-- The anguish of the singer
Indeed, if there had been no sorrow there would have been no song.
[Illustration: George James Webb]
"MY LORD, HOW FULL OF SWEET CONTENT."
Jeanne M.B. de la Mothe -- known always as Madame Guyon -- the lady who wrote these words in exile, probably sang more "songs in the night" than any hymn-writer outside of the Dark Ages. She was born at Montargis, France, in 1648, and died in her seventieth year, 1771, in the ancient city of Blois, on the Loire.
A convent-educated girl of high family, a wife at the age of fifteen, and a widow at twenty-eight, her early piety, ridiculed in the dazzling but corrupt society of Louis XIV's time, blossomed through a long life in religious ministries and flowers of sacred poetry.
She became a mystic, and her book Spiritual Torrents indicates the impetuous ardors of her soul. It was the way Divine Love came to her. She was the incarnation of the spiritualized Book of Canticles. An induction to these intense subjective visions and raptures had been the remark of a pious old Franciscan father, "Seek God in your heart, and you will find Him."
She began to teach as well as enjoy the new light so different from the glitter of the traditional worship. But her "aggressive holiness" was obnoxious to the established Church. "Quietism" was the brand set upon her written works and the offense that was punished in her person. Bossuet, the king of preachers, was her great adversary. The saintly Fenelon was her friend, but he could not shield her. She was shut up like a lunatic in prison after prison, till, after four years of dungeon life in the Bastile, expecting every hour to be executed for heresy, she was banished to a distant province to end her days.
Question as we may the usefulness of her pietistic books, the visions of her excessively exalted moods, and the passionate, almost erotic phraseology of her Contemplations, Madame Guyon has held the world's admiration for her martyr spirit, and even her love-flights of devotion in poetry and prose do not conceal the angel that walked in the flame.
Today, when religious persecution is unknown, we can but dimly understand the perfect triumph of her superior soul under suffering and the transports of her utter absorption in God that could make the stones of her dungeon "look like jewels." When we emulate a faith like hers -- with all the weight of absolute certainty in it -- we can sing her hymn:
My Lord, how full of sweet content
To me remains nor place nor time:
And could a dearer vade mecum enrich a Christian's outfit than these lines treasured in memory?
While place we seek or place we shun,
Cowper, and also Dr. Thomas Upham, translated (from the French) the religious poems of Madame Guyon. This hymn is Cowper's translation.
A gentle and sympathetic melody entitled "Alsace" well represents the temper of the words -- and in name links the nationalities of writer and composer. It is a choral arranged from a sonata of the great Ludwig von Beethoven, born in Bonn, Germany, 1770, and died in Vienna, Mar.1827. Like the author of the hymn he felt the hand of affliction, becoming totally deaf soon after his fortieth year. But, in spite of the privation, he kept on writing sublime and exquisite strains that only his soul could hear. His fame rests upon his oratorio, "The Mount of Olives," the opera of "Fidelio" and his nine wonderful "Symphonies."
"NO CHANGE IN TIME SHALL EVER SHOCK."
Altered to common metre from the awkward long metre of Tate and Brady, the three or four stanzas found in earlier hymnals are part of their version (probably Tate's) of the 31st Psalm -- and it is worth calling to mind here that there is no hymn treasury so rich in tuneful faith and reliance upon God in trouble as the Book of Psalms. This feeling of the Hebrew poet was never better expressed (we might say, translated) in English than by the writer of this single verse --
No change of time shall ever shock
The sweet, tranquil choral long ago wedded to this hymn is lost from the church collections, and its very name forgotten. In fact the hymn itself is now seldom seen. If it ever comes back, old "Dundee" (Guillaume Franc 1500-1570) will sing for it, or some new composer may rise up to put the spirit of the psalm into inspired notes.
"WHY DO WE MOURN DEPARTED FRIENDS?"
This hymn of holy comfort, by Dr. Watts, was long associated with a remarkable tune in C minor, "a queer medley of melody" as Lowell Mason called it, still familiar to many old people as "China." It was composed by Timothy Swan when he was about twenty-six years of age (1784) and published in 1801 in the New England Harmony. It may have sounded consolatory to mature mourners, singers and hearers in the days when religious emotion habitually took a sad key, but its wild and thrilling chords made children weep. The tune is long out of use -- though, strange to say, one of the most recent hymnals prints the hymn with a new minor tune.
Why do we mourn departed friends,
Are we not tending upward too
The graves of all His saints He blessed
Timothy Swan was born in Worcester, Mass., July 23, 1758, and died in Suffield, Ct., July 23, 1842. He was a self-taught musician, his only "course of study" lasting three weeks, -- in a country singing school at Groton. When sixteen years old he went to Northfield, Mass., and learned the hatter's trade, and while at work began to practice making psalm-tunes. "Montague," in two parts, was his first achievement. From that time for thirty years, mostly spent in Suffield, Ct., he wrote and taught music while supporting himself by his trade. Many of his tunes were published by himself, and had a wide currency a century ago.
Swan was a genius in his way, and it was a true comment on his work that "his tunes were remarkable for their originality as well as singularity -- unlike any other melodies." "China," his masterpiece, will be long kept track of as a curio, and preserved in replicates of old psalmody to illustrate self-culture in the art of song. But the major mode will replace the minor when tender voices on burial days sing --
Why do we mourn departed friends?
Another hymn of Watts, --
God is the refuge of His saints
-- sung to Lowell Mason's liquid tune of "Ward," and the priceless stanza, --
Jesus can make a dying bed
doubly prove the claim of the Southampton bard to a foremost place with the song-preachers of Christian trust.
The psalm (Amsterdam version), "God is the refuge," etc., is said to have been sung by John Howland in the shallop of the Mayflower when an attempt was made to effect a landing in spite of tempestuous weather. A tradition of this had doubtless reached Mrs. Hemans when she wrote --
Amid the storm they sang, etc.
"FATHER, WHATE'ER OF EARTHLY BLISS."
This hymn had originally ten stanzas, of which the three usually sung are the three last. The above line is the first of the eighth stanza, altered from --
And O, whate'er of earthly bliss.
Probably for more than a century the familiar surname "Steele" attached to this and many other hymns in the hymn-books conveyed to the general public no hint of a mind and hand more feminine than Cowper's or Montgomery's. Even intelligent people, who had chanced upon sundry copies of The Spectator, somehow fell into the habit of putting "Steele" and "Addison" in the same category of hymn names, and Sir Richard Steele got a credit he never sought. But since stories of the hymns began to be published -- and made the subject of evening talks in church conference rooms -- many have learned what "Steele" in the hymn-book means. It introduces us now to a very retiring English lady, Miss Anna Steele, a Baptist minister's daughter. She was born in 1706, at Broughton, Hampshire, in her father's parsonage, and in her father's parsonage she spent her life, dying there Nov.1778.
She was many years a severe sufferer from bodily illness, and a lasting grief of mind and heart was the loss of her intended husband, who was drowned the day before their appointed wedding. It is said that this hymn was written under the recent sorrow of that loss.
In 1760 and 1780 volumes of her works in verse and prose were published with her name, "Theodosia," and reprinted in 1863 as "Hymns, Psalms, and Poems, by Anna Steele." The hymn "Father, whate'er," etc., is estimated as her best, though some rank it only next to her --
Dear Refuge of my weary soul.
Other more or less well-known hymns of this devout and loving writer are, --
Lord, how mysterious are Thy ways,
O Thou whose tender mercy hears,
Thou lovely Source of true delight,
Alas, what hourly dangers rise,
So fades the lovely blooming flower.
-- to a stanza of which latter the world owes the tune of "Federal St."
The true musical mate of the sweet hymn-prayer came to it probably about the time of its hundredth birthday; but it came to stay. Lowell Mason's "Naomi" blends with it like a symphony of nature.
Father, whate'er of earthly bliss
Give me a calm and thankful heart
"GUIDE ME, O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH."
This great hymn has a double claim on the name of Williams. We do not have it exactly in its original form as written by Rev. William Williams, "The Watts of Wales," familiarly known as "Williams of Pantycelyn." His fellow countryman and contemporary, Rev. Peter Williams, or "Williams of Carmarthen," who translated it from Welsh into English (1771) made alterations and substitutions in the hymn with the result that only the first stanza belongs indisputably to Williams of Pantycelyn, the others being Peter's own or the joint production of the two. As the former, however, is said to have approved and revised the English translation, we may suppose the hymn retained the name of its original author by mutual consent.
Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah,
Open Thou the crystal Fountain
When I tread the verge of Jordan
Musing on my habitation,
The second and third stanzas have not escaped the touch of critical editors. The line, --
Whence the healing streams do flow
-- becomes, --
Whence the healing waters flow,
-- with which alteration there is no fault to find except that it is needless, and obliterates the ancient mark. But the third stanza, besides losing its second line for --
Bid the swelling stream divide,
-- is weakened by a more needless substitution. Its original third line --
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
-- is exchanged for the commonplace --
Bear me through the swelling current.
That is modern taste; but when modern taste meddles with a stalwart old hymn it is sometimes more nice than wise.
It is probable that the famous hymn was sung in America before it obtained a European reputation. Its history is as follows: Lady Huntingdon having read one of Williams' books with much spiritual satisfaction, persuaded him to prepare a collection of hymns, to be called the Gloria in Excelsis, for special use in Mr. Whitefield's Orphans' House in America. In this collection appeared the original stanzas of "Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah." In 1774, two years after its publication in the Gloria in Excelsis, it was republished in England in Mr. Whitefield's collections of hymns.
The Rev. Peter Williams was born in the parish of Llansadurnen, Carmarthenshire, Wales, Jan.7, 1722, and was educated in Carmarthen College. He was ordained in the Established Church and appointed to a curacy, but in 1748 joined the Calvinistic Methodists. He was an Independent of the Independents however, and preached where ever he chose. Finally he built a chapel for himself on his paternal estate, where he ministered during the rest of his life. Died Aug.8, 1796.
If "Sardius," the splendid old choral (triple time) everywhere identified with the hymn, be not its original music, its age at least entitles it to its high partnership. The Sacred Lyre (1858) ascribes it to Ludovic Nicholson, of Paisley, Scotland, violinist and amateur composer, born 1770; died 1852; but this is not beyond dispute. Of several names one more confidently referred to as its author is F.H. Barthelemon (1741-1808).
"PEACE, TROUBLED SOUL"
Is the brave faith-song of a Christian under deep but blameless humiliation -- Sir Walter Shirley.
[Footnote 16: See page 127]
Apparently the favorite in several (not recent) hymnals for the subdued but confident spirit of this hymn of Sir Walter Shirley is Mazzinghi's "Palestine," appearing with various tone-signatures in different books. The treble and alto lead in a sweet duet with slur-flights, like an obligato to the bass and tenor. The melody needs rich and cultured voices, and is unsuited for congregational singing. So, perhaps, is the hymn itself.
Peace, troubled soul, whose plaintive moan
Come, freely come, by sin oppressed,
As now sung the word "scenes" is substituted for "rocks" in the second line, eliminating the poetry. Rocks give an echo; and the vivid thought in the author's mind is flattened to an unmeaning generality.
Count Joseph Mazzinghi, son of Tommasso Mazzinghi, a Corsican musician, was born in London, 1765. He was a boy of precocious talent. When only ten years of age he was appointed organist of the Portuguese Chapel, and when nineteen years old was made musical director and composer at the King's Theatre. For many years he held the honor of Music Master to the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Caroline, and his compositions were almost numberless. Some of his songs and glees that caught the popular fancy are still remembered in England, as "The Turnpike Gate," "The Exile," and the rustic duet, "When a Little Farm We Keep."
Of sacred music he composed only one mass and six hymn-tunes, of which latter "Palestine" is one. Mazzinghi died in 1844, in his eightieth year.
"BEGONE UNBELIEF, MY SAVIOUR IS NEAR."
The Rev. John Newton, author of this hymn, was born in London, July 24, 1725. The son of a sea-captain, he became a sailor, and for several years led a reckless life. Converted, he took holy orders and was settled as curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, and afterwards Rector of St. Mary of Woolnoth, London, where he died, Dec.21, 1807. It was while living at Olney that he and Cowper wrote and published the Olney Hymns. His defiance to doubt in these lines is the blunt utterance of a sailor rather than the song of a poet:
Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near,
Old "Hanover," by William Croft (1677-1727), carries Newton's hymn successfully, but Joseph Haydn's choral of "Lyons" is more familiar -- and better music.
"Hanover" often accompanies Charles Wesley's lyric, --
Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim.
"HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION."
The question of the author of this hymn is treated at length in Dr. Louis F. Benson's Studies of Familiar Hymns. The utmost that need to be said here is that two of the most thorough and indefatigable hymn-chasers, Dr. John Julian and Rev. H.L. Hastings, working independently of each other, found evidence fixing the authorship with strong probability upon Robert Keene, a precentor in Dr. John Rippon's church. Dr. Rippon was pastor of a Baptist Church in London from 1773 to 1836, and in 1787 he published a song-manual called A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, etc., in which "How Firm a Foundation" appears as a new piece, with the signature "K -- -- ."
The popularity of the hymn in America has been remarkable, and promises to continue. Indeed, there are few more reviving or more spiritually helpful. It is too familiar to need quotation. But one cannot suppress the last stanza, with its powerful and affecting emphasis on the Divine promise --
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
The grand harmony of "Portuguese Hymn" has always been identified with this song of trust.
One opinion of the date of the music writes it "about 1780." Since the habit of crediting it to John Reading (1677-1764) has been discontinued, it has been in several hymnals ascribed to Marco Portogallo (Mark, the Portuguese), a musician born in Lisbon, 1763, who became a composer of operas in Italy, but was made Chapel-Master to the Portuguese King. In 1807, when Napoleon invaded the Peninsula and dethroned the royal house of Braganza, Old King John VI. fled to Brazil and took Marco with him, where he lived till 1815, but returned and died in Italy, in 1830. Such is the story, and it is all true, only the man's name was Simao, instead of Marco. Grove's Dictionary appends to Simao's biography the single sentence, "His brother wrote for the church." That the Brazilian episode may have been connected with this brother's history by a confusion of names, is imaginable, but it is not known that the brother's name was Marco.
On the whole, this account of the authorship of the "Portuguese Hymn" -- originally written for the old Christmas church song "Adeste Fideles" -- is late and uncertain. Heard (perhaps for the first time) in the Portuguese Chapel, London, it was given the name which still clings to it. If proofs of its Portuguese origin exist, they may yet be found.
"How Firm a Foundation" was the favorite of Deborah Jackson, President Andrew Jackson's beloved wife, and on his death-bed the warrior and statesman called for it. It was the favorite of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was sung at his funeral. The American love and familiar preference for the remarkable hymn was never more strikingly illustrated than when on Christmas Eve, 1898, a whole corps of the United States army Northern and Southern, encamped on the Quemados hills, near Havana, took up the sacred tune and words --
"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed."
Lieut. Col. Curtis Guild (since Governor Guild of Massachusetts) related the story in the Sunday School Times for Dec.7, 1901, and Dr. Benson quotes it in his book.
[Illustration: John Wesley]
"WHILE THEE I SEEK, PROTECTING POWER."
Miss Helen Maria Williams, who wrote this gentle hymn of confidence, in 1786, was born in the north of England in 1762. When but a girl she won reputation by her brilliant literary talents and a mental grasp and vigor that led her, like Gail Hamilton, "to discuss public affairs, besides clothing bright fancies and devout thoughts in graceful verse." Most of her life was spent in London, and in Paris, where she died, Dec.14, 1827.
While Thee I seek, Protecting Power
* * * * *
When gladness wings my favored hour,
My lifted eye without a tear
Old "Norwich," from Day's Psalter, and "Simpson," adapted from Louis Spohr, are found with the hymn in several later manuals. In the memories of older worshipers "Brattle-Street," with its melodious choral and duet arranged from Pleyel by Lowell Mason, is inseparable from Miss Williams' words; but modern hymnals have dropped it, probably because too elaborate for average congregational use.
Ignaz Joseph Pleyel was born June 1, 1757, at Ruppersthal, Lower Austria. He was the twenty-fourth child of a village schoolmaster. His early taste and talent for music procured him friends who paid for his education. Haydn became his master, and long afterwards spoke of him as his best and dearest pupil. Pleyel's work -- entirely instrumental -- was much admired by Mozart.
During a few years spent in Italy, he composed the music of his best-known opera, "Iphigenia in Aulide," and, besides the thirty-four books of his symphonies and chamber-pieces, the results of his prolific genius make a list too long to enumerate. Most of his life was spent in Paris, where he founded the (present) house of Pleyel and Wolfe, piano makers and sellers. He died in that city, Nov.14, 1831.
"COME UNTO ME."
Come unto Me, when shadows darkly gather,
This sweet hymn, by Mrs. Catherine Esling, is well known to many thousands of mourners, as also is its equally sweet tune of "Henley," by Lowell Mason. Melody and words melt together like harp and flute.
Large are the mansions in thy Father's dwelling,
Mrs. Catherine Harbison Waterman Esling was born in Philadelphia, Apr.12, 1812. A writer for many years under her maiden name, Waterman, she married, in 1840, Capt. George Esling, of the Merchant Marine, and lived in Rio Janeiro till her widowhood, in 1844.
JOHN WESLEY'S HYMN.
How happy is the pilgrim's lot,
These are the opening lines of "John Wesley's Hymn," so called because his other hymns are mostly translations, and because of all his own it is the one commonly quoted and sung.
John Wesley, the second son in the famous Epworth family of ministers, was a man who knew how to endure "hardness as a good soldier of Christ." He was born June 27, 1703, and studied at Charterhouse, London, and at Christ Church, Oxford, becoming a Fellow of Lincoln College. After taking holy orders he went as a missionary to Georgia, U.S., in 1735, and on his return began his remarkable work in England, preaching a more spiritual type of religion, and awakening the whole kingdom with his revival fervor and his brother's kindling songs. The following paragraph from his itinerant life, gathered probably from a page of his own journals, gives a glimpse of what the founder of the great Methodist denomination did and suffered while carrying his Evangelical message from place to place.
On February 17, 1746, when days were short and weather far from favorable, he set out on horseback from Bristol to Newcastle, a distance between three and four hundred miles. The journey occupied ten days. Brooks were swollen, and in some places the roads were impassable, obliging the itinerant to go round through the fields. At Aldrige Heath, in Staffordshire, the rain turned to snow, which the northerly wind drove against him, and by which he was soon crusted over from head to foot. At Leeds the mob followed him, and pelted him with whatever came to hand. He arrived at Newcastle, February 26, "free from every anxious thought," and "every worldly fear."
How lightly he regarded hardship and molestation appears from his verses --
Whatever molests or troubles life,
And that he actually enjoys the heroic freedom of a rough-rider missionary life is hinted in his hymn --
Confined to neither court nor cell,
God evidently built John Wesley fire-proof and water-proof with a view to precisely what he was to undertake and accomplish. His frame was vigorous, and his spirit unconquerable. Besides all this he had the divine gift of a religious faith that could move mountains and a confidence in his mission that became a second nature. No wonder he could suffer, and last. The brave young man at thirty was the brave old man at nearly ninety. He died in London, March 2, 1791.
Blest with the scorn of finite good,
There is my house and portion fair;
For me my elder brethren stay,
An air found in the Revivalist (1869), in sextuple time, that has the real camp-meeting swing, preserves the style of music in which the hymn was sung by the circuit-preachers and their congregations -- ringing out the autobiographical verses with special unction. The favorite was --
No foot of land do I possess,
More modern voices sing the John Wesley hymn to the tune "Habakkuk," by Edward Hodges. It has a lively three-four step, and finer melody than the old.
Edward Hodges was born in Bristol, Eng., July 20, 1796, and died there Sept.1876. Organist at Bristol in his youth, he was graduated at Cambridge and in 1825 received the doctorate of music from that University. In 1835 he went to Toronto, Canada, and two years later to New York city, where he was many years Director of Music at Trinity Church. Returned to Bristol in 1863.
"WHEN GATHERING CLOUDS AROUND I VIEW."
One of the restful strains breathed out of illness and affliction to relieve one soul and bless millions. It was written by Sir Robert Grant (1785-1838).
When gathering clouds around I view,
The lines are no less admirable for their literary beauty than for their feeling and their faith. Unconsciously, it may be, to the writer, in this and the following stanza are woven an epitome of the Saviour's history. He --
Experienced every human pain,
-- and the crowning assurance of Jesus' human sympathy is expressed in the closing prayer, --
-- when I have safely passed
Of the few suitable six-line long metre part songs, the charming Russian tone-poem of "St. Petersburg" by Dimitri Bortniansky is borrowed for the hymn in some collections, and with excellent effect. It accords well with the mood and tenor of the words, and deserves to stay with it as long as the hymn holds its place.
Dimitri Bortniansky, called "The Russian Palestrina," was born in 1752 at Gloukoff, a village of the Ukraine. He studied music in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Rome and Naples. Returning to his native land, he was made Director of Empress Catharine's church choir. He reformed and systematized Russian church music, and wrote original scores in the intervals of his teaching labors. His works are chiefly motets and concertos, which show his genius for rich harmony. Died 1825.
"JUST AS I AM, WITHOUT ONE PLEA."
Charlotte Elliott, of Brighton, Eng., would have been well-known through her admired and useful hymns, --
My God, my Father, while I stray,
My God, is any hour so sweet,
With tearful eyes I look around,
-- and many others. But in "Just as I am" she made herself a voice in the soul of every hesitating penitent. The currency of the hymn has been too swift for its authorship and history to keep up with, but it is a blessed law of influence that good works out-run biographies. This master-piece of metrical gospel might be called Miss Elliott's spiritual-birth hymn, for a reply of Dr. Caesar Malan of Geneva was its prompting cause. The young lady was a stranger to personal religion when, one day, the good man, while staying at her father's house, in his gentle way introduced the subject. She resented it, but afterwards, stricken in spirit by his words, came to him with apologies and an inquiry that confessed a new concern of mind. "You speak of coming to Jesus, but how? I'm not fit to come."
"Come just as you are," said Dr. Malan.
The hymn tells the result.
Like all the other hymns bound up in her Invalid's Hymn-book, it was poured from out the heart of one who, as the phrase is, "never knew a well day" -- though she lived to see her eighty-second year.
Illustrative of the way it appeals to the afflicted, a little anecdote was told by the eloquent John B. Gough of his accidental seat-mate in a city church service. A man of strange appearance was led by the kind usher or sexton to the pew he occupied. Mr. Gough eyed him with strong aversion. The man's face was mottled, his limbs and mouth twitched, and he mumbled singular sounds. When the congregation sang he attempted to sing, but made fearful work of it. During the organ interlude he leaned toward Mr. Gough and asked how the next verse began. It was --
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind.
"That's it," sobbed the strange man, "I'm blind -- God help me!" -- and the tears ran down his face -- "and I'm wretched -- and paralytic," and then he tried hard to sing the line with the rest.
"After that," said Mr. Gough, "the poor paralytic's singing was as sweet to me as a Beethoven symphony."
Charlotte Elliott was born March 18, 1789, and died in Brighton, Sept.22, 1871. She stands in the front rank of female hymn-writers.
The tune of "Woodworth," by William B. Bradbury, has mostly superseded Mason's "Elliott," and is now the accepted music of this lyric of perfect faith and pious surrender.
Just as I am, -- Thy love unknown
"MY HOPE IS BUILT ON NOTHING LESS."
The Rev. Edward Mote was born in London, 1797. According to his own testimony his parents were not God-fearing people, and he "went to a school where no Bible was allowed;" but at the age of sixteen he received religious impressions from a sermon of John Hyatt in Tottenham Court Chapel, was converted two years later, studied for the ministry, and ultimately became a faithful preacher of the gospel. Settled as pastor of the Baptist Church in Horsham, Sussex, he remained there twenty-six years -- until his death, Nov.13, 1874. The refrain of his hymn came to him one Sabbath when on his way to Holborn to exchange pulpits:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
There were originally six stanzas, the first beginning:
Nor earth, nor hell, my soul can move,
The refrain is a fine one, and really sums up the whole hymn, keeping constantly at the front the corner-stone of the poet's trust.
My hope is built on nothing less
When darkness veils His lovely face
Wm. B. Bradbury composed the tune (1863). It is usually named "The Solid Rock."
"ABIDE WITH ME! FAST FALLS THE EVENTIDE."
The Rev. Henry Francis Lyte, author of this melodious hymn-prayer, was born at Ednam, near Kelso, Scotland, June first, 1793. A scholar, graduated at Trinity College, Dublin; a poet and a musician, the hard-working curate was a man of frail physique, with a face of almost feminine beauty, and a spirit as pure and gentle as a little child's. The shadow of consumption was over him all his life. His memory is chiefly associated with the district church at Lower Brixham, Devonshire, where he became "perpetual curate" in 1823. He died at Nice, France, Nov.20, 1847.
On the evening of his last Sunday preaching and communion service he handed to one of his family the manuscript of his hymn, "Abide with me," and the music he had composed for it. It was not till eight years later that Henry Ward Beecher introduced it, or a part of it, to American Congregationalists, and fourteen years after the author's death it began to be sung as we now have it, in this country and England.
Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide,
* * * * *
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
There is a pathos in the neglect and oblivion of Lyte's own tune set by himself to his words, especially as it was in a sense the work of a dying man who had hoped that he might not be "wholly mute and useless" while lying in his grave, and who had prayed --
O Thou whose touch can lend
His prayer was answered in God's own way. Another's melody hastened his hymn on its useful career, and revealed to the world its immortal value.
By the time it had won its slow recognition in England, it was probably tuneless, and the compilers of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) discovering the fact just as they were finishing their work, asked Dr. William Henry Monk, their music editor, to supply the want. "In ten minutes," it is said, "Dr. Monk composed the sweet, pleading chant that is wedded permanently to Lyte's swan song."
William Henry Monk, Doctor of Music, was born in London, 1823. His musical education was early and thorough, and at the age of twenty-six he was organist and choir director in King's College, London. Elected (1876) professor of the National Training School, he interested himself actively in popular musical education, delivering lectures at various institutions, and establishing choral services.
His hymn-tunes are found in many song-manuals of the English Church and in Scotland, and several have come to America.
Dr. Monk died in 1889.
"COME, YE DISCONSOLATE."
By Thomas Moore -- about 1814. The poem in its original form differed somewhat from the hymn we sing. Thomas Hastings -- whose religious experience, perhaps, made him better qualified than Thomas Moore for spiritual expression -- changed the second line, --
Come, at God's altar fervently kneel,
-- to --
Come to the mercy seat,
-- and in the second stanza replaced --
Hope when all others die,
-- with --
Hope of the penitent;
-- and for practically the whole of the last stanza --
Go ask the infidel what boon he brings us,
-- Hastings substituted --
Here see the Bread of life, see waters flowing
Dr. Hastings was not much of a poet, but he could make a singable hymn, and he knew the rhythm and accent needed in a hymn-tune. The determination was to make an evangelical hymn of a poem "too good to lose," and in that view perhaps the editorial liberties taken with it were excusable. It was to Moore, however, that the real hymn-thought and key-note first came, and the title-line and the sweet refrain are his own -- for which the Christian world has thanked him, lo these many years.
Those who question why Dr. Hastings' interest in Moore's poem did not cause him to make a tune for it, must conclude that it came to him with its permanent melody ready made, and that the tune satisfied him.
The "German Air" to which Moore tells us he wrote the words, probably took his fancy, if it did not induce his mood. Whether Samuel Webbe's tune now wedded to the hymn is an arrangement of the old air or wholly his own is immaterial. One can scarcely conceive a happier yoking of counterparts. Try singing "Come ye Disconsolate" to "Rescue the Perishing," for example, and we shall feel the impertinence of divorcing a hymn that has found its musical affinity.
"JESUS, I MY CROSS HAVE TAKEN."
This is another well-known and characteristic hymn of Henry Francis Lyte -- originally six stanzas. We have been told that, besides his bodily affliction, the grief of an unhappy division or difference in his church weighed upon his spirit, and that it is alluded to in these lines --
Man may trouble and distress me,
O, 'tis not in grief to harm me
Tunes, "Autumn," by F.H. Barthelemon, or "Ellesdie," (formerly called "Disciple") from Mozart -- familiar in either.
"FROM EVERY STORMY WIND THAT BLOWS."
This is the much-sung and deeply-cherished hymn of Christian peace that a pious Manxman, Hugh Stowell, was inspired to write nearly a hundred years ago. Ever since it has carried consolation to souls in both ordinary and extraordinary trials.
It was sung by the eight American martyrs, Revs. Albert Johnson, John E. Freeman, David E. Campbell and their wives, and Mr. and Mrs. McMullen, when by order of the bloody Nana Sahib the captive missionaries were taken prisoners and put to death at Cawnpore in 1857. Two little children, Fannie and Willie Campbell, suffered with their parents.
From every stormy wind that blows,
Ah, whither could we flee for aid
There, there on eagle wings we soar,
[Illustration: John B. Dykes]
Rev. Hugh Stowell was born at Douglas on the Isle of Man, Dec.3, 1799. He was educated at Oxford and ordained to the ministry 1823, receiving twelve years later the appointment of Canon to Chester Cathedral.
He was a popular and effective preacher and a graceful writer. Forty-seven hymns are credited to him, the above being the best known. To presume it is "his best," leaves a good margin of merit for the remainder.
"From every stormy wind that blows" has practically but one tune. It has been sung to Hastings "Retreat" ever since the music was made.
"CHILD OF SIN AND SORROW."
Child of sin and sorrow, filled with dismay,
Words and music by Thomas Hastings.
"LEAD, KINDLY LIGHT."
John Henry Newman, born in London, Feb.21, 1801 -- known in religious history as Cardinal Newman -- wrote this hymn when he was a young clergyman of the Church of England. "Born within the sound of Bow bells," says Dr. Benson, "he was an imaginative boy, and so superstitious, that he used constantly to cross himself when going into the dark." Intelligent students of the fine hymn will note this habit of its author's mind -- and surmise its influence on his religious musings.
The agitations during the High Church movement, and the persuasions of Hurrell Froude, a Romanist friend, while he was a tutor at Oxford, gradually weakened his Protestant faith, and in his unrest he travelled to the Mediterranean coast, crossed to Sicily, where he fell violently ill, and after his recovery waited three weeks in Palermo for a return boat. On his trip to Marseilles he wrote the hymn -- with no thought that it would ever be called a hymn.
When complimented on the beautiful production after it became famous he modestly said, "It was not the hymn but the tune that has gained the popularity. The tune is Dykes' and Dr. Dykes is a great master."
Dr. Newman was created a Cardinal of the Church of Rome in the Catholic Cathedral of London, 1879. Died Aug.11, 1890.
"Lux Benigna," by Dr. Dykes, was composed in Aug.1865, and was the tune chosen for this hymn by a committee preparing the Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern. Dr. Dykes' statement that the tune came into his head while walking through the Strand in London "presents a striking contrast with the solitary origin of the hymn itself" (Benson).
Lead, kindly Light, amid th' encircling gloom,
* * * * *
So long Thy power hath bless'd me, sure it still
"I HEARD THE VOICE OF JESUS SAY."
Few if any Christian writers of his generation have possessed tuneful gifts in greater opulence or produced more vital and lasting treasures of spiritual verse than Horatius Bonar of Scotland. He inherited some of his poetic faculty from his grandfather, a clergyman who wrote several hymns, and it is told of Horatius that hymns used to "come to" him while riding on railroad trains. He was educated in the Edinburgh University and studied theology with Dr. Chalmers, and his life was greatly influenced by Dr. Guthrie, whom he followed in the establishment of the Free Church of Scotland.
Born in 1808 in Edinburgh, he was about forty years old when he came back from a successful pastorate at Kelso to the city of his home and Alma Mater, and became virtually Chalmers' successor as minister of the Chalmers Memorial Church.
The peculiar richness of Bonar's sacred songs very early created for them a warm welcome in the religious world, and any devout lyric or poem with his name attached to it is sure to be read.
Dr. Bonar died in Edinburgh, July 31, 1889. Writing of the hymn, "I heard the voice," etc., Dr. David Breed calls it "one of the most ingenious hymns in the language," referring to the fact that the invitation and response exactly halve each stanza between them -- song followed by countersong. "Ingenious" seems hardly the right word for a division so obviously natural and almost automatic. It is a simple art beauty that a poet of culture makes by instinct. Bowring's "Watchman, tell us of the night," is not the only other instance of similar countersong structure, and the regularity in Thomas Scott's little hymn, "Hasten, sinner, to be wise," is only a simpler case of the way a poem plans itself by the compulsion of its subject.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
I came to Jesus as I was,
The old melody of "Evan," long a favorite; and since known everywhere through the currency given to it in the Gospel Hymns, has been in many collections connected with the words. It is good congregational psalmody, and not unsuited to the sentiment, taken line by line, but it divides the stanzas into quatrains, which breaks the happy continuity. "Evan" was made by Dr. Mason in 1850 from a song written four years earlier by Rev. William Henry Havergal, Canon of Worcester Cathedral, Eng. He was the father of Frances Ridley Havergal.
The more ancient "Athens," by Felice Giardini (1716-1796), author of the "Italian Hymn," has clung, and still clings lovingly to Bonar's hymn in many communities. Its simplicity, and the involuntary accent of its sextuple time, exactly reproducing the easy iambic of the verses, inevitably made it popular, and thousands of older singers today will have no other music with "I heard the voice of Jesus say."
"Vox Jesu," from the andante in one of the quartets of Louis Spohr (1784-1859), is a psalm-tune of good harmony, but too little feeling.
An excellent tune for all the shades of expression in the hymn, is the arrangement by Hubert P. Main from Franz Abt -- in A flat, triple time. Gentle music through the first fifteen bars, in alternate duet and quartet, utters the Divine Voice with the true accent of the lines, and the second portion completes the harmony in glad, full chorus -- the answer of the human heart.
"Vox Dilecti," by Dr. Dykes, goes farther and writes the Voice in B flat minor -- which seems a needless substitution of divine sadness for divine sweetness. It is a tune of striking chords, but its shift of key to G natural (major) after the first four lines marks it rather for trained choir performance than for assembly song.
It is possible to make too much of a dramatic perfection or a supposed indication of structural design in a hymn. Textual equations, such as distinguish Dr. Bonar's beautiful stanzas, are not necessarily technical. To emphasize them as ingenious by an ingenious tune seems, somehow, a reflection on the spontaneity of the hymn.
Louis Spohr was Director of the Court Theatre Orchestra in Cassel, Prussia, in the first half of the last century. He was an eminent composer of both vocal and instrumental music, and one of the greatest violinists of Europe.
Hubert Platt Main was born in Ridgefield, Ct., Aug.17, 1839. He read music at sight when only ten years old, and at sixteen commenced writing hymn-tunes. Was assistant compiler with both Bradbury and Woodbury in their various publications, and in 1868 became connected with the firm of Biglow and Main, and has been their book-maker until the present time. As music editor in the partnership he has superintended the publication of more than five hundred music-books, services, etc.
"I LOVE TO STEAL AWHILE AWAY."
The burdened wife and mother who wrote this hymn would, at the time, have rated her history with "the short and simple annals of the poor." But the poor who are "remembered for what they have done," may have a larger place in history than many rich who did nothing.
Phebe Hinsdale Brown, was born in Canaan, N.Y., in 1783. Her father, George Hinsdale, who died in her early childhood, must have been a man of good abilities and religious feeling, being the reputed composer of the psalm-tune, "Hinsdale," found in some long-ago collections.
Left an orphan at two years of age, Phebe "fell into the hands of a relative who kept the county jail," and her childhood knew little but the bitter fare and ceaseless drudgery of domestic slavery. She grew up with a crushed spirit, and was a timid, shrinking woman as long as she lived. She married Timothy H. Brown, a house-painter of Ellington, Ct., and passed her days there and in Monson, Mass., where she lived some twenty-five years.
In her humble home in the former town her children were born, and it was while caring for her own little family of four, and a sick sister, that the incident occurred (August 1818), which called forth her tender hymn. She was a devout Christian, and in pleasant weather, whenever she could find the leisure, she would "steal away" at sunset from her burdens a little while, to rest and commune with God. Her favorite place was a wealthy neighbor's large and beautiful flower garden. A servant reported her visits there to the mistress of the house, who called the "intruder" to account.
"If you want anything, why don't you come in?" was the rude question, followed by a plain hint that no stealthy person was welcome.
Wounded by the ill-natured rebuff, the sensitive woman sat down the next evening with her baby in her lap, and half-blinded by her tears, wrote "An Apology for my Twilight Rambles," in the verses that have made her celebrated.
She sent the manuscript (nine stanzas) to her captious neighbor -- with what result has never been told.
Crude and simple as the little rhyme was, it contained a germ of lyric beauty and life. The Rev. Dr. Charles Hyde of Ellington, who was a neighbor of Mrs. Brown, procured a copy. He was assisting Dr. Nettleton to compile the Village Hymns, and the humble bit of devotional verse was at once judged worthy of a place in the new book. Dr. Hyde and his daughter Emeline giving it some kind touches of rhythmic amendment,
I love to steal awhile away
-- became, --
I love to steal awhile away
In the last line of this stanza --
In gratitude and prayer
-- was changed to --
In humble, grateful prayer,
-- and the few other defects in syllabic smoothness or literary grace were affectionately repaired, but the slight furbishing it received did not alter the individuality of Mrs. Brown's work. It remained hers -- and took its place among the immortals of its kind, another illustration of how little poetry it takes to make a good hymn. Only five stanzas were printed, the others being voted redundant by both author and editor. The second and third, as now sung, are --
I love in solitude to shed
I love to think on mercies past
Phebe Brown died at Henry, Ill., in 1861; but she had made the church and the world her debtor not only for her little lyric of pious trust, but by rearing a son, the Rev. Samuel Brown, D.D., who became the pioneer American missionary to Japan -- to which Christian calling two of her grandchildren also consecrated themselves.
Mrs. Brown's son Samuel, who, besides being a good minister, inherited his grandfather's musical gift, composed the tune of "Monson," (named in his mother's honor, after her late home), and it may have been the first music set to her hymn. It was the fate of his offering, however, to lose its filial place, and be succeeded by different melodies, though his own still survives in a few collections, sometimes with Collyer's "O Jesus in this solemn hour." It is good music for a hymn of praise rather than for meditative verse. Many years the hymn has been sung to "Woodstock," an appropriate and still familiar tune by Deodatus Dutton.
Dutton's "Woodstock" and Bradbury's "Brown," which often replaces it, are worthy rivals of each other, and both continue in favor as fit choral interpretations of the much-loved hymn.
Deodatus Dutton was born Dec.22, 1808, and educated at Brown University and Washington College (now Trinity) Hartford Ct. While there he was a student of music and played the organ at Dr. Matthews' church. He studied theology in New York city, and had recently entered the ministry when he suddenly died, Dec.16, 1832, a moment before rising to preach a sermon. During his brief life he had written several hymn-tunes, and published a book of psalmody. Mrs. Sigourney wrote a poem on his death.
"THERE'S A WIDENESS IN GOD'S MERCY."
Frederick William Faber, author of this favorite hymn-poem, had a peculiar genius for putting golden thoughts into common words, and making them sing. Probably no other sample of his work shows better than this his art of combining literary cleverness with the most reverent piety. Cant was a quality Faber never could put into his religious verse.
He was born in Yorkshire, Eng., June 28, 1814, and received his education at Oxford. Settled as Rector of Elton, in Huntingdonshire, in 1843, he came into sympathy with the "Oxford Movement," and followed Newman into the Romish Church. He continued his ministry as founder and priest for the London branch of the Catholic congregation of St. Philip Neri for fourteen years, dying Sept.26, 1863, at the age of forty-nine.
His godly hymns betray no credal shibboleth or doctrinal bias, but are songs for the whole earthly church of God.
There's a wideness in God's mercy
There's no place where earthly sorrows
For the love of God is broader
No tone of comfort has breathed itself more surely and tenderly into grieved hearts than these tuneful and singularly expressive sentences of Frederick Faber.
The music of S.J. Vail sung to Faber's hymn is one of that composer's best hymn-tunes, and its melody and natural movement impress the meaning as well as the simple beauty of the words.
Silas Jones Vail, an American music-writer, was born Oct., 1818, and died May 20, 1883. Another charming tune is "Wellesley," by Lizzie S. Tourjee, daughter of the late Dr. Eben Tourjee.
"HE LEADETH ME! OH, BLESSED THOUGHT."
Professor Gilmore, of Rochester University, N.Y., when a young Baptist minister (1861) supplying a pulpit in Philadelphia "jotted down this hymn in Deacon Watson's parlor" (as he says) and passed it to his wife, one evening after he had made "a conference-room talk" on the 23d Psalm.
Mrs. Gilmore, without his knowledge, sent it to the Watchman and Reflector (now the Watchman).
Years after its publication in that paper, when a candidate for the pastorate of the Second Baptist Church in Rochester, he was turning the leaves of the vestry hymnal in use there, and saw his hymn in it. Since that first publication in the Devotional Hymn and Tune Book (1865) it has been copied in the hymnals of various denominations, and steadily holds its place in public favor. The refrain added by the tunemaker emphasizes the sentiment of the lines, and undoubtedly enhances the effect of the hymn.
"He leadeth me" has the true hymn quality, combining all the simplicity of spontaneous thought and feeling with perfect accent and liquid rhythm.
He leadeth me! Oh, blessed thought,
* * * * *
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine,
Professor Joseph Henry Gilmore was born in Boston, April 29, 1834. He was graduated at Phillips Academy, Andover, at Brown University, and at the Newton Theological Institution, where he was afterwards Hebrew instructor.
After four years of pastoral service he was elected (1867) professor of the English Language and Literature in Rochester University. He has published Familiar Chats on Books and Reading, also several college text-books on rhetoric, logic and oratory.
The little hymn of four stanzas was peculiarly fortunate in meeting the eye of Mr. William B. Bradbury, (1863) and winning his musical sympathy and alliance. Few composers have so exactly caught the tone and spirit of their text as Bradbury did when he vocalized the gliding measures of "He leadeth me."