This hymn is of doubtful authorship, by some assigned to as late a date as 1680, and by others to the 13th century as one of the Latin poems of St. Bonaventura, Bishop of Albano, who was born at Bagnarea in Tuscany, A.D.1221. He was a learned man, a Franciscan friar, one of the greatest teachers and writers of his church, and finally a cardinal. Certainly Roman Catholic in its origin, whoever was its author, it is a Christian hymn qualified in every way to be sung by the universal church.
This has been translated by Rev. Frederick Oakeley (1808-1880) and by Rev. Edward Caswall (1814-1878) the version of the former being the one in more general use. The ancient hymn is much abridged in the hymnals, and even the translations have been altered and modernized in the three or four stanzas commonly sung. Caswall's version renders the first line "Come hither, ye faithful," literally construing the Latin words.
The following is substantially Oakeley's English of the "Adeste, fideles."
O come all ye faithful
Sing choirs of angels,
Yea, Lord, we bless Thee,
The hymn with its primitive music as chanted in the ancient churches, was known as "The Midnight Mass," and was the processional song of the religious orders on their way to the sanctuaries where they gathered in preparation for the Christmas morning service. The modern tune -- or rather the tune in modern use -- is the one everywhere familiar as the "Portuguese Hymn." (See page 205.)
MILTON'S HYMN TO THE NATIVITY.
It was the winter wild
* * * * *
No war nor battle sound
This exalted song -- the work of a boy of scarcely twenty-one -- is a Greek ode in form, of two hundred and sixteen lines in twenty-seven strophes. Some of its figures and fancies are more to the taste of the seventeenth century than to ours, but it is full of poetic and Christian sublimities, and its high periods will be heard in the Christmas hymnody of coming centuries, though it is not the fashion to sing it now.
John Milton, son and grandson of John Miltons, was born in Breadstreet, London, Dec.9, 1608, fitted for the University in St. Paul's school, and studied seven years at Cambridge. His parents intended him for the church, but he chose literature as a profession, travelled and made distinguished friendships in Italy, Switzerland and France, and when little past his majority was before the public as a poet, author of the Ode to the Nativity, of a Masque, and of many songs and elegies. In later years he entered political life under the stress of his Puritan sympathies, and served under Cromwell and his successor as Latin Secretary of State through the time of the Commonwealth. While in public duty he became blind, but in his retirement composed "Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained." Died in 1676.
In the old "Carmina Sacra" a noble choral (without name except "No war nor battle sound") well interprets portions of the 4th and 5th stanzas of the great hymn, but replaces the line --
"The idle spear and shield were high uphung."
-- with the more modern and less figurative --
"No hostile chiefs to furious combat ran."
Three stanzas are also added, by the Rev. H.O. Dwight, missionary to Constantinople. The substituted line, which is also, perhaps, the composition of Mr. Dwight, rhymes with --
"His reign of peace upon the earth began,"
-- and as it is not un-Miltonic, few singers have ever known that it was not Milton's own.
Dr. John Knowles Paine, Professor of Music at Harvard University, and author of the Oratorio of "St. Peter," composed a cantata to the great Christmas Ode of Milton, probably about 1868.
Professor Paine died Apr.25, 1906.
It is worth noting that John Milton senior, the great poet's father, was a skilled musician and a composer of psalmody. The old tunes "York" and "Norwich," in Ravenscroft's collection and copied from it in many early New England singing-books, are supposed to be his.
The Miltons were an old Oxfordshire Catholic family, and John, the poet's father, was disinherited for turning Protestant, but he prospered in business, and earned the comfort of a country gentleman. He died, very aged, in May, 1646, and his son addressed a Latin poem ("Ad Patrem") to his memory.
"HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING."
This hymn of Charles Wesley, dating about 1730, was evidently written with the "Adeste Fideles" in mind, some of the stanzas, in fact, being almost like translations of it. The form of the two first lines was originally --
Hark! how all the welkin rings,
-- but was altered thirty years later by Rev. Martin Madan (1726-1790) to --
Hark! the herald angels sing
Other changes by the same hand modified the three following stanzas, and a fifth stanza was added by John Wesley --
Hail the heavenly Prince of Peace!
"Mendelssohn" is the favorite musical interpreter of the hymn. It is a noble and spirited choral from Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's cantata, "Gott ist Licht."
"JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME!"
This inspirational lyric of Dr. Watts never grows old. It was written in 1719.
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns!
Dr. Edward Hodges (1796-1867) wrote an excellent psalm-tune to it which is still in occasional use, but the music united to the hymn in the popular heart is "Antioch," an adaptation from Handel's Messiah. This companionship holds unbroken from hymnal to hymnal and has done so for sixty or seventy years; and, in spite of its fugue, the tune -- apparently by some magic of its own -- contrives to enlist the entire voice of a congregation, the bass falling in on the third beat as if by intuition. The truth is, the tune has become the habit of the hymn, and to the thousands who have it by heart, as they do in every village where there is a singing school, "Antioch" is "Joy to the World," and "Joy to the World" is "Antioch."
"HARK! WHAT MEAN THOSE HOLY VOICES?"
This fine hymn, so many years appearing with the simple sign "Cawood" or "J. Cawood" printed under it, still holds its place by universal welcome.
Hark! what mean those holy voices
Hear them tell the wondrous story,
The Rev. John Cawood, a farmer's son, was born at Matlock, Derbyshire, Eng., March 18, 1775, graduated at Oxford, 1801, and was appointed perpetual curate of St. Anne's in Bendly, Worcestershire. Died Nov.7, 1852. He is said to have written seventeen hymns, but was too modest to publish any.
Dr. Dykes' "Oswald," and Henry Smart's "Bethany" are worthy expressions of the feeling in Cawood's hymn. In America, Mason's "Amaland," with fugue in the second and third lines, has long been a favorite.
"WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS."
This was written by Nahum Tate (1652-1715), and after two hundred years the church remembers and sings the song. Six generations have grown up with their childhood memory of its pictorial verses illustrating St. Luke's Christmas story.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
"Fear not" said he, for mighty dread
Modern hymnals have substituted "Christmas" and other more or less spirited tunes for Read's "Sherburne," which was the first musical translation of the hymn to American ears. But, to show the traditional hold that the New England fugue melody maintains on the people, many collections print it as alternate tune. Some modifications have been made in it, but its survival is a tribute to its real merit.
Daniel Read, the creator of "Sherburne," "Windham," "Russia," "Stafford," "Lisbon," and many other tunes characteristic of a bygone school of psalmody, was born in Rehoboth, Mass., Nov.2, 1757. He published The American Singing Book, 1785, Columbian Harmony, 1793, and several other collections. Died in New Haven, Ct., 1836.
"IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR."
Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears, author of this beautiful hymn-poem, was born at Sandisfield, Berkshire Co., Mass., April 6, 1810, and educated at Union College and Harvard University. He became pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Mass., 1838. Died in the adjoining town of Weston, Jan.14, 1876. The hymn first appeared in the Christian Register in 1857.
It came upon the midnight clear,
"Peace to the earth, good will to men
Still through the cloven skies they come
Above its sad and lonely plains
No more sympathetic music has been written to these lines than "Carol," the tune composed by Richard Storrs Willis, a brother of Nathaniel Parker Willis the poet, and son of Deacon Nathaniel Willis, the founder of the Youth's Companion. He was born Feb, 10, 1819, graduated at Yale in 1841, and followed literature as a profession. He was also a musician and composer. For many years he edited the N.Y. Musical World, and, besides contributing frequently to current literature, published Church Chorals and Choir Studies, Our Church Music and several other volumes on musical subjects. Died in Detroit, May 7, 1900.
The much-loved and constantly used advent psalm of Mr. Sears, --
Calm on the listening ear of night
-- was set to music by John Edgar Gould, and the smooth choral with its sweet chords is a remarkable example of blended voice and verse.
"O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM!"
Phillips Brooks, the eloquent bishop of Massachusetts, loved to write simple and tender poems for the children of his church and diocese. They all reveal his loving heart and the beauty of his consecrated imagination. This one, the best of his Christmas Songs, was slow in coming to public notice, but finally found its place in hymn-tune collections.
O little town of Bethlehem,
For Christ is born of Mary,
How silently, how silently,
Phillips Brooks, late bishop of the diocese of Massachusetts, was born in Boston, Dec.13, 1835; died Jan.23, 1893. He was graduated at Harvard in 1855, and at the Episcopal Divinity School of Alexandria, Va., 1859. The first ten years of his ministry were spent in Pennsylvania, after which he became rector of Trinity Church, Boston, and was elected bishop in 1891. He was an inspiring teacher and preacher, an eloquent pulpit orator, and a man of deep and rich religious life.
The hymn was written in 1868, and it was, no doubt, the ripened thought of his never-forgotten visit to the "little town of Bethlehem" two years before.
"Bethlehem" is the appropriate name of a tune written by J. Barnby, and adapted to the words, but it is the hymn's first melody (named "St. Louis" by the compiler who first printed it in the Church Porch from original leaflets) that has the credit of carrying it to popularity.
The composer was Mr. Redner, organist of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, of which Rector Brooks was then in charge. Lewis Henry Redner, born 1831, was not only near the age of his friend and pastor but as much devoted to the interests of the Sunday-school, for whose use the hymn was written, and he had promised to write a score to which it could be sung on the coming Sabbath. Waking in the middle of the night, after a busy Saturday that sent him to bed with his brain "in a whirl," he heard "an angel strain," and immediately rose and pricked the notes of the melody. The tune had come to him just in time to be sung. A much admired tune has also been written to this hymn by Hubert P. Main.
FAURE'S "PALM BRANCHES."
Sur nos chemins les rameaux et les fleurs
O'er all the way green palms and blossoms gay
Jean Baptiste Faure, author of the words and music, was born at Moulins, France, Jan.15, 1830. As a boy he was gifted with a beautiful voice, and crowds used to gather wherever he sang in the streets of Paris. Little is known of his parentage, and apparently the sweet voice of the wandering lad was his only fortune. He found wealthy friends who sent him to the Conservatoire, but when his voice matured it ceased to serve him as a singer. He went on with his study of instrumental music, but mourned for his lost vocal triumphs, and his longing became a subject of prayer. He promised God that if his power to sing were given back to him he would use it for charity and the good of mankind. By degrees he recovered his voice, and became known as a great baritone. As professional singer and composer at the Paris Grand Opera, he had been employed largely in dramatic work, but his "Ode to Charity" is one of his enduring and celebrated pieces, and his songs written for benevolent and religious services have found their way into all Christian lands.
His "Palm-Branches" has come to be a sine qua non on its calendar Sunday wherever church worship is planned with any regard to the Feasts of the Christian year.
Perhaps the most notable feature in the early hymnology of the Oriental Church was its Resurrection songs. Being hymns of joy, they called forth all the ceremony and spectacle of ecclesiastical pomp. Among them -- and the most ancient one of those preserved -- is the hymn of John of Damascus, quoted in the second chapter (p.54). This was the proclamation-song in the watch-assemblies, when exactly on the midnight moment at the shout of "Christos egerthe!" ([Greek: Christos egerthe].) "Christ is risen!" thousands of torches were lit, bells and trumpets pealed, and (in the later centuries) salvos of cannon shook the air.
Another favorite hymn of the Eastern Church was the "Salve, Beate Mane," "Welcome, Happy Morning," of Fortunatus. (Chap.10, p.357.) This poem furnished cantos for Easter hymns of the Middle Ages. Jerome of Prague sang stanzas of it on his way to the stake.
An anonymous hymn, "Poneluctum, Magdelena," in medieval Latin rhyme, is addressed to Mary Magdelene weeping at the empty sepulchre. The following are the 3d and 4th stanzas, with a translation by Prof. C.S. Harrington of Wesleyan University:
Gaude, plaude, Magdalena!
Tolle vultum, Magdalena!
* * * * *
Magdalena, shout for gladness!
Lift thine eyes, O Magdalena!
The hymnaries of the Christian Church for seventeen hundred years are so rich in Easter hallelujahs and hosannas that to introduce them all would swell a chapter to the size of an encyclopedia -- and even to make a selection is a responsible task.
Simple mention must suffice of Luther's --
In the bonds of death He lay;
-- of Watts' --
He dies, the Friend of sinners dies;
-- of John Wesley's --
Our Lord has gone up on high;
-- of C.F. Gellert's --
Christ is risen! Christ is risen!
-- omitting hundreds which have been helpful in psalmody, and are, perhaps, still in choir or congregational use.
"CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY"
Begins a hymn of Charles Wesley's and is also the first line of a hymn prepared for Sunday-school use by Mrs. Storrs, wife of the late Dr. Richard Salter Storrs of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Wesley's hymn is sung -- with or without the hallelujah interludes -- to "Telemann's Chant," (Zeuner), to an air of Mendelssohn, and to John Stainer's "Paschale Gaudium." Like the old New England "Easter Anthem" it appears to have been suggested by an anonymous translation of some more ancient (Latin) antiphony.
Jesus Christ is risen to day,
* * * * *
Who endured the cross and grave.
AN ANTHEM FOR EASTER.
This work of an amateur genius, with its rustic harmonies, suited the taste of colonial times, and no doubt the devout church-goers of that day found sincere worship and thanksgiving in its flamboyant music. "An Anthem for Easter," in A major by William Billings (1785) occupied several pages in the early collections of psalmody and "the sounding joy" was in it. Organs were scarce, but beyond the viols of the village choirs it needed no instrumental accessories. The language is borrowed from the New Testament and Young's Night Thoughts.
The Lord is risen indeed!
Following this triumphant overture, a recitative bass solo repeats I Cor.15:20, and the chorus takes it up with crowning hallelujahs. Different parts, per fugam, inquire from clef to clef --
And did He rise?
Then duet, trio and chorus sing it, successively --
He rose! He rose! He rose!
The succeeding thirty-four bars -- duet and chorus -- take home the sacred gladness to the heart of humanity --
Then, then I rose,
* * * * *
And seized eternal youth,
"YES, THE REDEEMER ROSE."
In the six-eight syllable verse once known as "hallelujah metre" -- written by Dr. Doddridge to be sung after a sermon on the text in 1st Corinthians noted in the above anthem --
Yes, the Redeemer rose,
Lewis Edson's "Lenox" (1782) is an old favorite among its musical interpreters.
"O SHORT WAS HIS SLUMBER."
This hymn for the song-service of the Ruggles St. Church, Boston, was written by Rev. Theron Brown.
O short was His slumber; He woke from the dust;
* * * * *
Dear grave in the garden; hope smiled at its door
The music is Bliss' tune to Spafford's "When Peace Like a River."
Another by the same writer, sung by the same church chorus, is --
He rose! O morn of wonder!
* * * * *
He rose! He burst immortal
The composer's name is lost, the tune being left nameless when printed. The impression is that it was a secular melody. A very suitable tune for the hymn is Geo. J. Webb's "Millennial Dawn" ("the Morning Light is breaking.")
"DIE FELDER WIR PFLUeGEN UND STREUEN."
We plow the fields and scatter
Matthias Claudius, who wrote the German original of this little poem, was a native of Reinfeld, Holstein, born 1770 and died 1815. He wrote lyrics, humorous, pathetic and religious, some of which are still current in Germany.
The translator of the verses is Miss Jane Montgomery Campbell, whose identity has not been traced. Hers is evidently one of the retiring names brought to light by one unpretending achievement. English readers owe to her the above modest and devout hymn, which was first published here in Rev. C.S. Bere's Garland of Songs with Tunes, 1861.
Little is known of Arthur Cottman, composer to Miss Campbell's words. He was born in 1842, and died in 1879.
[Illustration: Lowell Mason]
"WITH SONGS AND HONORS SOUNDING LOUD."
Stanzas of this enduring hymn of Watts' have been as often recited as sung.
He sends His showers of blessing down
One of the chorals -- if not the best -- to claim partnership with this sacred classic, is John Cole's "Geneva," distinguished among the few fugue tunes which the singing world refuses to dismiss. There is a growing grandeur in the opening solo and its following duet as they climb the first tetra-chord, when the full harmony suddenly reveals the majesty of the music. The little parenthetic duo at the eighth bar breaks the roll of the song for one breath, and the concord of voices closes in again like a diapason. One thinks of a bird-note making a waterfall listen.
Let us sing of the sheaves, when the summer is done, And the garners are stored with the gifts of the sun. Shouting home from the fields like the voice of the sea, Let us join with the reapers in glad jubilee, --
Who hath ripened the fruits into golden and red?
For the smile of the sunshine, again and again,
We shall gather a harvest of glory, we know,
Thanksgiving Hymn. Boston, 1890. Theron Brown.
Tune "To the Work, To the Work." W.H. Doane.
"THE GOD OF HARVEST PRAISE."
Written by James Montgomery in 1840, and published in the Evangelical Magazine as the Harvest Hymn for that year.
The God of harvest praise;
* * * * *
The God of harvest praise;
Tune, "Dort" -- Lowell Mason.
"STILL, STILL WITH THEE."
These stanzas of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, with their poetic beauty and grateful religious spirit, have furnished an orison worthy of a place in all the hymn books. In feeling and in faith the hymn is a matin song for the world, supplying words and thoughts to any and every heart that worships.
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh, When the bird waketh and the shadows flee;
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows
* * * * *
When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Barnby's "Windsor," and "Stowe" by Charles H. Morse (1893) -- both written to the words.
Mendelssohn's "Consolation" is a classic interpretation of the hymn, and finely impressive when skillfully sung, but simpler -- and sweeter to the popular ear -- is Mason's "Henley," written to Mrs. Eslings' --
"Come unto me when shadows darkly gather."
John Keble's beautiful meditation --
Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear;
John Leland's --
The day is past and gone;
and Phebe Brown's --
I love to steal awhile away;
-- have already been noticed. Bishop Doane's gentle and spiritual lines express nearly everything that a worshipping soul would include in a moment of evening thought. The first and last stanzas are the ones most commonly sung.
Softly now the light of day
* * * * *
Soon for me the light of day
Both Kozeluck and J.E. Gould, besides Louis M. Gottschalk and Dr. Henry John Gauntlett, have tried their skill in fitting music to this hymn, but only Gottschalk and Kozeluck approach the mood into which its quiet words charm a pious and reflective mind. Possibly its frequent association with "Holley," composed by George Hews, may influence a hearer's judgement of other melodies but there is something in that tune that makes it cling to the hymn as if by instinctive kinship.
Others may have as much or more artistic music but "Holley" in its soft modulations seems to breathe the spirit of every word.
It was this tune to which a stranger recently heard a group of mill-girls singing Bishop Doane's verses. The lady, a well-known Christian worker, visited a certain factory, and the superintendent, after showing her through the building, opened a door into a long work-room, where the singing of the girls delighted and surprised her. It was sunset, and their hymn was --
Softly now the light of day.
Several of the girls were Sunday-school teachers, who had encouraged others to sing at that hour, and it had become a habit.
"Has it made a difference?" the lady inquired.
"There is seldom any quarrelling or coarse joking among them now," said the superintendent with a smile.
Dr. S.F. Smith's hymn of much the same tone and tenor --
Softly fades the twilight ray
-- is commonly sung to the tune of "Holley."
George Hews, an American composer and piano-maker, was born in Massachusetts 1800, and died July 6, 1873. No intelligence of him or his work or former locality is at hand, beyond this brief note in Baptie, "He is believed to have followed his trade in Boston, and written music for some of Mason's earlier books."
"CHRIST IS OUR CORNER-STONE."
This reproduces in Chandler's translation a song-service in an ancient Latin liturgy (angulare fundamentum).
Christ is our Corner-Stone;
O then with hymns of praise
The Rev. John Chandler was born at Witley, Surrey, Eng. June 16, 1806. He took his A.M. degree at Oxford, and entered the ministry of the Church of England, was Vicar of Witley many years, and became well-known for his translations of hymns of the primitive church. Died at Putney, July 1, 1876.
Sebastian Wesley's "Harewood" is plainer and of less compass, but Zundel's "Brooklyn" is more than its rival, both in melody and vivacity.
"OH LORD OF HOSTS WHOSE GLORY FILLS THE BOUNDS OF THE ETERNAL HILLS."
A hymn of Dr. John Mason Neale --
Endue the creatures with Thy grace
The heads that guide endue with skill,
"Welton," by Rev. Caesar Malan -- author of "Hendon," once familiar to American singers.
Henri Abraham Caesar Malan was born at Geneva, Switzerland, 1787, and educated at Geneva College. Ordained to the ministry of the State church, (Reformed,) he was dismissed for preaching against its formalism and spiritual apathy; but he built a chapel of his own, and became a leader with D'Aubigne, Monod, and others in reviving the purity of the Evangelical faith and laboring for the conversion of souls.
Malan wrote many hymns, and published a large collection, the "Chants de Sion," for the Evangelical Society and the French Reformed Church. He composed the music of his own hymns. Died at Vandosurre, 1864.
"DAUGHTER OF ZION, FROM THE DUST."
Cases may occur where an exhortation hymn earns a place with dedication hymns.
The charred fragment of a hymn-book leaf hangs in a frame on the auditorium wall of the "New England Church," Chicago. The former edifice of that church, all the homes of its resident members, and all their business offices except one, were destroyed in the great fire. In the ruins of their sanctuary the only scrap of paper found on which there was a legible word was this bit of a hymn-book leaf with the two first stanzas of Montgomery's hymn,
Daughter of Zion, from the dust,
Awake, awake! put on thy strength,
The third verse was not long in coming to every mind --
Rebuild thy walls! thy bounds enlarge!
-- and even without that added word the impoverished congregation evidently enough had received a message from heaven. They took heart of grace, overcame all difficulties, and in good time replaced their ruined Sabbath-home with the noble house in which they worship today.
[Footnote 46: The story is told by Rev. William E. Barton D.D. of Oak Park, Ill.]
If the "New England Church" of Chicago did not sing this hymn at the dedication of their new temple it was for some other reason than lack of gratitude -- not to say reverence.
The very essence of all song-worship pitched on this key-note is the ringing hymn of Watts --
Sweet is the day of sacred rest,
-- but it has vanished from the hymnals with its tune. Is it because profane people or thoughtless youth made a travesty of the two next lines --
O may my heart in tune be found
Old "Portland" by Abraham Maxim, a fugue tune in F major of the canon style, expressed all the joy that a choir could put into music, though with more sound than skill. The choral is a relic among relics now, but it is a favorite one.
"Sweet is the Light of Sabbath Eve" by Edmeston; Stennett's "Another Six Days' Work is Done," sung to "Spohr," the joint tune of Louis Spohr and J.E. Gould; and Doddridge's "Thine Earthly Sabbath, Lord, We Love" retain a feeble hold among some congregations. And Hayward's "Welcome Delightful Morn," to the impossible tune of "Lischer," survived unaccountably long in spite of its handicap. But special Sabbath hymns are out of fashion, those classed under that title taking an incidental place under the general head of "Worship."
"BREAD OF HEAVEN, ON THEE WE FEED."
This hymn of Josiah Conder, copying the physical metaphors of the 6th of John, is still occasionally used at the Lord's Supper.
Vine of Heaven, Thy blood supplies
The hymn is notable for the felicity with which it combines imagery and reality. Figure and fact are always in sight of each other.
Josiah Conder was born in London, September 17, 1789. He edited the Eclectic Review, and was the author of numerous prose works on historic and religious subjects. Rev. Garrett Horder says that more of his hymns are in common use now than those of any other except Watts and Doddridge. More in proportion to the relative number may be nearer the truth. In his lifetime Conder wrote about sixty hymns. He died Dec.27, 1855.
The tune "Corsica" sometimes sung to the words, though written by the famous Von Gluck, shows no sign of the genius of its author. Born at Weissenwang, near New Markt, Prussia, July 2, 1714, he spent his life in the service of operatic art, and is called "the father of the lyric drama," but he paid little attention to sacred music. Queen Marie Antoinette was for a while his pupil. Died Nov.25, 1787.
"Wilmot," (from Von Weber) one of Mason's popular hymn-tune arrangements, is a melody with which the hymn is well acquainted. It has a fireside rhythm which old and young of the same circles take up naturally in song.
"HERE, O MY LORD, I SEE THEE FACE TO FACE."
Written in October, 1855, by Dr. Horatius Bonar. James Bonar, brother of the poet-preacher, just after the communion for that month, asked him to furnish a hymn for the communion record. It was the church custom to print a memorandum of each service at the Lord's table, with an appropriate hymn attached, and an original one would be thrice welcome. Horatius in a day or two sent this hymn:
Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face,
* * * * *
Too soon we rise; the symbols disappear;
"Morecambe" is an anonymous composition printed with the words by the Plymouth Hymnal editors. "Berlin" by Mendelssohn is better. The metre of Bonar's hymn is unusual, and melodies to fit it are not numerous, but for a meditative service it is worth a tune of its own.
"O THOU MY SOUL, FORGET NO MORE."
The author of this hymn found in the Baptist hymnals, and often sung at the sacramental seasons of that denomination, was the first Hindoo convert to Christianity.
Krishna Pal, a native carpenter, in consequence of an accident, came under the care of Mr. Thomas, a missionary who had been a surgeon in the East Indies and was now an associate worker with William Carey. Mr. Thomas set the man's broken arm, and talked of Jesus to him and the surrounding crowd with so much tact and loving kindness that Krishna Pal was touched. He became a pupil of the missionaries; embraced Christ, and influenced his wife and daughter and his brother to accept his new faith.
He alone, however, dared the bitter persecution of his caste, and presented himself for church-membership. He and Carey's son were baptized in the Ganges by Dr. Carey, Dec.28, 1800, in the presence of the English Governor and an immense concourse of people representing four or five different religions.
Krishna Pal wrote several hymns. The one here noted was translated from the Bengalee by Dr. Marshman.
O thou, my soul, forget no more
Renounce thy works and ways, with grief,
Eternal truth and mercy shine
Oh, no; till life itself depart,
There is no scarcity of good long-metre tunes to suit the sentiment of this hymn. More commonly in the Baptist manuals its vocal mate is Bradbury's "Rolland" or the sweet and serious Scotch melody of "Ward," arranged by Mason. Best of all is "Hursley," the beautiful Ritter-Monk choral set to "Sun of My Soul."
Two representative hymns of this class are John Newton's --
While with ceaseless course the sun,
-- and Charles Wesley's --
Come let us anew our journey pursue;
the one a voice at the next year's threshold, the other a song at the open door.
While with ceaseless course the sun
* * * * *
As the winged arrow flies
A grave occasion, whether unexpected or periodical, will force reflection, and so will a grave truth; and when both present themselves at once, the truth needs only commonplace statement. If the statement is in rhyme and measure more attention is secured. Add a tune to it, and the most frivolous will take notice. Newton's hymn sung on the last evening of the year has its opportunity -- and never fails to produce a solemn effect; but it is to the immortal music given to it in Samuel Webbe's "Benevento" that it owes its unique and permanent place. Dykes' "St. Edmund" may be sung in England, but in America it will never replace Webbe's simple and wonderfully impressive choral.
Charles Wesley's hymn is the antipode of Newton's in metre and movement.
Come, let us anew our journey pursue,
Our life is a dream, our time as a stream
[Illustration: Carl von Weber]
One could scarcely imagine a greater contrast than between this hymn and Newton's. In spite of its eccentric metre one cannot dismiss it as rhythmical jingle, for it is really a sermon shaped into a popular canticle, and the surmise is not a difficult one that he had in mind a secular air that was familiar to the crowd. But the hymn is not one of Wesley's poems. Compilers who object to its lilting measure omit it from their books, but it holds its place in public use, for it carries weighty thoughts in swift sentences.
O that each in the Day of His coming may say,
For a hundred and fifty years this has been sung in the Methodist watch-meetings, and it will be long before it ceases to be sung -- and reprinted in Methodist, and some Baptist hymnals.
The tune of "Lucas," named after James Lucas, its composer, is the favorite vehicle of song for the "Watch-hymn." Like the tune to "O How Happy Are They," it has the movement of the words and the emphasis of their meaning.
No knowledge of James Lucas is at hand except that he lived in England, where one brief reference gives his birth-date as 1762 and "about 1805" as the birth-date of the tune.
"GREAT GOD, WE SING THAT MIGHTY HAND."
The admirable hymn of Dr. Doddridge may be noted in this division with its equally admirable tune of "Melancthon," one of the old Lutheran chorals of Germany.
Great God, we sing that mighty hand
By day, by night, at home, abroad,
As this last couplet stood -- and ought now to stand -- pious parents teaching the hymn to their children heard them repeat --
By day, by night, at home, abroad,
Many are now living whose first impressive sense of the Divine Omnipresence came with that line.
"GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN."
A lyric of benediction, born, apparently, at the divine moment for the need of the great "Society of Christian Endeavor," and now adopted into the Christian song-service of all lands. The author, Rev. Jeremiah Eames Rankin, D.D., LL.D., was born in Thornton, N.H., Jan.2, 1828. He was graduated at Middlebury College, Vt., in 1848, and labored as a Congregational pastor more than thirty years. For thirteen years he was President of Howard University, Washington, D.C. Besides the "Parting Hymn" he wrote The Auld Scotch Mither, Ingleside Rhymes, Hymns pro Patria, and various practical works and religious essays. Died 1904.
As in a thousand other partnerships of hymnist and musician, Dr. Rankin was fortunate in his composer. The tune is a symphony of hearts -- subdued at first, but breaking into a chorus strong with the uplift of hope. It is a farewell with a spiritual thrill in it.
Its author, William Gould Tomer, was born in Finesville, Warren Co., N.J., October 5, 1832; died in Phillipsburg, N.J., Sept.26, 1896. He was a soldier in the Civil War and a writer of good ability as well as a composer. For some time he was editor of the High Bridge Gazette, and music with him was an avocation rather than a profession. He wrote the melody to Dr. Rankin's hymn in 1880, Prof. J.W. Bischoff supplying the harmony, and the tune was first published in Gospel Bells the same year.
The style of singing at funerals, as well as the character of the hymns, has greatly changed -- if, indeed, music continues to be a part of the service, as frequently, in ordinary cases, it is not. "China" with its comforting words -- and terrifying chords -- is forever obsolete, and not only that, but Dr. Muhlenberg's, "I Would Not Live Alway," with its sadly sentimental tune of "Frederick," has passed out of common use. Anna Steele's "So Fades the Lovely, Blooming Flower," on the death of a child, is occasionally heard, and now and then Dr. S.F. Smith's, "Sister, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely," (with its gentle air of "Mt. Vernon,") on the death of a young lady. Standard hymns like Watts', "Unveil Thy Bosom, Faithful Tomb," to the slow, tender melody of the "Dead March," (from Handel's oratorio of "Saul") and Montgomery's "Servant of God, Well Done," to "Olmutz," or Woodbury's "Forever with the Lord," still retain their prestige, the music of the former being played on steeple-chimes on some burial occasions in cities, during the procession --
Nor pain nor grief nor anxious fear
The latter hymn (Montgomery's) is biographical -- as described on page 301 --
Servant of God, well done;
Only five stanzas of this long poem are now in use.
The exquisite elegy of Montgomery, entitled "The Grave," --
There is a calm for those who weep,
-- is by no means discontinued on funeral occasions, nor Margaret Mackay's beloved hymn, --
Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep,
-- melodized in Bradbury's "Rest."
Mrs. Margaret Mackay was born in 1801, the daughter of Capt. Robert Mackay of Hedgefield, Inverness, and wife of a major of the same name. She was the author of several prose works and Lays of Leisure Hours, containing seventy-two original hymns and poems, of which "Asleep in Jesus" is one. She died in 1887.
"MY JESUS, AS THOU WILT."
(Mein Jesu, wie du willst.)
This sweet hymn for mourners, known to us here in Jane Borthwick's translation, was written by Benjamin Schmolke (or Schmolk) late in the 17th century. He was born at Brauchitzchdorf, in Silesia, Dec.21, 1672, and received his education at the Labau Gymnasium and Leipsic University. A sermon preached while a youth, for his father, a Lutheran pastor, showed such remarkable promise that a wealthy man paid the expenses of his education for the ministry. He was ordained and settled as pastor of the Free Church at Schweidnitz, Silesia, in which charge he continued from 1701 till his death.
Schmolke was the most popular hymn-writer of his time, author of some nine hundred church pieces, besides many for special occasions. Withal he was a man of exalted piety and a pastor of rare wisdom and influence.
His death, of paralysis, occurred on the anniversary of his wedding, Feb.12, 1737.
My Jesus, as Thou wilt,
The last line is the refrain of the hymn of four eight-line stanzas.
"Sussex," by Joseph Barnby, a plain-song with a fine harmony, is good congregational music for the hymn.
But "Jewett," one of Carl Maria Von Weber's exquisite flights of song, is like no other in its intimate interpretation of the prayerful words. We hear Luther's "bird in the heart" singing softly in every inflection of the tender melody as it glides on. The tune, arranged by Joseph Holbrook, is from an opera -- the overture to Weber's Der Freischutz -- but one feels that the gentle musician when he wrote it must have caught an inspiration of divine trust and peace. The wish among the last words he uttered when dying in London of slow disease was, "Let me go back to my own (home), and then God's will be done." That wish and the sentiment of Schmolke's hymn belong to each other, for they end in the same way.
My Jesus, as Thou wilt:
"I CANNOT ALWAYS TRACE THE WAY."
In later years, when funeral music is desired, the employment of a male quartette has become a favorite custom. Of the selections sung in this manner few are more suitable or more generally welcomed than the tender and trustful hymn of Sir John Bowring, rendered sometimes in Dr. Dykes' "Almsgiving," but better in the less-known but more flexible tune composed by Howard M. Dow --
I cannot always trace the way
When fear her chilling mantle flings
When mystery clouds my darkened path,
Yes, God is love. A thought like this
The first line of the hymn was originally, "'Tis seldom I can trace the way."
Howard M. Dow has been many years a resident of Boston, and organist of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons at the Tremont St. (Masonic) Temple.
Time was when hymns were sung at weddings, though in America the practice was never universal. Marriage, among Protestants, is not one of the sacraments, and no masses are chanted for it by ecclesiastical ordinance. The question of music at private marriages depends on convenience, vocal or instrumental equipment, and the general drift of the occasion. At public weddings the organ's duty is the "Wedding March."
To revive a fashion of singing at home marriages would be considered an oddity -- and, where civil marriages are legal, a superfluity -- but in the religious ceremony, just after the prayer that follows the completion of the nuptial formula, it will occur to some that a hymn would "tide over" a proverbially awkward moment. Even good, quaint old John Berridge's lines would happily relieve the embarrassment -- besides reminding the more thoughtless that a wedding is not a mere piece of social fun --
Since Jesus truly did appear
Upon the bridal pair look down
* * * * *
In purest love these souls unite
Tune, "Lanesboro," Mason.
A wedding hymn of more poetic beauty is the one written by Miss Dorothy Bloomfield (now Mrs. Gurney), born 1858, for her sister's marriage in 1883.
O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
O perfect Life, be Thou their first assurance
Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow,
Tune by Joseph Barnby, "O Perfect Love."
"LO! HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING."
Thomas Olivers begins one of his hymns with this line. The hymn is a Judgment-day lyric of rude strength and once in current use, but now rarely printed. The "Lo He Comes," here specially noted, is the production of John Cennick, the Moravian.
Lo! He comes with clouds descending
* * * * *
Yea, amen; let all adore Thee
Various composers have written music to this universal hymn, but none has given it a choral that it can claim as peculiarly its own. "Brest," Lowell Mason's plain-song, has a limited range, and runs low on the staff, but its solemn chords are musical and commanding. As much can be said of the tunes of Dr. Dykes and Samuel Webbe, which have more variety. Those who feel that the hymn calls for a more ornate melody will prefer Madan's "Helmsley."
"LO! WHAT A GLORIOUS SIGHT APPEARS."
The great Southampton bard who wrote "Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood" was quick to kindle at every reminder of Fruition Day.
Lo! what a glorious sight appears
This hymn of Watts' sings one of his most exalted visions. It has been dear for two hundred years to every Christian soul throbbing with millennial thoughts and wishful of the day when --
The God of glory down to men
-- and when --
His own kind hand shall wipe the tears
-- and the yearning cry of the last stanza, when the vision fades, has been the household ? [A] of myriads of burdened and sorrowing saints --
How long, dear Saviour, O how long
[Footnote A: Transcriber's note -- This question mark is in the original. It is possibly a compositor's query which the author missed when correcting the proofs. The missing text could be "word".]
By right of long appropriation both "Northfield" and "New Jerusalem" own a near relationship to these glorious verses. Ingalls, one of the constellation of early Puritan psalmodists, to which Billings and Swan belonged, evidently loved the hymn, and composed his "New Jerusalem" to the verse, "From the third heaven," and his "Northfield" to "How long, dear Saviour." The former is now sung only as a reminiscence of the music of the past, at church festivals, charity fairs and entertainments of similar design, but the action and hearty joy in it always evoke sympathetic applause. "Northfield" is still in occasional use, and it is a jewel of melody, however irretrievably out of fashion. Its union to that immortal stanza, if no other reason, seems likely to insure its permanent place in the lists of sacred song.
John Cole's "Annapolis," still found in a few hymnals with these words, is a little too late to be called a contemporary piece, but there are some reminders of Ingalls' "New Jerusalem" in its style and vigor, and it really partakes the flavor of the old New England church music.
Jeremiah Ingalls was born in Andover, Mass., March 1, 1764. A natural fondness for music increased with his years, but opportunities to educate it were few and far between, and he seemed like to become no more than a fairly good bass-viol player in the village choir. But his determination carried him higher, and in time his self-taught talent qualified him for a singing-school master, and for many years he travelled through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, training the raw vocal material in the country towns, and organizing choirs.
Between his thirtieth and fortieth years, he composed a number of tunes, and, in 1804 published a two hundred page collection of his own and others' music, which he called the Christian Harmony.
His home was for some time in Newberry, Vt., but he subsequently lived at Rochester and at Hancock in the same state.
Among the traditions of him is this anecdote of the origin of his famous tune "Northfield," which may indicate something of his temper and religious habit. During his travels as a singing-school teacher he stopped at a tavern in the town of Northfield and ordered his dinner. It was very slow in coming, but the inevitable "how long?" that formulated itself in his hungry thoughts, instead of sharpening into profane complaint, fell into the rhythm of Watts' sacred line -- and the tune came with it. To call it "Northfield" was natural enough; the place where its melody first beguiled him from his bodily wants to a dream of the final Fruition Day.
Ingalls died in Hancock, Vt., April 6, 1828.