Patriotic Hymns.
The ethnic anthologies growing out of love of country are a mingled literature of filial and religious piety, ranging from war-like paeans to lyric prayers. They become the cherished inheritance of a nation, and, once fixed in the common memory and common heart, the people rarely let them die. The "Songs of the Fathers" have perennial breath, and in every generation --

The green woods of their native land
Shall whisper in the strain;
The voices of their household band
Shall sweetly speak again.
-- Felicia Hemans.


American pride has often gloried in Seneca's "Vision of the West," more than eighteen hundred years ago.

Venient annis
Saecula seris, quibus Oceanus
Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
Pateat tellus, Typhisque novos
Detegat orbes, nec sit terris
Ultima Thule.

A time will come in future ages far
When Ocean will his circling bounds unbar.
And, opening vaster to the Pilot's hand,
New worlds shall rise, where mightier kingdoms are, Nor Thule longer be the utmost land.

This poetic forecast, of which Washington Irving wrote "the predictions of the ancient oracles were rarely so unequivocal," is part of the "chorus" at the end of the second act of Seneca's "Medea," written near the date of St. Paul's first Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Seneca, the celebrated Roman (Stoic) philosopher, was born at or very near the time of our Saviour's birth. There are legends of his acquaintance with Paul, at Rome, but though he wrote able and quotable treatises On Consolation, On Providence, On Calmness of Soul, and On the Blessed Life, there is no direct evidence that the savor of Christian faith ever qualified his works or his personal principles. He was a man of grand ideas and inspirations, but he was a time server and a flatterer of the Emperor Nero, who, nevertheless, caused his death when he had no further use for him.

His compulsory suicide occurred A.D.65, the year in which St. Paul is supposed to have suffered martyrdom.


Sitting at the tea-table one evening, near a century ago, Mrs. Hemans read an old account of the "Landing of the Pilgrims," and was inspired to write this poem, which became a favorite in America -- like herself, and all her other works.

The ballad is inaccurate in details, but presents the spirit of the scene with true poet insight. Mr. James T. Fields, the noted Boston publisher, visited the lady in her old age, and received an autograph copy of the poem, which is seen in Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth, Mass.

The breaking waves dashed high, on a stern and rock-bound coast, And the woods against a stormy sky, their giant branches tossed, And the heavy night hung dark, the hills and waters o'er, When a band of exiles moored their bark on the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes, they, the true-hearted, came; Not with the roll of stirring drums, and the trumpet that sings of fame;
Not as the flying come, in silence and in fear, --
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom with their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang, and the stars heard, and the sea! And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang to the anthem of the free!
The ocean eagle soared from his nest by the white waves' foam, And the rocking pines of the forest roared, -- this was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair amidst that pilgrim band, -- Why had they come to wither there, away from their childhood's land?
There was woman's fearless eye, lit by her deep love's truth; There was manhood's brow, serenely high, and the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar? bright jewels of the mine? The wealth of seas? the spoils of war? -- They sought a faith's pure shrine!
Ay, call it holy ground, the soil where first they trod; They left unstained what there they found, -- freedom to worship God!

Felicia Dorothea Browne (Mrs. Hemans) was born in Liverpool, Eng., 1766, and died 1845.


The original tune is not now accessible. It was composed by Mrs. Mary E. (Browne) Arkwright, Mrs. Hemans' sister, and published in England about 1835. But the words have been sung in this country to "Silver St.," a choral not entirely forgotten, credited to an English composer, Isaac Smith, born, in London, about 1735, and died there in 1800.


Usually misquoted "Westward the Star of Empire," etc. This poem of Bishop Berkeley possesses no lyrical quality but, like the ancient Roman's words, partakes of the prophetic spirit, and has always been dear to the American heart by reason of the above line. It seems to formulate the "manifest destiny" of a great colonizing race that has already absorbed a continent, and extended its sway across the Pacific ocean.

Not such as Europe breeds in her decay;
Such as she bred when fresh and young,
When heavenly flame did animate her clay,
By future poets shall be sung.

Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
The fifth shall close the drama of the day:
Time's noblest offspring is the last.

George Berkeley was born March 12, 1684, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. A remarkable student, he became a remarkable man, as priest, prelate, and philosopher. High honors awaited him at home, but the missionary passion seized him. Inheriting a small fortune, he sailed to the West, intending to evangelize and educate the Indians of the "Summer Islands," but the ship lost her course, and landed him at Newport, R.I., instead of the Bermudas. Here he was warmly welcomed, but was disappointed in his plans and hopes of founding a native college by the failure of friends in England to forward funds, and after a residence of six years he returned home. He died at Cloyne, Ireland, 1753.

The house which Bishop Berkeley built is still shown (or was until very recently) at Newport after one hundred and seventy-eight years. He wrote the Principles of Human Knowledge, the Minute Philosopher, and many other works of celebrity in their time, and a scholarship in Yale bears his name; but he is best loved in this country for his Ode to America.

Pope in his list of great men ascribes --

To Berkeley every virtue under heaven.


One would scarcely guess that this bravura hymn of victory and "Come, ye disconsolate," were written by the same person, but both are by Thomas Moore. The song has all the vigor and vivacity of his "Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls," without its pathos. The Irish poet chose the song of Miriam instead of the song of Deborah doubtless because the sentiment and strain of the first of these two great female patriots lent themselves more musically to his lyric verse -- and his poem is certainly martial enough to convey the spirit of both.

Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea!
Jehovah hath triumphed, His people are free!
Sing, for the pride of the tyrant is broken;
His chariots, his horsemen, all splendid and brave -- How vain was their boasting, the Lord hath but spoken, And chariots and horsemen are sunk in the wave.


Of all the different composers to whose music Moore's "sacred songs" were sung -- Beethoven, Mozart, Stevenson, and the rest -- Avison seems to be the only one whose name and tune have clung to the poet's words; and we have the man and the melody sent to us, as it were, by the lyrist himself. The tune is now rarely sung except at church festivals and village entertainments, but the life and clamor of the scene at the Red Sea are in it, and it is something more than a mere musical curiosity. Its style, however, is antiquated -- with its timbrel beat and its canorous harmony and "coda fortis" -- and modern choirs have little use in religious service for the sonata written for viols and horns.

It was Moore's splendid hymn that gave it vogue in England and Ireland, and sent it across the sea to find itself in the house of its friends with the psalmody of Billings and Swan. Moore was the man of all men to take a fancy to it and make language to its string-and-trumpet concert. He was a musician himself, and equally able to adapt a tune and to create one. As a festival performance, replete with patriotic noise, let Avison's old "Sound the Timbrel" live.

Charles Avison was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1710. He studied in Italy, wrote works on music, and composed sonatas and concertos for stringed orchestras. For many years he was organist of St. Nicholas' Kirk in his native town.

The tune to "Sound the Loud Timbrel" is a chorus from one of his longer compositions. He died in 1770.


This is the only one of Moore's patriotic "Irish Melodies" that lives wherever sweet tones are loved and poetic feeling finds answering hearts. The exquisite sadness of its music and its text is strangely captivating, and its untold story beckons from its lines.

Tara was the ancient home of the Irish kings. King Dermid, who had apostatized from the faith of St. Patrick and his followers, in A.D., 554, violated the Christian right of sanctuary by taking an escaped prisoner from the altar of refuge in Temple Ruadan (Tipperary) and putting him to death. The patron priest and his clergy marched to Tara and solemnly pronounced a curse upon the King. Not long afterwards Dermid was assassinated, and superstition shunned the place "as a castle under ban." The last human resident of "Tara's Hall" was the King's bard, who lingered there, forsaken and ostracized, till he starved to death. Years later one daring visitor found his skeleton and his broken harp.

Moore utilized this story of tragic pathos as a figure in his song for "fallen Erin" lamenting her lost royalty -- under a curse that had lasted thirteen hundred years.

The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled.

So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory's thrill is o'er,
And hearts that once beat high for praise
Now feel that pulse no more.

No one can read the words without "thinking" the tune. It is supposed that Moore composed them both.


Ye sons of France, awake to glory!
Hark! hark! what millions bid you rise!

The "Marseillaise Hymn" so long supposed to be the musical as well as verbal composition of Roget de Lisle, an army engineer, was proved to be only his words set to an air in the "Credo" of a German mass, which was the work of one Holzman in 1726. De Lisle was known to be a poet and musician as well as a soldier, and, as he is said to have played or sung at times in the churches and convents, it is probable that he found and copied the manuscript of Holzman's melody. His haste to rush his fiery "Hymn" before the public in the fever of the Revolution allowed him no time to make his own music, and he adapted the German's notes to his words and launched the song in the streets of Strasburg. It was first sung in Paris by a band of chanters from Marseilles, and, like the trumpets blown around Jericho, it shattered the walls of the French monarchy to their foundations.

The "Marseillaise Hymn" is mentioned here for its patriotic birth and associations. An attempt to make a religious use of it is recorded in the Fourth Chapter.


This is a "patriotic hymn," though a queer production with a queer name, considering its contents; and its author was no intimate of the Muses. Liberty is supposed to be somehow the corollary of learning, or vice versa -- whichever the reader thinks.

The morning sun shines from the East
And spreads his glories to the West.

* * * * *

So Science spreads her lucid ray
O'er lands that long in darkness lay;
She visits fair Columbia,
And sets her sons among the stars.
Fair Freedom, her attendant, waits, etc.


Was the really notable part of this old-time "Ode," the favorite of village assemblies, and the inevitable practice-piece for amateur violinists. The author of the crude symphony was Deacon Janaziah (or Jazariah) Summer, of Taunton, Mass., who prepared it -- music and probably words -- for the semi-centennial of Simeon Dagget's Academy in 1798. The "Ode" was subsequently published in Philadelphia, and also in Albany. It was a song of the people, and sang itself through the country for fifty or sixty years, always culminating in the swift crescendo chorus and repeat --

The British yoke and Gallic chain
Were urged upon our necks in vain;
All haughty tyrants we disdain,
And shout "Long live America!"

The average patriot did not mind it if "Columbi-ay" and "Ameri-kay" were not exactly classic orthoepy.


This was written (1798) by Judge Joseph Hopkinson, born, in Philadelphia, 1770, and died there, 1843. He wrote it for a friend in that city who was a theatre singer, and wanted a song for Independence Day. The music (to which it is still sung) was "The President's March," by a composer named Fyles, near the end of the 18th century.

There is nothing hymn-like in the words, which are largely a glorification of Gen. Washington, but the tune, a concerted piece better for band than voices, has the drum-and-anvil chorus quality suitable for vociferous mass singing -- and a zealous Salvation Army corps on field nights could even fit a processional song to it with gospel words.


Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And slavery clank her galling chains:
We'll fear them not; we trust in God;
New England's God forever reigns.

Old "Chester," both words and tune the work of William Billings, is another of the provincial freedom songs of the Revolutionary period, and of the days when the Republic was young. Billings was a zealous patriot, and (says a writer in Moore's Cyclopedia of Music) "one secret, no doubt, of the vast popularity his works obtained was the patriotic ardor they breathed. The words above quoted are an example, and 'Chester,' it is said, was frequently heard from every fife in the New England ranks. The spirit of the Revolution was also manifest in his 'Lamentation over Boston,' his 'Retrospect,' his 'Independence,' his 'Columbia,' and many other pieces."

William Billings was born, in Boston, Oct.7, 1746. He was a man of little education, but his genius for music spurred him to study the tuneful art, and enabled him to learn all that could be learned without a master. He began to make tunes and publish them, and his first book, the New England Psalm-singer was a curiosity of youthful crudity and confidence, but in considerable numbers it was sold, and sung -- and laughed at. He went on studying and composing, and compiled another work, which was so much of an improvement that it got the name of Billings' Best. A third singing-book followed, and finally a fourth entitled the Psalm Singer's Amusement, both of which were popular in their day. His "Majesty" has tremendous capabilities of sound, and its movement is fully up to the requirements of Nahum Tate's verses, --

And on the wings of mighty winds
Came flying all abroad.

William Billings died in 1800, and his remains lie in an unmarked grave in the old "Granary" Burying Ground in the city of his birth.

National feeling has taken maturer speech and finer melody, but it was these ruder voices that set the pitch. They were sung with native pride and affection at fireside vespers and rural feasts with the adopted songs of Burns and Moore and Mrs. Hemans, and, like the lays of Scotland and Provence, they breathed the flavor of the country air and soil, and taught the generation of home-born minstrelsy that gave us the Hutchinson family, Ossian E. Dodge, Covert with his "Sword of Bunker Hill," and Philip Phillips, the "Singing Pilgrim."


Near the close of the last war with England, Francis Scott Key, of Baltimore, the author of this splendid national hymn, was detained under guard on the British flag-ship at the mouth of the Petapsco, where he had gone under a flag of truce to procure the release of a captured friend, Dr. William Beanes of Upper Marlboro, Md.

The enemy's fleet was preparing to bombard Fort McHenry, and Mr. Key's return with his friend was forbidden lest their plans should be disclosed. Forced to stay and witness the attack on his country's flag, he walked the deck through the whole night of the bombardment until the break of day showed the brave standard still flying at full mast over the fort. Relieved of his patriotic anxiety, he pencilled the exultant lines and chorus of his song on the back of a letter, and, as soon as he was released, carried it to the city, where within twenty-four hours it was printed on flyers, circulated and sung in the streets to the air of "Anacreon in Heaven" -- which has been the "Star Spangled Banner" tune ever since.

O say, can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming, And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air Gave proof through the night that the flag was still there: O say, does the star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

* * * * *

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation; Blessed with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The original star-spangled banner that waved over Fort McHenry in sight of the poet when he wrote the famous hymn was made and presented to the garrison by a girl of fifteen, afterwards Mrs. Sanderson, and is still preserved in the Sanderson family at Baltimore.

[Illustration: Samuel F. Smith]

The additional stanza to the "Star-Spangled Banner" --

When our land is illumined with Liberty's smile, etc.,

-- was composed by Dr. O.W. Holmes, in 1861.

The tune "Anacreon in Heaven" was an old English hunting air composed by John Stafford Smith, born at Gloucester, Eng.1750. He was composer for Covent Garden Theater, and conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music. Died Sep.20, 1836. The melody was first used in America to Robert Treat Paine's song, "Adams and Liberty." Paine, born 1778 -- died 1811, was the son of Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence.


Sympathetic admiration for the air, "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," (or "Bruce's address," as it was commonly called), with the syllables of Robert Burns' silvery verse, lingered long in the land after the wars were ended. It spoke in the poem of John Pierpont, who caught its pibroch thrill, and built the metre of "Warren's Address at the Battle of Bunker Hill" on the model of "Scots wha hae."

Stand! the ground's your own, my braves;
Will ye give it up to slaves?
Will ye look for greener graves?

* * * * *

In the God of battles trust:
Die we may, or die we must,
But O where can dust to dust
Be consigned so well,

As where Heaven its dews shall shed,
On the martyred patriot's bed,
And the rocks shall raise their head
Of his deeds to tell?

This poem, written about 1823, held a place many years in school-books, and was one of the favorite school-boy declamations. Whenever sung on patriotic occasions, the music was sure to be "Bruce's Address." That typical Scotch tune was played on the Highland bag-pipes long before Burns was born, and known as "Hey tuttie taite." "Heard on Fraser's hautboy, it used to fill my eyes with tears," Burns himself once wrote.

Rev. John Pierpont was born in Litchfield, Ct., April 6, 1785. He was graduated at Yale, 1804, taught school, studied law, engaged in trade, and finally took a course in theology and became a Unitarian minister, holding the pastorate of Hollis St. Church, Boston, thirty-six years. He travelled in the East, and wrote "Airs of Palestine." His poem, "The Yankee Boy," has been much quoted. Died in Medford, Mass., Aug.26, 1866.


This simple lyric, honored so long with the name "America," and the title "Our National Hymn," was written by Samuel Francis Smith, while a theological student at Andover, Feb.2, 1832. He had before him several hymn and song tunes which Lowell Mason had received from Germany, and, knowing young Smith to be a good linguist, had sent to him for translation. One of the songs, of national character, struck Smith as adaptable to home use if turned into American words, and he wrote four stanzas of his own to fit the tune.

Mason printed them with the music, and under his magical management the hymn made its debut on a public occasion in Park St. Church, Boston, July 4, 1832. Its very simplicity, with its reverent spirit and easy-flowing language, was sure to catch the ear of the multitude and grow into familiar use with any suitable music, but it was the foreign tune that, under Mason's happy pilotage, winged it for the western world and launched it on its long flight.

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountain-side
Let freedom ring.

* * * * *

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet Freedom's song;
Let mortal tongues awake,
Let all that breathe partake,
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King.


Pages, and at least two volumes, have been written to prove the origin of that cosmopolitan, half-Gregorian descant known here as "America," and in England as "God Save the King." William C. Woodbridge of Boston brought it home with him from Germany. The Germans had been singing it for years (and are singing it now, more or less) to the words, "Heil Dir Im Siegel Kranz," and the Swiss to "Rufst Du mein Vaterland." It was sung in Sweden, also, and till 1833 it was in public use in Russia commonly enough to give it a national character. Von Weber introduced it in his "Jubel" overture, and Beethoven, in 1814, copied it in C Major and wrote piano variations on it. It has been ascribed to Henry Purcell (1696), to Lulli, a French composer (1670), to Dr. John Bull (1619), and to Thomas Ravenscroft and an old Scotch carol as old as 1609. One might fancy that the biography of the famous air resembled Melchizedek's.

The truth appears to be that certain bars of music which might easily happen to be similar, or even identical, when plain-song was the common style, were produced at different times and places, and one man finally harmonized the wandering strains into a complete tune. It is now generally conceded that the man was Henry Carey, a popular English composer and dramatist of the first half of the 18th century, who sang the melody as it now is, in 1740, at a public dinner given in honor of Admiral Vernon after his capture of Porto Bello (Brazil). This antedates any authenticated use of the tune ipsissima forma in England or continental Europe.

The American history of it simply is that Woodbridge gave it to Mason and Mason gave it to Smith -- and Smith gave it "My Country 'Tis of Thee."


This genuinely American poem, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson and called usually the "Concord Hymn," was prepared for the dedication of the Battle-monument in Concord, April 19, 1836, and sung there to the tune of "Old Hundred." Apparently no change has been made in the original except of a single word in the first line.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

This does not appear in the hymnals and owns no special tune. Its niche of honor is in the temple of anthology, but it will always be called the "Concord Hymn" -- and the fourth line of its first stanza is a perennial quotation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, LL.D., the renowned American essayist and poet, was born in Boston, 1803. He graduated at Harvard in 1821, and was ordained to the Unitarian ministry, but turned his attention to literature, writing and lecturing on ethical and philosophical themes, and winning universal fame by his original and suggestive prose and verse. He died April 27, 1882.


After a visit to the Federal camps on the Potomac in 1861, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe returned to her lodgings in Washington, fatigued, as she says, by her "long, cold drive," and slept soundly. Awakening at early daybreak, she began "to twine the long lines of a hymn which promised to suit the measure of the 'John Brown' melody."

This hymn was written out after a fashion in the dark, by Mrs. Howe, and she then went back to sleep.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps, They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps; His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel; "As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;" Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel, Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat; Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant my feet! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free. While God is marching on.


The music of the old camp-meeting refrain, --

Say, brothers will you meet us?

-- or, --

O brother, will you meet me,

(No.173 in the Revivalist,) was written in 1855, by John William Steffe, of Richmond, Va., for a fire company, and was afterwards arranged by Franklin H. Lummis. The air of the "John Brown Song" was caught from this religious melody. The old hymn-tune had the "Glory, Hallelujah" coda, cadenced off with, "For ever, ever more."

In 1860-61 the garrison of soldiers at work on the half-dismantled defenses of Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, were fain to lighten labor and mock fatigue with any species of fun suggested by circumstances or accident, and, as for music, they sang everything they could remember or make up. John Brown's memory and fate were fresh in the Northern mind, and the jollity of the not very reverent army men did not exclude frequent allusions to the rash old Harper's Ferry hero.

A wag conjured his spirit into the camp with a witticism as to what he was doing, and a comrade retorted,

"Marchin' on, of course."

A third cried, "Pooh, John Brown's underground."

A serio-comic debate added more words, and in the midst of the banter, a musical fellow strung a rhythmic sentence and trolled it to the Methodist tune. "John Brown's body lies a mould'rin' in the ground" was taken up by others who knew the air, the following line was improvised almost instantly, and soon, to the accompaniment of pick, shovel and crowbar, --

His soul goes marching on,

-- rounded the couplet with full lung power through all the repetitions, till the inevitable "glory, glory hallelujah" had the voice of every soldier in the fort. The song "took," and the marching chorus of the Federal armies of the Civil War was started on its way. Mrs. Howe gave it a poem that made its rusticity sublime, and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" began a career that promises to run till battle hymns cease to be sung.

Julia Ward was born in New York city, May 27, 1819. In 1843 she became the wife of Samuel Gridley Howe, the far-famed philanthropist and champion of liberty, and with him edited an anti-slavery paper, the Boston Commonwealth, until the Civil War closed its mission. During the war she was active and influential -- and has never ceased to be so -- in the cause of peace and justice, and in every philanthropic movement. Her great hymn first brought her prominently before the public, but her many other writings would have made a literary reputation. Her four surviving children are all eminent in the scientific and literary world.


Naturally the title suggests the authorship of the ode, but fate made Keller a musician rather than a poet and hymnist, and the honors of the fine anthem are divided. At the grand performance which created its reputation, the hymn of Dr. O.W. Holmes was substituted for the composer's words. This is Keller's first stanza:

Speed our republic, O Father on high!
Lead us in pathways of justice and right,
Rulers, as well as the ruled, one and all,
Girdle with virtue the armor of might.
Hail! three times hail, to our country and flag!
Rulers, as well as the ruled, one and all,
Girdle with virtue the armor of might;
Hail! three times hail, to our country and flag!

"Flag" was the unhappy word at the end of every one of the four stanzas. To match a short vowel to an orotund concert note for two beats and a "hold" was impossible. When the great Peace Jubilee of 1872, in Boston, was projected, Dr. Holmes was applied to, and responded with a lyric that gave each stanza the rondeau effect designed by the composer, but replaced the flat final with a climax syllable of breadth and music:

Angel of Peace, thou hast wandered too long!
Spread thy white wings to the sunshine of love!
Come while our voices are blended in song,
Fly to our ark like the storm-beaten dove!
Fly to our ark on the wings of the dove,
Speed o'er the far-sounding billows of song,
Crown'd with thine olive-leaf garland of love,
Angel of Peace, thou hast waited too long!

* * * * *

Angels of Bethlehem, answer the strain!
Hark! a new birth-song is filling the sky!
Loud as the storm-wind that tumbles the main,
Bid the full breath of the organ reply,
Let the loud tempest of voices reply,
Roll its long surge like the earth-shaking main!
Swell the vast song till it mounts to the sky!
Angels of Bethlehem, echo the strain!

But the glory of the tune was Keller's own.

Soon after the close of the war a prize of [USD]500 had been offered by a committee of American gentlemen for the best "national hymn" (meaning words and music). Mr. Keller, though a foreigner, was a naturalized citizen and patriot and entered the lists as a competitor with the zeal of a native and the ambition of an artist. Sometime in 1866 he finished and copyrighted the noble anthem that bears his name, and then began the struggle to get it before the public and test its merit. To enable him to bring it out before the New York Academy of Music, where (unfortunately) he determined to make his first trial, his brother kindly lent him four hundred dollars (which he had laid by to purchase a little home), and he borrowed two hundred more elsewhere.

The performance proved a failure, the total receipts being only forty-two dollars, Keller was [USD]500 in debt, and his brother's house-money was gone. But he refused to accept his failure as final. Boston (where he should have begun) was introduced to his masterpiece at every opportunity, and gradually, with the help of the city bands and a few public concerts, a decided liking for it was worked up. It was entered on the program of the Peace Jubilee and sung by a chorus of ten thousand voices. The effect was magnificent. "Keller's American Hymn" became a recognized star number in the repertoire of "best" national tunes; and now few public occasions where patriotic music is demanded omit it in their menu of song.[33]

[Footnote 33: In Butterworth's "Story of the Tunes," under the account of Keller's grand motet, the following sacred hymn is inserted as "often sung to it:" --

Father Almighty, we bow at thy feet;
Humbly thy grace and thy goodness we own.
Answer in love when thy children entreat,
Hear our thanksgiving ascend to thy throne.
Seeking thy blessing, in worship we meet,
Trusting our souls on thy mercy alone;
Father Almighty, we bow at thy feet.

Breathe, Holy Spirit, thy comfort divine,
Tune every voice to thy music of peace;
Hushed in our hearts, with one whisper of thine,
Pride and the tumult of passion will cease.
Joy of the watchful, who wait for thy sign,
Hope of the sinful, who long for release,
Breathe, Holy Spirit, thy comfort divine.

God of salvation, thy glory we sing,
Honors to thee in thy temple belong;
Welcome the tribute of gladness we bring,
Loud-pealing organ and chorus of song.
While our high praises, Redeemer and King,
Blend with the notes of the angelic throng,
God of salvation, thy glory we sing.
-- Theron Brown.]

It is pathetic to know that the composer's one great success brought him only a barren renown. The prize committee, on the ground that none of the competing pieces reached the high standard of excellence contemplated, withheld the [USD]500, and Keller's work received merely the compliment of being judged worth presentation. The artist had his copyright, but he remained a poor man.

Matthias Keller was born at Ulm, Wurtemberg, March 20, 1813. In his youth he was both a musician and a painter. Coming to this country, he chose the calling that promised the better and quicker wages, playing in bands and theatre orchestras, but never accumulating money. He could make fine harmonies as well as play them, but English was not his mother-tongue, and though he wrote a hundred and fifty songs, only one made him well-known. When fame came to him it did not bring him wealth, and in his latter days, crippled by partial paralysis, he went back to his early art and earned a living by painting flowers and retouching portraits and landscapes. He died in 1875, only three years after his Coliseum triumph.


This familiar patriotic hymn is notable -- though not entirely singular -- for having two authors. The older singing-books signed the name of J.S. Dwight to it, until inquiring correspondence brought out the testimony and the joint claim of Dwight and C.T. Brooks, and it appeared that both these scholars and writers translated it from the German. Later hymnals attach both their names to the hymn.[34]

[Footnote 34: For a full account of this disputed hymn, and the curious trick of memory which confused four names in the question of its authorship, see Dr. Benson's Studies of Familiar Hymns, pp.179-190]

John Sullivan Dwight, born, in Boston, May 13, 1813, was a virtuoso in music, and an enthusiastic student of the art and science of tonal harmony. He joined a Harvard musical club known as "The Pierian Sodality" while a student at the University, and after his graduation became a prolific writer on musical subjects. Six years of his life were passed in the "Brook Farm Community." He was best known by his serial magazine, Dwight's Journal of Music, which was continued from 1852 to 1881. His death occurred in 1893.

Rev. Charles Timothy Brooks, the translator of Faust, was born, in Salem, Mass., June 20, 1813, being only about a month younger than his friend Dwight. Was a student at Harvard University and Divinity School 1829-1835, and was ordained to the Unitarian ministry and settled at Newport, R.I. He resigned his charge there (1871) on account of ill health, and occupied himself with literary work until his death, Jan.14, 1883.

God bless our native land!
Firm may she ever stand
Through storm and night!
When the wild tempests rave.
Ruler of wind and wave,
Do Thou our country save
By Thy great might!

For her our prayer shall rise
To God above the skies;
On Him we wait.
Thou who art ever nigh,
Guarding with watchful eye;
To Thee aloud we cry,
God save the State!

The tune of "Dort," by Lowell Mason, has long been the popular melody for this hymn. Indeed the two were united by Mason himself. It is braver music than "America," and would have carried Dr. Smith's hymn nobly, but the borrowed tune, on the whole, better suits "My Country 'tis of thee," -- and besides, it has the advantage of a middle-register harmony easy for a multitude of voices.


The closing canto of Longfellow's "Launching of the Ship," almost deserves a patriotic hymn-tune, though its place and use are commonly with school recitations.


Rudyard Kipling, in a moment of serious reflection on the flamboyant militarism of British sentiment during the South African War, wrote this remarkable "Recessional," so strikingly unlike his other war-time poems. It is to be hoped he did not suddenly repent his Christian impulse, but with the chauvinistic cry around him, "Our Country, right or wrong!" he seems to have felt the contrast of his prayer -- and flung it into the waste-basket. His watchful wife rescued it (the story says) and bravely sent it to the London Times. The world owes her a debt. The hymn is not only an anthem for Peace Societies, but a tonic for true patriotism. When Freedom fights in self-defense, she need not force herself to "forget" the Lord of Hosts.

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine;
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart,
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Far-called, our navies melt away,
On dune and headland sinks the fire;
Lo all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
Or lesser breeds without the law,
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

For heathen heart that puts her trust,
In recking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word
Thy mercy on thy people, Lord!

Had Kipling cared more for his poem, and kept it longer in hand, he might have revised a line or two that would possibly seem commonplace to him -- and corrected the grammar in the first line of the second stanza. But of so fine a composition there is no call for finical criticism. The "Recessional" is a product of the poet's holiest mood. "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him" -- as the old Hebrew phrase is, and for the time he was a rapt prophet, with a backward and a forward vision. Providence saved the hymn, and it touched and sank into the better mind of the nation. It is already learned by heart -- and sung -- wherever English is the common speech, and will be heard in numerous translations, with the wish that there were more patriotic hymns of the same Christian temper and strength.

Rudyard Kipling was born in Hindostan in 1865. Even with his first youthful experiments in the field of literature he was hailed as the coming apostle of muscular poetry and prose. For a time he made America his home, and it was while here that he faced death through a fearful and protracted sickness that brought him very near to God. He has visited many countries and described them all, and, though sometimes his imagination drives a reckless pen, the Christian world hopes much from a man whose genius can make the dullest souls listen.


The music set to Kipling's hymn is Stainer's "Magdalen" -- (not his "Magdalina," which is a common-metre tune) -- and wonderfully fits the words and enhances their dignity. It is a grave and earnest melody in D flat, with two bars in unison at "Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet," making the utterance of the prayer a deep and powerful finale.

John Stainer, Doctor of Music, born June 6, 1840, was nine years the chorister of St. Paul's, London, and afterwards organist to the University of Oxford. He is a member of the various musical societies of the Kingdom, and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. His talent for sacred music is rare and versatile, and he seems to have consecrated himself as a musician and composer to the service of the church.

* * * * *

Every civilized nation has its patriotic hymns. In fact what makes a nation a nation is largely the unifying influences of its common song. Even the homeless Hebrew nation is kept together by its patriotic Psalms. The ethnic melodies would fill a volume with their story. The few presented in this chapter represent their range of quality and character -- defiant as the Marseillaise, thrilling as "Scots' wha hae," joyful as "The Star-spangled Banner," breezy and bold as the "Ranz de Vaches," or sweet as the "Switzers' Song of Home."

chapter viii sunday-school hymns
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