[Greek: Stomion polon adaon]
We are assured by repeated references in the patristic writings that the primitive years of the Christian Church were not only years of suffering but years of song. That the despised and often persecuted "Nazarenes," scattered in little colonies throughout the Roman Empire, did not forget to mingle tones of praise and rejoicing with their prayers could readily be believed from the much-quoted letter of a pagan lawyer, written about as long after Jesus' death, as from now back to the death of John Quincy Adams -- the letter of Pliny the younger to the Emperor Trajan, in which he reports the Christians at their meetings singing "hymns to Christ as to a god."
Those disciples who spoke Greek seem to have been especially tuneful, and their land of poets was doubtless the cradle of Christian hymnody. Believers taught their songs to their children, and it is as certain that the oldest Sunday-school hymn was written somewhere in the classic East as that the Book of Revelation was written on the Isle of Patmos. The one above indicated was found in an appendix to the Tutor, a book composed by Titus Flavius Clemens of Alexandria, a Christian philosopher and instructor whose active life began late in the second century. It follows a treatise on Jesus as the Great Teacher, and, though his own words elsewhere imply a more ancient origin of the poem, it is always called "Clement's Hymn." The line quoted above is the first of an English version by the late Rev. Henry Martyn Dexter, D.D. It does not profess to be a translation, but aims to transfer to our common tongue the spirit and leading thoughts of the original.
Shepherd of tender youth,
The last stanza of Dr. Dexter's version represents the sacred song spirit of both the earliest and the latest Christian centuries:
So now, and till we die
While they give us the sentiment and the religious tone of the old hymn, these verses, however, recognize the extreme difficulty of anything like verbal fidelity in translating a Greek hymn, and in this instance there are metaphors to avoid as being strange to modern taste. The first stanza, literally rendered and construed, is as follows:
Bridle of untaught foals,
Figures like --
Catching the chaste fishes,
Heavenly milk, etc.
-- are necessarily avoided in making good English of the lines, and the profusion of adoring epithets in the ancient poem (no less than twenty-one different titles of Christ) would embarrass a modern song.
Dr. Dexter might have chosen an easier metre for his version, if (which is improbable) he intended it to be sung, since a tune written to sixes and fours takes naturally a more decided lyrical movement and emphasis than the hymn reveals in his stanzas, though the second and fifth possess much of the hymn quality and would sound well in Giardini's "Italian Hymn."
More nearly a translation, and more in the cantabile style, is the version of a Scotch Presbyterian minister, Rev. Hamilton M. Macgill, D.D., two of whose stanzas are these:
Thyself, Lord, be the Bridle
* * * * *
Let them with songs adoring
The Dexter version is set to Monk's slow harmony of "St. Ambrose" in the Plymouth Hymnal (Ed. Dr. Lyman Abbott, 1894) without the writer's name -- which is curious, inasmuch as the hymn was published in the Congregationalist in 1849, in Hedge and Huntington's (Unitarian) Hymn-book in 1853, in the Hymnal of the Presbyterian Church in 1866, and in Dr. Schaff's Christ in Song in 1869.
Clement died about A.D.220.
Rev. Henry Martyn Dexter, D.D., for twenty-three years the editor of the Congregationalist, was born in Plymouth, Mass., Aug.13, 1821. He was a graduate of Yale (1840) and Andover Divinity School (1844), a well-known antiquarian writer and church historian. Died Nov.13, 1890.
"HOW HAPPY IS THE CHILD WHO HEARS."
This hymn was quite commonly heard in Sunday-schools during the eighteen-thirties and forties, and, though retained in few modern collections, its Sabbath echo lingers in the memory of the living generation. It was written by Michael Bruce, born at Kinneswood, Kinross-shire, Scotland, March 27, 1746. He was the son of a weaver, but obtained a good education, taught school, and studied for the ministry. He died, however, while in preparation for his expected work, July 5, 1767, at the age of twenty-one years, three months and eight days.
Young Bruce wrote hymns, and several poems, but another person wore the honors of his work. John Logan, who was his literary executor, appropriated the youthful poet's Mss. verses, and the hymn above indicated -- as well as the beautiful poem, "To the Cuckoo," still a classic in English literature, -- bore the name of Logan for more than a hundred years. In Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology is told at length the story of the inquiry and discussion which finally exposed the long fraud upon the fame of the rising genius who sank, like Henry Kirke White, in his morning of promise.
Old "Balerma" was so long the musical mouth-piece of the pious boy-schoolmaster's verses that the two became one expression, and one could not be named without suggesting the other.
"Balerma" (Palermo) was ages away in style and sound from the later type of Sunday-school tunes, resembling rather one of Palestrina's chorals than the tripping melodies that took its place; but in its day juvenile voices enjoyed it, and it suited very well the grave but winning words.
How happy is the child who hears
For she hath treasures greater far
She guides the young with innocence
Robert Simpson, author of the old tune, was a Scottish composer of psalmody; born, about 1722, in Glasgow; and died, in Greenock, June, 1838.
[Footnote 28: The tune was evidently reduced from the still older "Sardius" (or "Autumn") -- Hubert P. Main.]
"O DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED."
Written about 1803, by the Rev. John A. Grenade, born in 1770; died 1806.
O do not be discouraged, }
Fight on, ye little soldiers, }
And when the conflict's over, }
The hymn was made popular thirty or more years ago in a musical arrangement by Hubert P. Main, with a chorus, --
I'm glad I'm in this army,
Children took to the little song with a keen relish, and put their whole souls -- and bodies -- into it.
"LITTLE TRAVELLERS ZIONWARD"
Belongs to a generation long past. Its writer was an architect by occupation, and a man whose piety equalled his industry. He was born in London 1791, and his name was James Edmeston. He loved to compose religious verses -- so well, in fact, that he is said to have prepared a new piece every week for Sunday morning devotions in his family and in this way accumulated a collection which he published and called Cottager's Hymns. Besides these he is credited with a hundred Sunday-school hymns.
Little travellers Zionward,
There to welcome Jesus waits,
The original tune is lost -- and the hymn is vanishing with it; but the felicity of its rhyme and rhythm show how easily it adapted itself to music.
"I'M BUT A STRANGER HERE."
The simple beauty of this hymn, and the sympathetic sweetness of its tune made children love to sing it, and it found its way into a few Sunday-school collections, though not composed for such use.
A young Congregational minister. Rev. Thomas Rawson Taylor, wrote it on the approach of his early end. He was born at Osset, near Wakefield, Yorkshire, Eng., May 9, 1807, and studied in Bradford, where his father had taken charge of a large church, and at Manchester Academy and Airesdale College. Sensible of a growing ailment that might shorten his days, he hastened to the work on which his heart was set, preaching in surrounding towns and villages while a student, and finally quitting college to be ordained to his sacred profession. He was installed as pastor of Howard St. Chapel, Sheffield, July, 1830, when only twenty-three. But in less than three years his strength failed, and he went back to Bradford, where he occasionally preached for his father, when able to do so, during his last days. He died there March 15, 1835. Taylor was a brave and lovely Christian -- and his hymn is as sweet as his life.
I'm but a stranger here,
Dangers and sorrows stand
What though the tempest rage,
And time's wild, wintry blast
In his last attempt to preach, young Taylor uttered the words, "I want to die like a soldier, sword in hand." On the evening of the same Sabbath day he breathed his last. His words were memorable, and Montgomery, who loved and admired the man, made them the text of a poem, part of which is the familiar hymn "Servant of God, well done."
[Footnote 29: See page 498]
Sir Arthur Sullivan put the words into classic expression, but, to American ears at least, the tune of "Oak," by Lowell Mason, is the hymn's true sister. It was composed in 1854.
"DEAR JESUS, EVER AT MY SIDE."
One of Frederick William Faber's sweet and simple lyrics. It voices that temper and spirit in the human heart which the Saviour first looks for and loves best. None better than Faber could feel and utter the real artlessness of Christian love and faith.
Dear Jesus, ever at my side,
I cannot feel Thee touch my hand
[Illustration: Fanny J. Crosby (Mrs. Van Alstyne)]
"Audientes" by Sir Arthur Sullivan is a gentle, emotional piece, rendering the first quatrain of each stanza in E flat unison, and the second in C harmony.
"TIS RELIGION THAT CAN GIVE."
This simple rhyme, which has been sung perhaps in every Sunday-school in England and the United States, is from a small English book by Mary Masters. In the preface to the work, we read, "The author of the following poems never read a treatise of rhetoric or an art of poetry, nor was ever taught her English grammar. Her education rose no higher than the spelling-book or her writing-master,"
'Tis religion that can give
Save the two sentences about herself, quoted above, there is no biography of the writer. That she was good is taken for granted.
The tune-sister of the little hymn is as scant of date or history as itself. No.422 points it out in The Revivalist, where the name and initial seem to ascribe the authorship to Horace Waters.
[Footnote 30: From his Sabbath Bell. Horace Waters, a prominent Baptist layman, was born in Jefferson, Lincoln Co., Me., Nov.1, 1812, and died in New York City, April 22, 1893. He was a piano-dealer and publisher.]
"THERE IS A HAPPY LAND FAR, FAR AWAY"
This child's hymn was written by a lover of children, Mr. Andrew Young, head master of Niddrey St. School, Edinburgh, and subsequently English instructor at Madras College, E.I. He was born April 23, 1807, and died Nov.30, 1899, and long before the end of the century which his life-time so nearly covered his little carol had become one of the universal hymns.
A Hindoo air or natural chanson, that may have been hummed in a pagan temple in the hearing of Mr. Young, was the basis of the little melody since made familiar to millions of prattling tongues.
Such running tone-rhythms create themselves in the instinct of the ruder nations and tribes, and even the South African savages have their incantations with the provincial "clicks" that mark the singers' time. With an ear for native chirrups and trills, the author of our pretty infant-school song succeeded in capturing one, and making a Christian tune of it.
The musician, Samuel Sebastian Wesley, sometime in the eighteen-forties, tried to substitute another melody for the lines, but "There is a happy land" needs its own birth-music.
"I HAVE A FATHER IN THE PROMISED LAND."
Another cazonet for the infant class. Instead of a hymn, however, it is only a refrain, and -- like the ring-chant of the "Hebrew Children," and even more simple -- owes its only variety to the change of one word. The third and fourth lines, --
My father calls me, I must go
-- take their cue from the first, which may sing, --
I have a Saviour -- --
-- and so on ad libitum. But the little ones love every sound and syllable of the lisping song, for it is plain and pleasing, and when a pinafore school grows restless nothing will sooner charm them into quiet than to chime its innocent unison.
Both words and tune are nameless and storyless.
"I THINK WHEN I READ THAT SWEET STORY"
While riding in a stage-coach, after a visit to a mission school for poor children, this hymn came to the mind of Mrs. Jemima Thompson Luke, of Islington, England. It speaks its own purpose plainly enough, to awaken religious feeling in young hearts, and guide and sanctify the natural childlike interest in the sweetest incident of the Saviour's life.
I think when I read that sweet story of old
I wish that His hands had been laid on my head,
This is not poetry, but it phrases a wish in a child's own way, to be melodized and fixed in a child's reverent and sensitive memory.
Mrs. Luke was born at Colebrook Terrace, near London, Aug.19, 1813. She was an accomplished and benevolent lady who did much for the education and welfare of the poor. Her hymn -- of five stanzas -- was first sung in a village school at Poundford Park, and was not published until 1841.
It is interesting, not to say curious, testimony to the vital quality of this meek production that so many composers have set it to music, or that successive hymn-book editors have kept it, and printed it to so many different harmonies. All the chorals that carry it have substantially the same movement -- for the spondaic accent of the long lines is compulsory -- but their offerings sing "to one clear harp in divers tones."
The appearance of the words in one hymnal with Sir William Davenant's air (full scored) to Moore's love-song, "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms," now known as the tune of "Fair Harvard," is rather startling at first, but the adoption is quite in keeping with the policy of Luther and Wesley.
"St. Kevin" written to it forty years ago by John Henry Cornell, organist of St. Paul's, New York City, is sweet and sympathetic.
The newest church collection (1905) gives the beautiful air and harmony of "Athens" to the hymn, and notes the music as a "Greek Melody."
But the nameless English tune, of uncertain authorship that accompanies the words in the smaller old manuals, and which delighted Sunday-schools for a generation, is still the favorite in the memory of thousands, and may be the very music first written.
[Footnote 31: Harmonized by Hubert P. Main.]
"WE SPEAK OF THE REALMS OF THE BLEST."
Mrs. Elizabeth Mills, wife of the Hon. Thomas Mills, M.P., was born at Stoke Newington, Eng., 1805. She was one of the brief voices that sing one song and die. This hymn was the only note of her minstrelsy, and it has outlived her by more than three-quarters of a century. She wrote it about three weeks before her decease in Finsbury Place, London, April 21, 1839, at the age of twenty-four.
We speak of the land of the blest,
* * * * *
We speak of its freedom from sin,
The hymn, like several of the Gospel hymns besides, was carried into the Sunday-schools by its music. Mr. Stebbins' popular duet-and-chorus is fluent and easily learned and rendered by rote; and while it captures the ear and compels the voice of the youngest, it expresses both the pathos and the exaltation of the words.
George Coles Stebbins was born in East Carleton, Orleans Co., N.Y., Feb.26, 1846. Educated at common school, and an academy in Albany, he turned his attention to music and studied in Rochester, Chicago, and Boston. It was in Chicago that his musical career began, while chorister at the First Baptist Church; and while holding the same position at Clarendon St. Church, Boston, (1874-6), he entered on a course of evangelistic work with D.L. Moody as gospel singer and composer. He was co-editor with Sankey and McGranahan of Gospel Hymns.
This hymn, beginning originally with the lines, --
Up and away like the dew of the morning,
-- has been repeatedly altered since it left Dr. Bonar's hands. Besides the change of metaphors, the first personal pronoun singular is changed to the plural. There was strength, and a natural vivacity in --
So let me steal away gently and lovingly,
As at present sung the first stanza reads -- ,
Fading away like the stars of the morning
The idea voiced in the refrain is true and beautiful, and the very euphony of its words helps to enforce its meaning and make the song pleasant and suggestive for young and old. It has passed into popular quotation, and become almost a proverb.
The tune (in Gospel Hymns No.6) is Mr. Sankey's.
Ira David Sankey was born in Edinburgh, Lawrence Co., Pa., Aug.28, 1840. He united with the Methodist Church at the age of fifteen, and became choir leader, Sunday-school superintendent and president of the Y.M.C.A., all in his native town. Hearing Philip Phillips sing impressed him deeply, when a young man, with the power of a gifted solo vocalist over assembled multitudes, but he did not fully realize his own capability till Dwight L. Moody heard his remarkable voice and convinced him of his divine mission to be a gospel singer.
The success of his revival tours with Mr. Moody in America and England is history.
Mr. Sankey has compiled at least five singing books, and has written the Story of the Gospel Hymns. Until overtaken by blindness, in his later years he frequently appeared as a lecturer on sacred music. The manuscript of his story of the Gospel Hymns was destroyed by accident, but, undismayed by the ruin of his work, and the loss of his eye-sight, like Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Carlyle, he began his task again. With the help of an amanuensis the book was restored and, in 1905, given to the public. (See page 258.)
"SAVIOUR, LIKE A SHEPHERD LEAD US."
Mrs. Dorothy Ann Thrupp, of Paddington Green, London, the author of this hymn, was born June 20, 1799, and died, in London, Dec.14, 1847. Her hymns first appeared in Mrs. Herbert Mayo's Selection of Poetry and Hymns for the Use of Infant and Juvenile Schools, (1838).
We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,
The tune everywhere accepted and loved is W.B. Bradbury's; written in 1856.
"YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION"
A much used and valued hymn, with a captivating tune and chorus for young assemblies. Both words and music are by H.R. Palmer, composed in 1868.
Yield not to temptation,
Fight manfully onward,
Horatio Richmond Palmer was born in Sherburne, N.Y., April 26.1834, of a musical family, and sang alto in his father's choir when only nine. He studied music unremittingly, and taught music at fifteen. Brought up in a Christian home, his religious life began in his youth, and he consecrated his art to the good of man and the glory of God.
He became well-known as a composer of sacred music, and as a publisher -- the sales of his Song Queen amounting to 200,000 copies. As a leader of musical conventions and in the Church Choral Union, his influence in elevating the standard of song-worship has been widely felt.
"THERE ARE LONELY HEARTS TO CHERISH."
"While the days are going by" is the refrain of the song, and the line by which it is recognized. The hymn or poem was written by George Cooper. He was born in New York City, May 14, 1840 -- a writer of poems and magazine articles, -- composed "While the days are going by" in 1870.
There are lonely hearts to cherish
There are few more practical and always-timely verses than this three-stanza poem.
A very musical tune, with spirited chorus, (in Gospel Hymns) bears the name of the refrain, and was composed by Mr. Sankey.
A sweet and quieter harmony (uncredited) is mated with the hymn in the old Baptist Praise Book (p.507) and this was long the fixture to the words, in both Sunday-school and week-day school song-books.
"JESUS THE WATER OF LIFE WILL GIVE."
This Sunday-school lyric is the work of Fanny J. Crosby (Mrs. Van Alstyne). Like her other and greater hymn, "Jesus keep me near the Cross," (noted on p.156,) it reveals the habitual attitude of the pious author's mind, and the simple earnestness of her own faith as well as her desire to win others.
Jesus the water of life will give
The Spirit and the Bride say "Come
Full chorus, --
The Fountain of life is flowing,
The hymn must be sung as it was made to be sung, and the composer being many years en rapport with the writer, knew how to put all her metrical rhythms into sweet sound. The tune -- in Mr. Bradbury's Fresh Laurels (1867) -- is one of his sympathetic interpretations, and, with the duet sung by two of the best singers of the middle class Sunday-school girls, is a melodious and impressive piece.
"WHEN HE COMETH, WHEN HE COMETH."
The Rev. W.O. Cushing, with the beautiful thought in Malachi 3:17 singing in his soul, composed this favorite Sunday-school hymn, which has gone round the world.
When He cometh, when He cometh
He will gather, He will gather
Little children, little children
Rev. William Orcutt Cushing of Hingham, Mass., born Dec.31, 1823, wrote this little hymn when a young man (1856), probably with no idea of achieving a literary performance. But it rings; and even if it is a "ringing of changes" on pretty syllables, that is not all. There is a thought in it that sings. Its glory came to it, however, when it got its tune -- and he must have had a subconsciousness of the tune he wanted when he made the lines for his Sunday-school. He died Oct.19, 1902.
The composer of the music for the "Jewel Hymn" was George F. Root, then living in Reading, Mass.
[Footnote 32: Comparison of the "Jewel Hymn" tune with the old glee of "Johnny Schmoker" gives color to the assertion that Mr. Root caught up and adapted a popular ditty for his Christian melody -- as was so often done in Wales, and in the Lutheran and Wesleyan reformations. He baptized the comic fugue, and promoted it from the vaudeville stage to the Sunday School.]
A minister returning from Europe on an English steamer visited the steerage, and after some friendly talk proposed a singing service -- it something could be started that "everybody" knew -- for there were hundreds of emigrants there from nearly every part of Europe.
"It will have to be an American tune, then," said the steerage-master; "try 'His jewels.'"
The minister struck out at once with the melody and words, --
When He cometh, when He cometh,
-- and scores of the poor half-fare multitude joined voices with him. Many probably recognized the music of the old glee, and some had heard the sweet air played in the church-steeples at home. Other voices chimed in, male and female, catching the air, and sometimes the words -- they were so easy and so many times repeated -- and the volume of song increased, till the singing minister stood in the midst of an international concert, the most novel that he ever led.
He tried other songs in similar visits during the rest of the voyage with some success, but the "Jewel Hymn" was the favorite; and by the time port was in sight the whole crowd of emigrants had it by heart.
The steamer landed at Quebec, and when the trains, filled with the new arrivals, rolled away, the song was swelling from nearly every car, --
When He cometh, when He cometh,
The composer of the tune -- with all the patriotic and sacred master-pieces standing to his credit -- never reaped a richer triumph than he shared with his poet-partner that day, when "Precious Jewels" came back to them from over the sea. More than this, there was missionary joy for them both that their tuneful work had done something to hallow the homes of alien settlers with an American Christian psalm.
George Frederick Root, Doctor of Music, was born in Sheffield, Mass., 1820, eldest of a family of eight children, and spent his youth on a farm. His genius for music drew him to Boston, where he became a pupil of Lowell Mason, and soon advanced so far as to teach music himself and lead the choir in Park St. church. Afterwards he went to New York as director of music in Dr. Deems's Church of the Strangers. In 1852, after a year's absence and study in Europe, he returned to New York, and founded the Normal Musical Institute. In 1860, he removed to Chicago where he spent the remainder of his life writing and publishing music. He died Aug.6, 1895, in Maine.
In the truly popular sense Dr. Root was the best-known American composer; not excepting Stephen C. Foster. Root's "Hazel Dell," "There's Music in the Air," and "Rosalie the Prairie Flower" were universal tunes -- (words by Fanny Crosby,) -- as also his music to Henry Washburn's "Vacant Chair." The songs in his cantata, "The Haymakers," were sung in the shops and factories everywhere, and his war-time music, in such melodies as "Shouting the Battle-cry of Freedom" and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching" took the country by storm.
"SCATTER SEEDS OF KINDNESS."
This amiable and tuneful poem, suggested by Rom.12:10, is from the pen of Mary Louise Riley (Mrs. Albert Smith) of New York City. She was born in Brighton, Monroe Co., N.Y. May 27, 1843.
Let us gather up the sunbeams
Silas Jones Vail, the tune-writer, for this hymn, was born Oct.1818, and died May 20, 1883. For years he worked at the hatter's trade, with Beebe on Broadway, N.Y. and afterwards in an establishment of his own. His taste and talent led him into musical connections, and from time to time, after relinquishing his trade, he was with Horace Waters, Philip Phillips, W.B. Bradbury, and F.J. Smith, the piano dealer. He was a choir leader and a good composer.
"BY COOL SILOAM'S SHADY RILL."
This hymn of Bp. Heber inculcates the same lesson as that in the stanzas of Michael Bruce before noted, with added emphasis for the young on the briefness of time and opportunity even for them.
How fair the lily grows,
-- is answered by --
The lily must decay,
-- but, owing to the sweetness of the favorite melody, it was never a saddening hymn for children.
Though George Kingsley's "Heber" has in some books done service for the Bishop's lines, "Siloam," easy-flowing and finely harmonized, is knit to the words as no other tune can be. It was composed by Isaac Baker Woodbury on shipboard during a storm at sea. A stronger illustration of tranquil thought in terrible tumult was never drawn.
"O Galilee, Sweet Galilee," whose history has been given at the end of chapter six, was not only often sung in Sunday-schools, but chimed (in the cities) on steeple-bells -- nor is it by any means forgotten today -- on the Sabbath and in social singing assemblies. Like "Precious Jewels," it has been, in many places, taken up by street boys with a relish, and often displaced the play-house ditties in the lips of little newsboys and bootblacks during a leisure hour or a happy mood.
"I AM SO GLAD"
This lively little melody is still a welcome choice to many a lady teacher of fluttering five-year-olds, when both vocal indulgence and good gospel are needed for the prattlers in her class. It has been as widely sung in Scotland as in America. Mr. Philip P. Bliss, hearing one day the words of the familiar chorus --
O, how I love Jesus,
-- suddenly thought to himself, --
"I have sung long enough of my poor love to Christ, and now I will sing of His love for me." Under the inspiration of this thought, he wrote --
I am so glad that our Father in heaven
Both words and music are by Mr. Bliss.
The history of modern Sunday-school hymnody -- or much of it -- is so nearly identified with that of the Gospel Hymns that other selections like the last, which might be appropriate here, may be considered in a later chapter, where that eventful series of sacred songs receives special notice.