhouse pleasures, he had begun a sort of mechanical reform, when one day, walking in the streets of London, he suddenly seemed to hear the text spoken "I am thy salvation!" His consecration began at that moment.
He studied for the ministry, and became a preacher, first under direction of the Wesleys, then under Whitefield, but afterwards joined the Moravians, or "Brethren." He was born at Reading, Derbyshire, Eng., Dec.12, 1718, and died in London, July 4, 1755.
The word "Rhine" (in some collections -- in others "Emmons") names a revival tune once so linked with this hymn and so well known that few religious people now past middle life could enjoy singing it to any other. With a compass one note beyond an octave and a third, it utters every line with a clear, bold gladness sure to infect a meeting with its own spiritual fervor.
Thou dear Redeemer, dying Lamb,
The composer of the bright legato melody just described was Frederick Burgmueller, a young German musician, born in 1804. He was a remarkable genius, both in composition and execution, but his health was frail, and he did not live to fulfil the rich possibilities that lay within him. He died in 1824 -- only twenty years old. The tune "Rhine" ("Emmons") is from one of his marches.
"WHILE THEE I SEEK, PROTECTING POWER."
Helen Maria Williams wrote this sweet hymn, probably about the year 1800. She was a brilliant woman, better known in literary society for her political verses and essays than by her hymns; but the hymn here noted bears sufficient witness to her deep religious feeling:
While Thee I seek, Protecting Power,
Miss Williams was born in the north of England, Nov.30, 1762, but spent much of her life in London, and in Paris, where she died, Dec.14, 1827.
Wedded so many years to the gentle, flowing music of Pleyel's "Brattle Street," few lovers of the hymn recall its words without the melody of that emotional choral.
The plain psalm-tune, "Simpson," by Louis Spohr, divides the stanzas into quatrains.
"JESUS MY ALL TO HEAVEN IS GONE."
This hymn, by Cennick, was familiarized to the public more than two generations ago by its revival tune, sometimes called "Duane Street," long-metre double. It is staffed in various keys, but its movement is full of life and emphasis, and its melody is contagious. The piece was composed by Rev. George Coles, in 1835.
The fact that this hymn of Cennick with Coles's tune appears in the New Methodist Hymnal indicates the survival of both in modern favor.
[Illustration: Augustus Montague Toplady]
Jesus my all to heaven is gone,
The memory has not passed away of the hearty unison with which prayer-meeting and camp-meeting assemblies used to "crescendo" the last stanza --
Then will I tell to sinners round
The Rev. George Coles was born in Stewkley, Eng., Jan.2, 1792, and died in New York City, May 1, 1858. He was editor of the N.Y. Christian Advocate, and Sunday School Advocate, for several years, and was a musician of some ability, besides being a good singer.
"SWEET THE MOMENTS, RICH IN BLESSING."
The Hon. and Rev. Walter Shirley, Rector of Loughgree, county of Galway, Ireland, revised this hymn under the chastening discipline of a most trying experience. His brother, the Earl of Ferrars, a licentious man, murdered an old and faithful servant in a fit of rage, and was executed at Tyburn for the crime. Sir Walter, after the disgrace and long distress of the imprisonment, trial, and final tragedy, returned to his little parish in Ireland, humbled but driven nearer to the Cross.
Sweet the moments, rich in blessing
All the emotion of one who buries a mortifying sorrow in the heart of Christ, and tries to forget, trembles in the lines of the above hymn as he changed and adapted it in his saddest but devoutest hours. Its original writer was the Rev. James Allen, nearly twenty years younger than himself, a man of culture and piety, but a Christian of shifting creeds. It is not impossible that he sent his hymn to Shirley to revise. At all events it owes its present form to Shirley's hand.
Truly blessed is the station
[Footnote 11: "Floating in His languid eye" seems to have been the earlier version.]
The influence of Sir Walter's family misfortune is evident also in the mood out of which breathed his other trustful lines --
Peace, troubled soul, whose plaintive moan
(changed now to "hath taught these scenes" etc).
Sir Walter Shirley, cousin of the Countess of Huntingdon, was born 1725, and died in 1786. Even in his last sickness he continued to preach to his people in his house, seated in his chair.
Rev. James Oswald Allen was born at Gayle, Yorkshire, Eng., June 24, 1743. He left the University of Cambridge after a year's study, and became an itinerant preacher, but seems to have been a man of unstable religious views. After roving from one Christian denomination to another several times, he built a Chapel, and for forty years ministered there to a small Independent congregation. He died in Gayle, Oct.31, 1804.
The tune long and happily associated with "Sweet the Moments" is "Sicily," or the "Sicilian Hymn" -- from an old Latin hymn-tune, "O Sanctissima."
"O FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD."
The author, William Cowper, son of a clergyman, was born at Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, Eng., Nov.15, 1731, and died at Dereham, Norfolk, April 25, 1800. Through much of his adult life he was afflicted with a mental ailment inducing melancholia and at times partial insanity, during which he once attempted suicide. He sought literary occupation as an antidote to his disorder of mind, and besides a great number of lighter pieces which diverted him and his friends, composed "The Task," an able and delightful moral and domestic poetic treatise in blank verse, and in the same style of verse translated Homer's Odyssey and Iliad.
One of the most beloved of English poets, this suffering man was also a true Christian, and wrote some of our sweetest and most spiritual hymns. Most of these were composed at Olney, where he resided for a time with John Newton, his fellow hymnist, and jointly with him issued the volume known as the Olney Hymns.
Music more or less closely identified with this familiar hymn is Gardiner's "Dedham," and also "Mear," often attributed to Aaron Williams. Both, about equally with the hymn, are seasoned by time, but have not worn out their harmony -- or their fitness to Cowper's prayer.
William Gardiner was born in Leicester, Eng., March 15, 1770, and died there Nov.11, 1853. He was a vocal composer and a "musicographer" or writer on musical subjects.
One Aaron Williams, to whom "Mear" has by some been credited, was of Welsh descent, a composer of psalmody and clerk of the Scotch church in London. He was born in 1734, and died in 1776. Another account, and the more probable one, names a minister of Boston of still earlier date as the author of the noble old harmony. It is found in a small New England collection of 1726, but not in any English or Scotch collection. "Mear" is presumably an American tune.
"WHAT VARIOUS HINDRANCES WE MEET."
Another hymn of Cowper's; and no one ever suffered more deeply the plaintive regret in the opening lines, or better wrought into poetic expression an argument for prayer.
What various hindrances we meet
Prayer makes the darkest clouds withdraw,
The whole hymn is (or once was) so thoroughly learned by heart as to be fixed in the church among its household words. Preachers to the diffident do not forget to quote --
Have you no words? ah, think again;
* * * * *
Were half the breath thus vainly spent
And there is all the lifetime of a proverb in the couplet --
Satan trembles when he sees
Tune, Lowell Mason's "Rockingham."
"MY GRACIOUS REDEEMER I LOVE."
This is one of Benjamin Francis's lays of devotion. The Christian Welshman who bore that name was a Gospel minister full of Evangelical zeal, who preached in many places, though his pastoral home was with the Baptist church in Shortwood, Wales. Flattering calls to London could not tempt him away from his first and only parish, and he remained there till his triumphant death. He was born in 1734, and died in 1799.
My gracious Redeemer I love,
Tune, "Birmingham" -- an English melody. Anonymous.
"BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS."
Perhaps the best hymn-expression of sacred brotherhood, at least it has had, and still has the indorsement of constant use. The author, John Fawcett, D.D., is always quoted as the example of his own words, since he sacrificed ambition and personal interest to Christian affection.
Born near Bradford, Yorkshire, Jan.6, 1739, and converted under the preaching of Whitefield, he joined the Methodists, but afterwards became a member of the new Baptist church in Bradford. Seven years later he was ordained over the Baptist Society at Wainsgate. In 1772 he received a call to succeed the celebrated Dr. Gill, in London, and accepted. But at the last moment, when his goods were packed for removal, the clinging love of his people, weeping their farewells around him, melted his heart. Their passionate regrets were more than either he or his good wife could withstand.
"I will stay," he said; "you may unpack my goods, and we will live for the Lord lovingly together."
It was out of this heart experience that the tender hymn was born.
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Dr. Fawcett died July 25, 1817.
Tune, "Boylston," L. Mason; or "Dennis," H.G. Naegeli.
"I LOVE THY KINGDOM, LORD."
"Dr. Dwight's Hymn," as this is known par eminence among many others from his pen, is one of the imperishable lyrics of the Christian Church. The real spirit of the hundred and twenty-second Psalm is in it, and it is worthy of Watts in his best moments.
Timothy Dwight was born at Northampton, Mass, May 14, 1752, and graduated at Yale College at the age of thirteen. He wrote several religious poems of considerable length. In 1795 he was elected President of Yale College, and in 1800 he revised Watts' Psalms, at the request of the General Association of Connecticut, adding a number of translations of his own.
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
I love Thy Church, O God;
Dr. Dwight died Jan.11, 1817.
Tune, "St. Thomas," Aaron Williams, (1734-1776.)
Mr. Hubert P. Main, however, believes the author to be Handel. It appeared as the second movement of a four-movement tune in Williams's 1762 collection, which contained pieces by the great masters, with his own; but while not credited to Handel, Williams did not claim it himself.
"MID SCENES OF CONFUSION."
This hymn, common in chapel hymnbooks half a century and more ago, is said to have been written by the Rev. David Denham, about 1826.
"Home, Sweet Home" was composed, according to the old account, by John Howard Payne as one of the airs in his opera of "Clari, the Maid of Milan," which was brought out in London at Drury Lane in 1823. But Charles Mackay, the English poet, in the London Telegraph, asserts that Sir Henry Bishop, an eminent musician, in his vain search for a Sicilian national air, invented one, and that it was the melody of "Home, sweet Home," which he afterwards set to Howard Payne's words. Mr. Mackay had this story from Sir Henry himself.
Mid scenes of confusion and creature complaints
John Howard Payne, author at least, of the original words of "Home, Sweet Home," was born in New York City June 9, 1791. He was a singer, and became an actor and theatrical writer. He composed the words of his immortal song in the year 1823, when he was himself homeless and hungry and sheltered temporarily in an attic in Paris.
His fortunes improved at last, and he was appointed to represent his native country as consul in Tunis, where he died, Apr.9, 1852.
"O, COULD I SPEAK THE MATCHLESS WORTH."
The writer of this hymn of worshiping ardor and exalted Christian love was an English Baptist minister, the Rev. Samuel Medley. He was born at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, June 23, 1738, and at eighteen years of age entered the Royal Navy, where, though he had been piously educated, he became dissipated and morally reckless. Wounded in a sea fight off Cape Lagos, and in dread of amputation he prayed penitently through nearly a whole night, and in the morning the surprised surgeon told him his limb could be saved.
The voice of his awakened conscience was not wholly disregarded, though it was not till some time after he left the navy that his vow to begin a religious life was sincerely kept. After teaching school for four years, he began to preach in 1766, Wartford in Hertfordshire being the first scene of his godly labors. He died in Liverpool July 17, 1799, at the end of a faithful ministry there of twenty-seven years. A small edition of his hymns was published during his lifetime, in 1789.
O could I speak the matchless worth,
"Colebrook," a plain choral; but with a noble movement, by Henry Smart, is the English music to this fine lyric, but Dr. Mason's "Ariel" is the American favorite. It justifies its name, for it has wings -- in both full harmony and duet -- and its melody feels the glory of the hymn at every bar.
"ROCK OF AGES CLEFT FOR ME."
Augustus Montagu Toplady, author of this almost universal hymn, was born at Farnham, Surrey, Eng., Nov.4, 1740. Educated at Westminster School, and Trinity College, Dublin, he took orders in the Established Church. In his doctrinal debates with the Wesleys he was a harsh controversialist; but his piety was sincere, and marked late in life by exalted moods. Physically he was frail, and his fiery zeal wore out his body. Transferred from his vicarage at Broad Hembury, Devonshire, to Knightsbridge, London, at twenty-eight years of age, his health began to fail before he was thirty-five, and in one of his periods of illness he wrote --
When languor and disease invade
And the same homesickness for heaven appears under a different figure in another hymn --
At anchor laid remote from home,
Possessed of an ardent religious nature, his spiritual frames exemplified in a notable degree the emotional side of Calvinistic piety. Edward Payson himself, was not more enraptured in immediate view of death than was this young London priest and poet. Unquestioning faith became perfect certainty. As in the bold metaphor of "Rock of Ages," the faith finds voice in --
A debtor to mercy alone,
-- and other hymns in his collection of 1776, two years before the end came. Most of this devout writing was done in his last days, and he continued it as long as strength was left, until, on the 11th of August, 1778, he joyfully passed away.
Somehow there was always something peculiarly heartsome and "filling" to pious minds in the lines of Toplady in days when his minor hymns were more in vogue than now, and they were often quoted, without any idea whose making they were. "At anchor laid" was crooned by good old ladies at their spinning-wheels, and godly invalids found "When languor and disease invade" a comfort next to their Bibles.
"Rock of Ages" is said to have been written after the author, during a suburban walk, had been forced to shelter himself from a thunder shower, under a cliff. This is, however, but one of several stories about the birth-occasion of the hymn.
It has been translated into many languages. One of the foreign dignitaries visiting Queen Victoria at her "Golden Jubilee" was a native of Madagascar, who surprised her by asking leave to sing, but delighted her, when leave was given, by singing "Rock of Ages." It was a favorite of hers -- and of Prince Albert, who whispered it when he was dying. People who were school-children when Rev. Justus Vinton came home to Willington, Ct., with two Karen pupils, repeat to-day the "la-pa-ta, i-oo-i-oo" caught by sound from the brown-faced boys as they sang their native version of "Rock of Ages."
Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, the famous Confederate Cavalry leader, mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern, Va., and borne to a Richmond hospital, called for his minister and requested that "Rock of Ages" be sung to him.
The last sounds heard by the few saved from the wreck of the steamer "London" in the Bay of Biscay, 1866, were the voices of the helpless passengers singing "Rock of Ages" as the ship went down.
A company of Armenian Christians sang "Rock of Ages" in their native tongue while they were being massacred in Constantinople.
No history of this grand hymn of faith forgets the incident of Gladstone writing a Latin translation of it while sitting in the House of Commons. That remarkable man was as masterly in his scholarly recreations as in his statesmanship. The supreme Christian sentiment of the hymn had permeated his soul till it spoke to him in a dead language as eloquently as in the living one; and this is what he made of it:
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Not the labor of my hands
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Whilst I draw this fleeting breath,
Jesus, pro me perforatus,
Coram Te nec justus forem
Nil in manu mecum fero,
Dum hos artus vita regit,
The wonderful hymn has suffered the mutations common to time and taste.
When I soar thro' tracts unknown
-- becomes --
When I soar to worlds unknown,
-- getting rid of the unpoetic word, and bettering the elocution, but missing the writer's thought (of the unknown path, -- instead of going to many "worlds"). The Unitarians have their version, with substitutes for the "atonement lines."
But the Christian lyric maintains its life and inspiration through the vicissitudes of age and use, as all intrinsically superior things can and will, -- and as in the twentieth line, --
When my eyestrings break in death;
-- modernized to --
When my eyelids close in death,
-- the hymn will ever adapt itself to the new exigencies of common speech, without losing its vitality and power.
A happy inspiration of Dr. Thomas Hastings made the hymn and music inevitably one. Almost anywhere to call for the tune of "Toplady" (namesake of the pious poet) is as unintelligible to the multitude as "Key" would be to designate the "Star-spangled Banner." The common people -- thanks to Dr. Hastings -- have learned "Rock of Ages" by sound.
Thomas Hastings was born in Washington, Ct., 1784. For eight years he was editor of the Western Recorder, but he gave his life to church music, and besides being a talented tone-poet he wrote as many as six hundred hymns. In 1832, by invitation from twelve New York churches, he went to that city, and did the main work of his life there, dying, in 1872, at the good old age of eighty-nine. His musical collections number fifty-three. He wrote his famous tune in 1830.
[Illustration: Thomas Hastings]
"MY SOUL BE ON THY GUARD"
Strangely enough, this hymn, a trumpet note of Christian warning and resolution, was written by one who himself fell into unworthy ways. But the one strong and spiritual watch-song by which he is remembered appeals for him, and lets us know possibly, something of his own conflicts. We can be thankful for the struggle he once made, and for the hymn it inspired. It is a voice of caution to others.
[Footnote 12: I have been unable to verify this statement found in Mr. Butterworth's "Story of the Hymns." -- T.B.]
George Heath, the author, was an English minister, born in 1781; died 1822. For a time he was pastor of a Presbyterian Church at Honiton, Devonshire, and was evidently a prolific writer, having composed a hundred and forty-four hymns, an edition of which was printed.
No other has been so familiarly linked with the words as Lowell Mason's "Laban" (1830). It has dash and animation enough to reenforce the hymn, and give it popular life, even if the hymn had less earnestness and vigor of its own.
Ne'er think the vict'ry won
Fight on, my soul till death
"PEOPLE OF THE LIVING GOD."
Montgomery felt every line of this hymn as he committed it to paper. He wrote it when, after years in the "swim" of social excitements and ambitions, where his young independence swept him on, he came back to the little church of his boyhood. His father and mother had gone to the West Indies as missionaries, and died there. He was forty-three years old when, led by divine light, he sought readmission to the Moravian "meeting" at Fulneck, and anchored happily in a haven of peace.
People of the living God
Now to you my spirit turns --
James Montgomery, son of Rev. John Montgomery, was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, Nov.4, 1771, and educated at the Moravian Seminary at Fulneck, Yorkshire, Eng. He became the editor of the Sheffield Iris, and his pen was busy in non-professional as well as professional work until old age. He died in Sheffield, April 30, 1854.
His literary career was singularly successful; and a glance through any complete edition of his poems will tell us why. His hymns were all published during his lifetime, and all, as well as his longer pieces, have the purity and polished beauty, if not the strength, of Addison's work. Like Addison, too, he could say that he had written no line which, dying, he would wish to blot.
The best of Montgomery was in his hymns. These were too many to enumerate here, and the more enduring ones too familiar to need enumeration. The church and the world will not soon forget "The Home in Heaven," --
Forever with the Lord,
O where shall rest be found,
-- with its impressive couplet --
'Tis not the whole of life to live
Nor the haunting sweetness of --
There is a calm for those who weep.
Nor, indeed, the hymn of Christian love just now before us.
The melody exactly suited to the gentle trochaic step of the home-song, "People of the living God," is "Whitman," composed for it by Lowell Mason. Few Christians, in America, we venture to say, could hear an instrument play "Whitman" without mentally repeating Montgomery's words.
"TO LEAVE MY DEAR FRIENDS."
This hymn, called "The Bower of Prayer," was dear to Christian hearts in many homes and especially in rural chapel worship half a century ago and earlier, and its sweet legato melody still lingers in the memories of aged men and women.
Elder John Osborne, a New Hampshire preacher of the "Christian" (Christ-ian) denomination, is said to have composed the tune (and possibly the words) about 1815 -- though apparently the music was arranged from a flute interlude in one of Haydn's themes. The warbling notes of the air are full of heart-feeling, and usually the best available treble voice sang it as a solo.
To leave my dear friends and from neighbors to part, And go from my home, it affects not my heart
The early shrill notes of the loved nightingale
How sweet were the zephyrs perfumed by the pine,
[Footnote 13: The American Vocalist omits this stanza as too fanciful as well as too crude]
"SAVIOUR, THY DYING LOVE."
This hymn of grateful piety was written in 1862, by Rev. S. Dryden Phelps, D.D., of New Haven, and first published in Pure Gold, 1871; afterwards in the (earlier) Baptist Hymn and Tune Book.
Saviour, Thy dying love
* * * * *
Give me a faithful heart,
The penultimate line, originally "Some sinful wanderer won," was altered by the author himself. The hymn is found in most Baptist hymnals, and was inserted by Mr. Sankey in Gospel Hymns No.1. It has since won its way into several revival collections and undenominational manuals.
Rev. Sylvester Dryden Phelps, D.D., was born in Suffield, Ct., May 15, 1816, and studied at the Connecticut Literary Institution in that town. An early call to the ministry turned his talents to the service of the church, and his long settlement -- comprising what might be called his principal life work -- was in New Haven, where he was pastor of the First Baptist church twenty-nine years. He died there Nov.23, 1895.
The Rev. Robert Lowry admired the hymn, and gave it a tune perfectly suited to its metre and spirit. It has never been sung in any other. The usual title of it is "Something for Jesus." The meaning and sentiment of both words and music are not unlike Miss Havergal's --
I gave my life for thee.
"IN SOME WAY OR OTHER."
This song of Christian confidence was written by Mrs. Martha A.W. Cook, wife of the Rev. Parsons Cook, editor of the Puritan Recorder, Boston.
It was published in the American Messenger in 1870, and is still in use here, as a German version of it is in Germany. The first stanza follows, in the two languages:
In some way or other the Lord will provide.
Sei's so oder anders, der Herr wird's versehn;
In the English version the easy flow of the two last lines into one sentence is an example of rhythmic advantage over the foreign syntax.
Mrs. Cook was married to the well-known clergyman and editor, Parsons Cook, (1800-1865) in Bridgeport, Ct., and survived him at his death in Lynn, Mass. She was Miss Martha Ann Woodbridge, afterwards Mrs. Hawley, and a widow at the time of her re-marriage as Mr. Cook's second wife.
Professor Calvin S. Harrington, of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Ct., set music to the words as printed in Winnowed Hymns (1873) and arranged by Dr. Eben Tourjee, organizer of the great American Peace Jubilee in Boston. In the Gospel Hymns it is, however, superseded by the more popular composition of Philip Phillips.
Dr. Eben Tourjee, late Dean of the College of Music in Boston University, and founder and head of the New England Conservatory, was born in Warwick, R.I., June 1, 1834. With only an academy education he rose by native genius, from a hard-working boyhood to be a teacher of music and a master of its science. From a course of study in Europe he returned and soon made his reputation as an organizer of musical schools and sangerfests. The New England Conservatory of Music was first established by him in Providence, but removed in 1870 to Boston, its permanent home. His doctorate of music was conferred upon him by Wesleyan University. Died in Boston, April 12, 1891.
Philip Phillips, known as "the singing Pilgrim," was born in Jamestown, Chautauqua, Co., N.Y., Aug.13, 1834. He compiled twenty-nine collections of sacred music for Sunday schools, gospel meetings, etc.; also a Methodist Hymn and Tune Book, 1866. He composed a great number of tunes, but wrote no hymns. Some of his books were published in London, for he was a cosmopolitan singer, and traveled through Europe and Australia as well as America. Died in Delaware, O., June 25, 1875.
"NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE."
Mr. William Stead, fond of noting what is often believed to be the "providential chain of causes" in everything that happens, recalls the fact that Benjamin Flower, editor of the Cambridge Intelligencer, while in jail (1798) at the instigation of Bp. Watson for an article defending the French Revolution, and criticising the Bishop's political course, was visited by several sympathizing ladies, one of whom was Miss Eliza Gould. The young lady's first acquaintance with him there in his cell led to an attachment which eventuated in marriage. Of that marriage Sarah Flower was born. By the theory of providential sequences Mr. Stead makes it appear that the forgotten vindictiveness of a British prelate "was the causa causans of one of the most spiritual and aspiring hymns in the Christian Hymnary."
"Nearer, My God, to Thee" was on the lips of President McKinley as he lay dying by a murderer's wicked shot. It is dear to President Roosevelt for its memories of the battle of Las Quasimas, where the Rough Riders sang it at the burial of their slain comrades. Bishop Marvin was saved by it from hopeless dejection, while practically an exile during the Civil War, by hearing it sung in the wilds of Arkansas, by an old woman in a log hut.
A letter from Pittsburg, Pa., to a leading Boston paper relates the name and experience of a forger who had left the latter city and wandered eight years a fugitive from justice. On the 5th of November, (Sunday,) 1905, he found himself in Pittsburg, and ventured into the Dixon Theatre, where a religious service was being held, to hear the music. The hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" so overcame him that he went out weeping bitterly. He walked the floor of his room all night, and in the morning telephoned for the police, confessed his name and crime, and surrendered himself to be taken back to the Boston authorities.
Mrs. Sarah Flower Adams, author of the noble hymn (supposed to have been written in 1840), was born at Harlow, Eng., Feb.22, 1805, and died there in 1848. At her funeral another of her hymns was sung, ending --
When falls the shadow, cold in death
The attempts to evangelize "Nearer, My God, to Thee" by those who cannot forget that Mrs. Adams was a Unitarian, are to be deplored. Such zeal is as needless as trying to sectarianize an Old Testament Psalm. The poem is a perfect religious piece -- to be sung as it stands, with thanks that it was ever created.
In English churches (since 1861) the hymn was and may still be sung to "Horbury," composed by Rev. John B. Dykes, and "St. Edmund," by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Both tunes are simple and appropriate, but such a hymn earns and inevitably acquires a single tune-voice, so that its music instantly names it by its words when played on instruments. Such a voice was given it by Lowell Mason's "Bethany," (1856). (Why not "Bethel," instead, every one who notes the imagery of the words must wonder.) "Bethany" appealed to the popular heart, and long ago (in America) hymn and tune became each other's property. It is even simpler than the English tunes, and a single hearing fixes it in memory.
"I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR."
Mrs. Annie Sherwood Hawks, who wrote this hymn in 1872, was born in Hoosick, N.Y., in 1835.
She sent the hymn (five stanzas) to Dr. Lowry, who composed its tune, adding a chorus, to make it more effective. It first appeared in a small collection of original songs prepared by Lowry and Doane for the National Baptist Sunday School Association, which met at Cincinnati, O., November, 1872, and was sung there.
I need Thee every hour,
One instance, at least, of a hymn made doubly impressive by its chorus will be attested by all who have sung or heard the pleading words and music of Mrs. Hawks' and Dr. Lowry's "I need Thee, Oh, I need Thee."
"I GAVE MY LIFE FOR THEE."
This was written in her youth by Frances Ridley Havergal, and was suggested by the motto over the head of Christ in the great picture, "Ecce Homo," in the Art Gallery of Dusseldorf, Prussia, where she was at school. The sight -- as was the case with young Count Zinzendorf -- seems to have had much to do with the gifted girl's early religious experience, and indeed exerted its influence on her whole life. The motto read "I did this for thee; what doest thou for me?" and the generative effect of the solemn picture and its question soon appeared in the hymn that flowed from Miss Havergal's heart and pen.
I gave my life for thee,
Miss Frances Ridley Havergal, sometimes called "The Theodosia of the 19th century," was born at Astley, Worcestershire, Eng., Dec.14, 1836. Her father, Rev. William Henry Havergal, a clergyman of the Church of England, was himself a poet and a skilled musician, and much of the daughter's ability came to her by natural bequest as well as by education. Born a poet, she became a fine instrumentalist, a composer and an accomplished linguist. Her health was frail, but her life was a devoted one, and full of good works. Her consecrated words were destined to outlast her by many generations.
"Writing is praying with me," she said. Death met her in 1879, when still in the prime of womanhood.
The music that has made this hymn of Miss Havergal familiar in America is named from its first line, and was composed by the lamented Philip P. Bliss (christened Philipp Bliss), a pupil of Dr. George F. Root.
[Footnote 14: Mr. Bliss himself changed the spelling of his name, preferring to let the third P. do duty alone, as a middle initial.]
He was born in Rome, Pa., Jan.9, 1838, and less than thirty-nine years later suddenly ended his life, a victim of the awful railroad disaster at Ashtabula O., Dec.29, 1876, while returning from a visit to his aged mother. His wife, Lucy Young Bliss, perished with him there, in the swift flames that enveloped the wreck of the train.
The name of Mr. Bliss had become almost a household word through his numerous popular Christian melodies, which were the American beginning of the series of Gospel Hymns. Many of these are still favorite prayer-meeting tunes throughout the country and are heard in song-service at Sunday-school and city mission meetings.
"JESUS KEEP ME NEAR THE CROSS."
This hymn, one of the best and probably most enduring of Fanny J. Crosby's sacred lyrics, was inspired by Col.1:29.
Frances Jane Crosby (Mrs. Van Alstyne) the blind poet and hymnist, was born in Southeast, N.Y., March 24, 1820. She lost her eyesight at the age of six. Twelve years of her younger life were spent in the New York Institution for the Blind, where she became a teacher, and in 1858 was happily married to a fellow inmate, Mr. Alexander Van Alstyne, a musician.
George F. Root was for a time musical instructor at the Institution, and she began early to write words to his popular song-tunes. "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower," and the long favorite melody, "There's Music in the Air" are among the many to which she supplied the text and the song name.
She resides in Bridgeport, Ct., where she enjoys a serene and happy old age. She has written over six thousand hymns, and possibly will add other pearls to the cluster before she goes up to join the singing saints.
Jesus, keep me near the Cross,
* * * * *
Near the Cross! O Lamb of God,
William Howard Doane, writer of the music to this hymn, was born in Preston, Ct., Feb.3, 1831. He studied at Woodstock Academy, and subsequently acquired a musical education which earned him the degree of Doctor of Music conferred upon him by Denison University in 1875. Having a mechanical as well as musical gift, he patented more than seventy inventions, and was for some years engaged with manufacturing concerns, both as employee and manager, but his interest in song-worship and in Sunday-school and church work never abated, and he is well known as a trainer of choirs and composer of some of the best modern devotional tunes. His home is in Cincinnati, O.
"I WOULD NOT LIVE ALWAY."
This threnody (we may almost call it) of W.A. Muhlenberg, illustrating one phase of Christian experience, was the outpouring of a poetic melancholy not uncommon to young and finely strung souls. He composed it in his twenties, -- long before he became "Doctor" Muhlenberg, -- and for years afterwards tried repeatedly to alter it to a more cheerful tone. But the poem had its mission, and it had fastened itself in the public imagination, either by its contagious sentiment or the felicity of its tune, and the author was obliged to accept the fame of it as it originally stood.
William Augustus Muhlenberg D.D. was born in Philadelphia, Sept.16, 1796, the great-grandson of Dr. Henry M. Muhlenberg, founder of the Lutheran church in America. In 1817 he left his ancestral communion, and became an Episcopal priest.
As Rector of St. James church, Lancaster, Pa., he interested himself in the improvement of ecclesiastical hymnody, and did much good reforming work. After a noble and very active life as promoter of religious education and Christian union, and as a friend and benefactor of the poor, he died April, 8, 1877, in St. Luke's Hospital, N.Y.
This was composed by Mr. George Kingsley in 1833, and entitled "Frederick" (dedicated to the Rev. Frederick T. Gray). Issued first as sheet music, it became popular, and soon found a place in the hymnals. Dr. Louis Benson says of the conditions and the fancy of the time, "The standard of church music did not differ materially from that of parlor music.... Several editors have attempted to put a newer tune in the place of Mr. Kingsley's. It was in vain, simply because words and melody both appeal to the same taste."
[Illustration: Frances Ridley Havergal]
"SUN OF MY SOUL, MY SAVIOUR DEAR."
This gem from Keble's Christian Year illustrates the life and character of its pious author, and, like all the hymns of that celebrated collection, is an incitive to spiritual thought for the thoughtless, as well as a language for those who stand in the Holy of Holies.
The Rev. John Keble was born in Caln, St. Aldwyn, April 25, 1792. He took his degree of A.M. and was ordained and settled at Fairford, where he began the parochial work that ceased only with his life. He died at Bournmouth, March 29, 1866.
His settlement at Fairford, in charge of three small curacies, satisfied his modest ambition, though altogether they brought him only about L100 per year. Here he preached, wrote his hymns and translations, performed his pastoral work, and was happy. Temptation to wider fields and larger salary never moved him.
The music to this hymn of almost unparalleled poetic and spiritual beauty was arranged from a German Choral of Peter Ritter (1760-1846) by William Henry Monk, Mus. Doc., born London, 1823. Dr. Monk was a lecturer, composer, editor, and professor of vocal music at King's College. This noble tune appears sometimes under the name "Hursley" and supersedes an earlier one ("Halle") by Thomas Hastings.
Sun of my soul, my Saviour dear,
* * * * *
Abide with me from morn till eve,
The tune "Hursley" is a choice example of polyphonal sweetness in uniform long notes of perfect chord.
The tune of "Canonbury," by Robert Schumann, set to Keble's hymn, "New every morning is the love," is deservedly a favorite for flowing long metres, but it could never replace "Hursley" with "Sun of my soul."
"DID CHRIST O'ER SINNERS WEEP?"
The Rev. Benjamin Beddome wrote this tender hymn-poem while pastor of the Baptist Congregation at Bourton-on-the-water, Gloucestershire, Eng. He was born at Henley, Chatwickshire, Jan.23, 1717. Settled in 1743, he remained with the same church till his death, Sept.3, 1795. His hymns were not collected and published till 1818.
"Dennis," a soft and smoothly modulated harmony, is oftenest sung to the words, and has no note out of sympathy with their deep feeling.
Did Christ o'er sinners weep,
The Son of God in tears
He wept that we might weep;
The tune of "Dennis" was adapted by Lowell Mason from Johann Georg Naegeli, a Swiss music publisher, composer and poet. He was born in Zurich, 1768. It is told of him that his irrepressible genius once tempted him to violate the ethics of authorship. While publishing Beethoven's three great solo sonatas (Opus 31) he interpolated two bars of his own, an act much commented upon in musical circles, but which does not seem to have cost him Beethoven's friendship. Possibly, like Murillo to the servant who meddled with his paintings, the great master forgave the liberty, because the work was so good.
Naegeli's compositions are mostly vocal, for school and church use, though some are of a gay and playful nature. The best remembered of his secular and sacred styles are his blithe aria to the song of Moore, "Life let us cherish, while yet the taper glows" and the sweet choral that voices Beddome's hymn.
"MY JESUS, I LOVE THEE."
The real originator of the Coronation Hymnal, a book into whose making went five years of prayer, was Dr. A.J. Gordon, late Pastor of the Clarendon St. Baptist church, Boston. While the volume was slowly taking form and plan he was wont to hum to himself, or cause to be played by one of his family, snatches and suggestions of new airs that came to him in connection with his own hymns, and others which seemed to have no suitable music. The anonymous hymn, "My Jesus, I Love Thee," he found in a London hymn-book, and though the tune to which it had been sung in England was sent to him some time later, it did not sound sympathetic. Dissatisfied, and with the ideal in his mind of what the feeling should be in the melody to such a hymn, he meditated and prayed over the words till in a moment of inspiration the beautiful air sang itself to him which with its simple concords has carried the hymn into the chapels of every denomination.
[Footnote 15: The fact that this sweet melody recalls to some a similar tune sung sixty years ago reminds us again of the story of the tune "America." It is not impossible that an unconscious memory helped to shape the air that came to Dr. Gordon's mind; though unborrowed similarities have been inevitable in the whole history of music.]
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine,
* * * * *
I will love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath,
In mansions of glory and endless delight
The memory of the writer returns to a day in a railway-car en route to the great Columbian Fair in Chicago when the tired passengers were suddenly surprised and charmed by the music of this melody. A young Christian man and woman, husband and wife, had begun to sing "My Jesus, I love Thee." Their voices (a tenor and soprano) were clear and sweet, and every one of the company sat up to listen with a look of mingled admiration and relief. Here was something, after all, to make a long journey less tedious. They sang all the four verses and paused. There was no clapping of hands, for a reverential hush had been cast over the audience by the sacred music. Instead of the inevitable applause that follows mere entertainment, a gentle but eager request for more secured the repetition of the delightful duet. This occurred again and again, till every one in the car -- and some had never heard the tune or words before -- must have learned them by heart. Fatigue was forgotten, miles had been reduced to furlongs in a weary trip, and a company of strangers had been lifted to a holier plane of thought.
Besides this melody there are four tunes by Dr. Gordon in his collection, three of them with his own words. In all there are eleven of his hymns. Of these the "Good morning in Glory," set to his music, is an emotional lyric admirable in revival meetings, and the one beginning "O Holy Ghost, Arise" is still sung, and called for affectionately as "Gordon's Hymn."
Rev. Adoniram Judson Gordon D.D. was born in New Hampton, N.H., April 19, 1836, and died in Boston, Feb.2d, 1895, after a life of unsurpassed usefulness to his fellowmen and devotion to his Divine Master. Like Phillips Brooks he went to his grave "in all his glorious prime," and his loss is equally lamented. He was a descendant of John Robinson of Leyden.