William Garrett Horder.

The hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody online

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the still better-known Evening Hymns of Keble, Lyte,
and EUerton. Scarcely equal to it, but still of great
merit, is his ''Lead us. Heavenly Father, lead us," a
prayer for Divine guidance and sympathy, written for the
children of the London Orphan Asylum.

Sir John Bowring, LL.D., F.R.S. (1792-1872), who
achieved a considerable reputation as a diplomatist, and as
a scholar versed in the language and literature of many
lands, was a member of the Unitarian Church; but in
feeling, if not in doctrine, more allied to the Evangelical
school. Few who sing his hymn, " In the cross of Chiist
I glory," would imagine that it came from sach a source.
After a lecture I once delivered on Hymnody, this hymn
was quoted by a subsequent speaker as an example of one
embodying doctrine which is usually regarded as being
specially Evangelical. It m a noble hymn; equally fine in
thought, feeling, and expression. Bowring's little book,
'' Matins and Vespers," though small in bulk, is rich in
quality. To him we owe ** From all evil, all temptation "
(erroneously ascribed in the '' New Congregational Hymn
Book " to Bishop Mant), '' God is love. His mercy
brightens," and '' Lead us with Thy gentle sway," all
of them delightful hymns, and the subdued and pathetic
utterance, "From the recesses of a lowly spirit." No
one can, without prejudice, read hymns like these, and
not feel that, beneath great diversities as to doctrinsy there
may be, and often is, a real unity of Christian tptrit.

Bom in the same year as Sir John Bowiing, but passing
away six years before him, was John Keble, who belonged


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to a Bchool of religious thought most remote from that
of the Unitarian. He was one of the leaders of the
great Oxford movement, and did much, by his poetry,
to help its progress. Keble was as remarkable for
finish as Bowring for width of scholarship; and, speak-
ing generally, it may be said that finish rather than
strength is the characteristic of his poetry. Space will
not allow me to speak of his poetry generally. His
" Christian Year " has great merits and great defects. It
deserves a high, though not, perhaps, so high a place as
it has secured in popular estimation. He falls far below
his early friend, Newman, in depth of thought and com-
pactness of expression. Keble takes pages to set forth
what Newman would compress into a few lines. Keble
descends to details, leaving little for the imagination to
fill in; whilst Newman utters suggestive words which
draw the mind on to large fields of spiritual thought and
feeling. Keble' s principal poetical works were ** The
Christian Year," which attained to a circulation perhaps
larger than any work of the kind in modem times, and
from the profits of which Hursley Church was built ; and
the "Lyra Innocentium." Most of the hymns of Mr. Keble
which have come into use have been taken from " The
Christian Year." His Evening Hymn, " Sun of my soul.
Thou Saviour dear," which is a selection of verses from
the hymn as it stands in "The Christian Year," beginning
" 'Tis gone, that bright and orbed blaze," has, I fancy,
in recent times supplanted, in common use. Bishop Ken's
famous hymn for the same season, which excels it in
vigour, but falls short of it in tenderness of thought
and expression. His Morning Hymn, "0 timely happy,
timely wise," is, perhaps, equal in merit to the


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evening one, but is not nearly so widely known or

greatly loved. One reason for this may be found in the

fact that we are more disposed to hymn singing in the

evening than in the morning, and that we are more moved

by songs of the night than of the day. There are fine

verses in " There is a book who runs may read," a hymn

on the book of Nature; but perhaps the finest, and the

key to all the rest, is a verse too often omitted —

** Two worlds are oors : 'iia only dn
Forbids as to descry
The mystic heayen and earth within,
Plain as the earth and sky."

" The livelong night we've toiled in vain," is a hymn
well fitted to cheer desponding ministers of the kingdom
of Qtod. " The Voice that breathed o'er Eden " is one of
the finest of Marriage Hymns. '^ Spirit of Christ, Thine
earnest given," is in his noblest strain, and admirably
suited for use after the Ordination Prayer at the con-
secration of men to the ministry of Christ.

Bom in the year following that of Keble, but passing
away twenty years before him, was Henry Francis Lyte, to
whom we owe the Evening Hymn which competes with
Keble's for the first place in the estimation of the Church.
It would be difficult to say which is the more frequently
used, Keble's ** Sun of my soul," or Lyte's " Abide with
me, fast falls the eventide ; " probably their use is about
equal. A particular interest gathers about the latter
hymn, since it was the last penned by its author.
Ordered abroad on account of his health, and with the
shadow of death gathering and deepening around him, the
good pastor of the little fishing town of Brixham, on the
westerly side of Torbay, addressed words of tender
farewell to his flock, administered the Communion for the


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last time, and then retired to the privacy of his own
room. When, in the evening, he rejoined his family, he
handed them " Abide with me," with mnsic to which he
had set it. The hymn, though not its accompanying
mnsic, has enshrined itself in the tenderest affections of
the Church at large. By this he is best known, but a
very large number of his hymns have grown into
considerable popularity, notably the following — " Praise,
my soul, the King of Heaven," marked by a lovely union
of boldness and tenderness ; ** Jesus, I my cross have
taken," a plaintive but resolute expression of devotion to
the following of Christ. His "Spirit of the Psalms"
contains many fine versions ; specially good are those of
the 65th, ** Praise, Lord, for Thee in Zion waits," and of
the 81st, ** Sing to the Lord our might." His version of
a hymn by Francis Quarles, beginning " Long did I toil,
and knew no earthly rest," is of great beauty, and shows
the noble use which might be made of some of the hymns
of the early hymnists, which, though fine in thought, are
too archaic in their mode of expression for use in their
original forms.

Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1794-1835) is best known
by her more distinctly poetical works, but the few hymns
we owe to her make us wish that she had consecrated
her powers more largely to this end. Her most
widely known hymn, ** Lowly and solemn be," I should
rank as one of the very finest of that order in the
language. It is plaintive and solemn, both in its thought
and expression ; the metre being exquisitely suited to the
sentiment. It is taken from a funeral dirge which follows
her poem, ** The Funeral Day of Sir Walter Scott," and
is the utterance of a heart moved^ and solemnised by the


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thought of death. Her verses on Christ in Gethsemane,
'< He knelt, the Saviour knelt and prayed/' and those on
the heralds of the birth of Christ, " lovely voices of
the sky," and for the death of a child, " Saviour, now
receive him," are all marked by that gracefulness and
tenderness which, alas ! are so often conspicuous by their
absence in hymnic compositions. These are likely to
become more popular as the taste of worshippers becomes
more cultivated.

Thomas Binney (1798-1874) is chiefly remembered as
one of the most suggestive and inspiring preachers of his
time ; and the leader, it may be said, of a new style of
preaching. He also did much to elevate the style and tone
of worship in Nonconformist churches, by the example
set in his services at the King's Weigh House Chapel,
where for forty years he ministered, as well as by his
suggestive little book, "The Service of Song in the
House of the Lord." Under his direction, what is called
" The Weigh House series of Tunes, Chants, and
Anthems," was issued. He wrote some few hymns and
poems, but, as a hymnist, he is almost exclusively remem-
bered by " Eternal Light, Eternal Light," written about
1826. This hymn is one of remarkable originality and
force, and is likely to be remembered even when his
eloquent sermons are forgotten. It is said to have
been conceived by its author during his ministry at
Newport, in the Isle of Wight, on a brilliant starry
night, which moved him deeply. A Sunday Evening
Hymn by him, beginning "Holy Father, whom we
praise," has found its way into a few collections, but has
neither the distinctiveness nor beauty of " Eternal light,
Eternal Light."


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Charlotte EDiott (1789-1871) is one of the most popular
of lady hymnists. To her pen we owe a large number of
hymns, the two most popular of which are "Just as
I am, without one plea," and **My God and Father,
while I stray." Scarcely a hymnal for general use is
now published in which these hymns do not find a place.
They are marked by so distinctiye a style, and so
pathetic a spirit, that they have a strange power over the
heart. They are deeply Evangelical, not only in their
sentiment, but, what is of more importance, in their
feeling. There are other hymns by her far less known,
but showing the same high qualities, and well
deserving a place in the Hymnals of the Church.
Amongst these, we should give a foremost place to
"Christian, seek not yet repose." In this hymn, it is
rather startling to find the idea of guardian angels, which
has rarely been associated with the faith of Evangelical
Churchmen, to which school Miss Elliott belonged. "Let
me be with Thee where Thou art," " 0, Holy Saviour,
Friend unseen," " My God, is any hour so sweet," and
"Leaning on Thee, my Guide, my Friend." Most of
her hymns were written for those in sorrow or sickness,
and are, perhaps, somewhat more suited for private than
public worship. But their great excellence, their reality
of tone, their pathos, have drawn many of them into
more public use than was intended by their authoress.

John Harris, D.D. (1802-1856), attained to great reputa-
tion in his day as an eloquent preacher, a brilliant essayist,
and a theological professor. He wrote a few hymns, for
one of which he claims mention. "Light up this house
with glory. Lord," is a composition of great merit, full of
spiritual thought, expressed with much force and beauty.


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John Hampden Gumey (1802-1862), rector of St.
Mary's, Mary-le-bone,i8 an instance of a man who, without
any great lyric or poetic power, had yet such a true idea
of what a hymn should be, and such skill in working
into good form the ideas of others, that the hymns he has
given us are deservedly popular. They are all character-
ised by good taste, healthiness of Christian feeling, and
suitability to public worship. " Lord, as to Thy dear
cross we flee," is included in a large number of collections.
** Through centuries of sin and woe " is a fine hymn for
use in time of war, as is ** Great King of nations, hear,"
in time of trouble. ** Yes, God is good," is in a brighter
strain. In several instances, notably in the following,
Mr. Gumey wrought up to good purpose the work of
previous hymnists — " Yes, God is good," by Eliza Lee
FoUen, and " We saw Thee not when Thou didst come."
The latter, in its present form, is a very striking hymn.

Isaac Williams, B.B. (1802-1865), one of the con-
tributors to the ** Tracts for the Times," and, of course,
belonging to the High Church party of which they
formed the manifesto, is a contributor of considerable
importance to sacred poetry by means of original and
translated pieces; many of the latter have found their
way into Hymnals of the High Church school. But one
of his hymns, "Lord, in this Thy mercy's day," an
extract from a poem of 110 stanzas in " The Baptistery,"
has passed into hymnals of a more evangelical and less
ecclesiastical type ; but it is scarcely in place in them, and
has, in my judgment, a dogmatic tone which may be
suitable in discourse, but is not in song. The following
hymn from his pen is in a very different strain, and seems
to me very lovely —


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The child leans on its parent's breast,
Leaves there its cares, and is at rest ;
The bird sits singing by his nest,

And teUs alond
His trust in God, and so is blest

'Neath every cloud.

He has no store, he sows no seed.
Yet sings aloud and doth not heed ;
By flowing stream or grassy mead

He sings to shame
Men, who forget, in fear of need,

A Father's name.

The heart that trusts for ever sings,
And feels as light as it had wings ;
A well of peace within it springs ;

Come good or ill,
Whate'er to-day. to>morrow brings,

It is His will.

John Chandler, M.A. (1806-1876), is chiefly known by
tranalations published in ** Hymns of the Primitive
i Church," many of which are of great worth, and which
have heen largely drawn upon by editors of Church of
England Hymnals. The best known are — " Christ is our
Comer-stone," from the form in the "Paris Breviary;"
" Jesus, Lord of heavenly grace," from St. Ambrose ;
** As now the sun's declining rays," from Charles Coffin,
in the ** Paris Breviary;" ** Christ, our hope and
heart's desire," from an Ambrosian Hymn of the 9th or
10th century; ** 'Tis for conquering kings to gain," from
Charles Coffin in the ** Paris Breviary;" "Thou bright-
ness of the Father's face." Mr. Chandler deserves very
high rank as a translator: a task almost as difficult as
that of original composition.

Julia Anne Elliot, nee Marshall (died 1841), wife of the
Bev. H. V. Elliott, clearly had great capacity for hymn
composition. This is evident in her lovely Evening
Hymn, "On the dewy breast of even," and "We love
Thee, Lord, yet not alone."


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Elizabeth Mills (1808-1829), wife of Thomas MiUs,
M.P., is remembered by the well-known hymn, **"We
speak of the realms of the blest," suggested by a passage
in "Bridges on the 119th Psabn"— "We speak of
heaven; but oh! to be there." It was written a few
weeks before her death.

Sarah Adams, nee Flower (1805-1849), contributed
thirteen pieces to " Hymns and Anthems," published by
Charles James Fox in 1841. One of these, ** Nearer, my
Grod, to Thee," is amongst the most popular hymns in
the language, and is an illustration, of which hymnody
furnishes so many, that, beneath all diversities of
theological thought, there is a real unity in all Christian
hearts. Though Mrs. Adams belonged to the Unitarian
Church, her hymn is sung in Trinitarian churches of
every order. She also wrote "He sendeth sun, He
sendeth shower," which is also of great beauty.

Henry Addiscott (1806-1860), minister of the Inde-
pendent Church at Taunton, is only known to have
written one hymn, " And is there. Lord, a cross for me,"
but it is so good in sentiment and spirit, and so dis-
tinctive, that both the hymn and its writer deserve

Arthur Tozer Russell, B.C.L. (1806-1874), vicar of
Holy Trinity Church, Wrockwardine Wood, Wellington,
Shropshire, was a considerable contributor to literature,
both by original and translated works. His work as a
hymnist consisted chiefly of translations from the
German, contributed to "Hymns for Public Worship
and Private Devotion," edited by Mr. Ernest Bunsen.
He also edited "Psalms and Hymns; partly original,
partly translated ; for the use of the Church of England."


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This work is notable for its translations from the
German. The original hymns by which he is known
are — "We praise, we bless Thee; Lord, we confess
Thee," and "Another year has fled, renew." These
are both good hymns ; the former marked by a sabdned
solemnity, and the latter by great tenderness. A hymn
by him, beginning "0 Gk>d of life, whose power
benign," not without merit, bnt far inferior to those we
have named, was included in "Hymns, Ancient and
Modem," but omitted from the reyised edition of that

Thomas !Rawson Taylor (1807-1885), a Congregational
minister in Sheffield, afterwards classical tutor in
Airedale College, where his career was cut short by
death when only 28 years of age, is chiefly remembered
as the author of the well-known hymn, "I'm but a
stranger here," which is marked by no little pathos, but
goes a little too far in the direction of what (George Eliot
called " other- worldliness," when it speaks of earth a*
" a desert drear." The longing for another world is not
quite healthy when it leads to disparagement of the
present one, which is quite as truly of the divine appoint*
ment as that which is to succeed it. Bis hymn for the
young, " There was a time when children sang," is in
a far healthier strain, and deserves very high rank as one
of the sweetest children's hymns in the language.

Bichard Chenevix Trench, B.I). (1807-1886), vicar of
Alverstoke, and afterwards of Itchenstoke, theological
professor at King's College, London, Dean of Westminster^
and Archbishop of Dublin, occupied a considerable place
in the literary and theological world of his day. An


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eminently interesting writer, who gave a charm to every
subject of which he wrote, he found a place among the
hymnists only by reason of adaptations of certain of his
poems for public worship. In the strictest sense, these
versions are not really hymns, but the sentiments of the
poems thus used, their largeness of view, their tender-
ness of thought, their beauty of expression, have led to
their adaptation as hymns. If the real object of hymns
be to quicken devotional and gracious feeling in those
who sing them, then Dr. Trench's lines deserve the place
they have obtained in public worship. Though he cannot
be called a great poet, yet there is an indescribable charm
about his poetry which would lead us to part with the
works of some greater poets rather than his. "Let all
men know that all men move " is a part] of his poem,
beginning "I say to thee, do thou repeat." "Make
channels for the streams of love," is a rendering of his
beautiful little poem on " The law of Love." We have
often wondered that the good Archbishop never applied
his poetic facidty to the production of hymns. He had
every quaUty needful for a good and even a masterly
hymnist. The reason may, perhaps, be found in the fact
that, in his earlier days, when his poetic faculty was at
its zenith, hymns were comparatively little used in the
Church of which he was so distinguished an ornament.

Since writing the foregoing paragraph, I have been
interested to find that his friend John Sterling entertained
a Hke feeling. In the "Letters and Memorials" of
Bichard Chenevix Trench, just published, there is a letter
written from Floriac, near Bordeaux, by Sterling, dated
May 13, 1837, in which the following passage occurs : —
" I hope you still find time to write poetry, and I have


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often thought of the importance of supplying English
devotion with more genuine and satisfactory hymns than
we now possess, in which, it seems to me, you might be
of much use. I would work for the purpose myself if I
thought there was any chance of my succeeding. [He
did write one or two hymns of great freshness and
beauty.] I wish you would try. You would influence
millions whom poetry in any other form would never
reach." In the half -century which has elapsed since
John Sterling penned his letter, much progress has been
made in the direction there indicated; and when poets feel
that no nobler use can be made of their powers than in
providing verses for use in public and private worship,
the golden age of hymnody vdll have come.

Christopher Wordsworth, D.D. (1807-1885), his con-
temporary (they were bom in the same year), successively
Head Master of Harrow, Canon and Archdeacon of West-
minster, and Bishop of Lincoln, a larger but less popular
contributor to literature than Trench, though he came of a
poetic stock, is far less remarkable as a poet than as a
hymnist. He seems to have discerned more clearly than
Dr. Trench the large place which hymns would fill, and
the deep influence they would exert in the Church. This
is clear from " The Holy Year," published by him with a
view to supply suitable hymns for each and every occasion
of the Ecclesiastical Year; in the preface to which he
says: ^^A Church Hymn Book ought not to be content
with supplying general hymns on martyrs, and general
hymns on Apostles and Evangelists. These are like
general exordiums of speeches — ^not appropriate to any.
But something more is requisite in a Church Hymn Book.
The peculiar teaching which each festival supplies, and


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the special expressioii of thankfulness which each festiyal
prompts, ought to find a responsiTe echo in the hymn of
each of the festivals of the Christian Year." Dr.
Wordsworth set himself to supply the want he thus
felt ; and, steeped in knowledge of Scripture and
Christian antiquities though he was, in our judgment
his attempt is a failure, and that not from want of
ability or zeal, but simply from lack of materials. He
could not make bricks without straw. Some even of the
Evangelists are mere names to us ; of their character
and history we know literally nothing. Hymns for the
days consecrated to their memory must, in the nature
of things, be either so vague as to have no special
application, or be the result of untrustworthy traditions,
or the play of fancy around their names. And so it
comes to pass that, when Dr. Wordsworth had a good
subject for his verse, his hymns are of the highest order ;
when a place in the Church Tear had to be filled for
which no trustworthy information could be found, his
efforts end in failure. And even when such information
was forthcoming the result was not much better, since it
was a bit of versified history rather than a hymn. It is
the fruitless attempt to provide hymns for each festival
of the ecclesiastical year which, more or less, lowers
the quality of every Church of England hymnal. The
idea of an ecclesiastical year itself is not justified by
either the teaching of the Apostles or the information
contained in their vnritings. The connection of certain
names with certain days rests on the flimsiest tradition,
whilst the very attempt to teach any special lesson
suggested by the lives of the Apostles is sure to lead to
the didactic, which is the worst form hymns can assume.

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It is the rarest thing to find such hymns with any Ijrric
fire. But where Dr. Wordsworth is free from such
trammels, he often rises to a great elevation of style
and thought, marred here and there, it is true, by
dogmatic rather than scripturaUy spiritual forms of
expression. Tet the high quality of his best hymns
makes us tolerate such minor defects. Yery picturesque
and beautiful is his *' The Galilean fishers toiL"
** Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost" is a lovely lyric
expression of the grand ideas of St. Paul's great
utterance on charity in his First Epistle to the
Corinthians. Equally beautiful is the hymn so often
used at the offertory, **0 Lord of heaven, and earth,
and sea." A noble outburst of song concerning the
great multitude of the redeemed in heaven, is ^' Hark !
the sound of holy voices, chanting at the crystal sea«"
His Evening Hymn is one of great tenderness and
beauty, '* The day is gently sinking to a close," marred
in one point by the line, " The weary world is
mouldering to decay," which seems to me morbid and
ascetic rather than healthily Christian. His Sunday
Morning Hymn, ^^ day of rest and gladness," is one
of his happiest efforts, and has deeply enshrined itself
in the affections of the Church at large. His Litany
Hymn, " F ather, we hum^ pw^Ji" includes a vast
number of objects in its petitions, which are couched in
the most sincere and well expressed forms. When Dr.
Wordsworth touches the great themes of the Gospel, or
seeks to give expression to the deepest Christian feeling,
he rarely fails. It is only when the ecclesiastical over-
powers this deeper Christian feeling that his muse fails.
Joseph Anstice (1808-1836), first professor of Classical


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Literature in King's College, London ; to which he was

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 12 of 37)