William Garrett Horder.

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

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realise their beauty. Many an old hymn, through usage
or the lapse of time, gains a glory it does not deserve
Many a new hymn is not valued as it should be through
lack of these. There is no gift for which the Church
deserves to be more profoundly grateful than for the great
succession of singers who have of late enriched her
song, and so ennobled her worship. These, in days to
come, will reach their true place, and their age be
regarded as among the classic ones of hymnody.


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BoMT 1796—1820.

Thb&e must surely be to the hymn-wTiter a deep joy in

knowing that his verses have kindled the hearts of

multitudes to worship, and risen on the wings of music

to the ear of heaven. I can conceive of few things

that would waken more real, though it may be quiet,

satisfaction. Bishop Ken deemed it would be an addition

to his happiness in the happier world, if he should

know that his devotional poems were answering on earth

the purpose for which he had piously composed them : —

And ithonld the well-meant songs I leave behind,
With Jesus' loven an aooeptance find,
'Twill heighten e'en the joys of heaven to know,
That in my verse the sunts hynm Ch>d below.

It has not always Mien to the lot of even the noblest
hymnists to reap this reward during life, for not till they
had passed away did their verses enter into the worship-
song of the Church. The worth of many a noble hymn has
not been discovered until its author had gone over to the
majority. But many an author in our day has had the joy
of knowing that his hymns have been warmly welcomed by
the Church, and that they have risen in choral song from
the lips of devout worshippers. There are many hymnists,


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happily still spared to us, who must rejoice in the thought
that scarcely a Sunday passes in which their hymns do
not hoth kindle and express the devout feelings of men
in a multitude of churches in this and other English-
speaking lands, many of them heing widely separated in
doctrine, in ritual, in ecclesiastical forms, from that to
which they themselves belong. In many a case hymns are
sung in assemblies in whose worship their authors would
scarcely care to join, and whose doctrines they heartily con-
demn. The words of Dean, and Bishop, and Cardinal, are
used in lowly conventicles where their stately canonicals
would seem quite out of place, whilst, on the other hand,
the hymns of many an unadorned Layman belonging to the
simpler Free Churches are sung by white-robed choristers
and priests under the fretted roofs of venerable cathedrals.
Thus one touch of (what is better than nature) grace
makes the whole Church kin. Thus the hymns of the
Presbyterian Bonor, and the Independent Watts, have
passed into use and are sung as parts of a richly
ornate service; whilst, on the other hand, hymns by
Cardinal Newman, Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, and
Father CaswaU have found their way into the simple
services of village chapels. There is no bond of union
stronger or more spiritual than that furnished by hynms
which have sprung out of hearts kindled to lyric expression
by the vision of Christ and His peerless work on behalf of
men. Thus Christian feeling is proved to be mightier and
more important in securing unity than the particular
formulas which the minds of men have fashioned for its
expression. For nowhere is the real unity, underlying all


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diversity, of the Church more clearly revealed than in the
hymnody of tiiese modem days. There are no helpers in
the great work of quickening and deepening religious life
whose aid is more precious than those whose love reaches
its noblest expression in sacred song. Of late years the
Church has been blessed witti a large number of such
helpers. Perhaps in no age has the number been so large,
or the quality of the songs they have given us so high.
Prom all quarters such songs have come; from laymen
like George Rawson and Chatterton Dix, from the clergy
of every rank, from the humble curate or country pastor to
the right reverend bishop and the princely cardinal ; nay,
even woman has had no mean place in this high work, for
in many a church where women's voices may not be heard
in tpeeehy they are heard in holy song (as in the hymns
by Miss Havergal and Miss Elliott in ** Hymns Ancient
and Modem"). Thus the lyric fervour sets at nought
all ecclesiastical restrictions, all doctrinal exclusivenesses.
Thus may we catch gleams of the time when the whole
Christian company shaU be gathered, if not into one foldy
yet into one JU>ek^ under the great Shepherd, Christ. For
of that time so greatly desired, and often sought in such
foolish ways, the truest heralds are the hymnists whose
hearts are touched by the spirit of Christ.

It is only bare justice to say that of living hymnists,

. the Established Church furnishes the greater number;

amongst these must, of right, be included, some who now

belong to the Eoman Communion ; but whose hymns were

written before they left the church of their fathers.

Sir Edward Denny (bom 1796), is one of the few


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writers of hymns belonging to that section of the Church,
known as ** The Brethren." His hymns are, of conrse,
imbued by the special doctrines of that sect, and this unfits
most of them for general use in the Church*at large ; but
in some, the Christian and lyric nature of their author
OTeipowers his doctrinal prepossessions, and such hymns
from his pen are of great force and merit. Examples of
this may be found in his hymn : —

What gnce, O Lord, and beaoty shone

Around Thy steps below ;
What patient loye was seen in all

Thy life and death of woe.

For ever on Thy borden'd heart

A weight of sorrow hnng ;
Yet no ungentle, monnoring word

Escaped Thy silent tongne.

Thy foes might hate, despise, revile,

Thy friends onfaithAil prove,
Unwearied in forgiveness still,

Thy heart oould only love.

Oh 1 give us hearts to love like Thee,

Like Thee, O Lord, to grieve
Far more for others' sins, thui all

The wrongs that we receive.

One with Thyself, may every eye

In OS, Thy brethren, see
The gentleness and grace that spring

Yiom onion, Lord, with Thee.

And in his really fine Missionary Hymn : —

Light of the lonely pilgrim's heart,

Star of the coming day,
Arise, and with Thy morning beams,

Chase aU oor griefs away :

Come, UessM Lord, bid evety shore

And answering island sing
The praises of Thy loyal Name,

And own Thee as their King.

Bid the whole earth, responsive now
To the bright world above,


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BriAk forth in rapturooB straina of joy,
In memory of Thy love.

Lord, Lord, Thy £ur creation groans,

The air, the earth, the sea,
In uoiBon with all our hearts,

And calls aloud for Thee.

Come, then, with aU Thy qoickening power,

With one awakening smue.
And Ud the serpent's trail no mcwe

The heauteons realms defile :

Thine was the cross, with all its ftuit

Of grace and peace divine ;
Be Thine the crown of glory now.

The palm of victory Thine.

Here again we see how the Christian spirit stretches over
all dividing and narrowing enclosures of doctrinal forms.

The first quarter of the present century is remarkable
as having given to us some of the most notable hymnists
which the Church has ever possessd. In this respect it is
one of the golden ages of hymnody, only equalled by one
or two similar periods.

Matthew Bridges (bom 1800), originally a member of
the Anglican, but now of the Roman Church, is a writer
with a great lyric gift, which in my judgment he has
allowed to be marred by the carnal views of Christian
truth prevalent in the church to which he now belongs. It
is not so with all the hymnists of that Communion (with
Cardinal Newman, for example, whose mind seizes the
more spiritual aspects of Christianity) ; but it is so with
Mr. Bridges, as may be seen from the following hymn ;
magnificent in some of its parts, but in others carnal and
sensuous to the last degree. This is specially so in the
third and fifth verses, which lay stress on the physical
rather than the spiritual offering of our Lord : —


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Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon Hia throne ;

Hark I how the heavenly anthem drowDi
All muflic bat its own.

\wake, my soul, and sfaiff

Of H hn who died for l£ee ;
\nd hail Him as th^ matchless King,

Through all eternity.

Crown Him the Virgin's Son,

The Ood incarnate bom ;
Whose arm those orimson trophies woo

Which now His brow adorn.

Fruit of the mystic rose,

As of that rose the stem;
The Boot, whence mercy ever flows.

The Babe of Bethlehem.

Crown Him the Lord of Love :

Behold His hands and side.
Bich wounds, yet visible i^ve,

In beantj'glorified.

No angel in the sky

Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye

At mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of peaoe,
Whose power a sceptre sways

From pole to pole, that wan nuy cease
And all be prayer and praise.

His reign shall know no end,

And round His pierced feet
Fair flowers of Paradise extend

Their ftigrance ever sweet.

Otown mm the Lord of years,

The Potentate of time.
Creator of the rolling spheres,

IneffiiUy sublime.
Glased in a sea of Ught,

Whose eveilasting waves
Befleot His fonn, the Infinite,

Who lives and loves and saves.
Crown Him the Lord of heaven,

One with the Father known ;
And the Uest Spirit through Him given.

From yonder triune thrMie.


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AUhant Redeemer, haU !

For Thou hast died for me ;
Thy pndse shall never, never fail,

Tbffooghont eternity.

John Henry Newman (bom 1801), fills a very distin-
gui^ed place in the intellectual, ecclesiastical, theological
thought of his age. His early religious life was fostered
by the somewhat narrow evangelicalism which prevailed in
tiie earlier years of this century ; gradually he passed to a
type of Christianity which is now described as Anglican, and
after lingering and hesitating for some time on the border-
land which separates High Anglicanism from Romanism,
moved, as is clear from the self -revelation of his inner life
in his marvellous book " Apologia pro vita sua," by the idea
Hint there is and can be only one viMk church, he
entered the fold which it must be confessed has the best
claim to fulfil that supposed requirement. Such an idea
of the church is, to my way of thinking, not only utterly
unscriptural, but utterly unspiritual, but when it takes
possession of the mind there can, in the nature of things,
be no resting place but in the Eoman Communion. The
forces which fix a man's ecclesiastical position are,
however, too subtle to be fully analysed, and may leave
Hie moral and spiritual character to a large extent
untouched. It is curious to notice how two men, the
offspring of the same parents, both of exceptional ability
and nobility of character, should be so widely severed as
John Henry and Francis William Newman; the first
becoming a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, and
the second a prominent and eloquent apostle of Theism.
Strange to say, both have laid bare much of their


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inner spiritual hiBtory. The first in the book to which I
have already referred, "Apologia pro vita sua," and
the second in '' Phases of Faith, or Passages from the
History of my Creed." The Cardinal has been one of the
most Tolmninons and powerful writers of our time, and is
indeed one of the greatest masters of a noble English
style. Some passages in his sermons are poems in all bnt
form. But he is known to a far larger circle by his hymn
" Lead, kiudly light, amid the encircling gloom," which
is now one of the most deservedly popular in the
English language. Those who desire to see the effects
which high culture may have on hymn-production should
compare it with the hymn on the same subject, ''Guide
me, Thou great Jehovah!" by the Welsh writer,
W. WiUiams (probably the only Welsh hymn, which has
found its way into popular use, in English), but which has
been largely supplanted by the more poetic hymn of
Cardinal Newman. The story of its composition is told as
follows in the " Apologia " * —

'' I got to Castro-Giovanni, and was laid up there for
nearly three weeks. Towards the end of May I set off for
Palermo, taking three days for the journey. Before start-
ing from my inn in the morning of May 26th or 27th,
I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My
servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me.
I could only answer, * I have a work to do in England.'
I was aching to get home ; yet for want of a vessel I was
kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the
churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did
*<* Apologia pro viu soa/' p. 99 (1864).


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not attend any services. I knew nothing of the Presence
of the Blessed Sacrament there. At last I got off in an
orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed a
whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio. Then it was that I
wrote the lines * Lead, kindly Light,* which have since
become well known. I was writing verses nearly the
whole time of my passage ; at length I got to Marseilles,
and set off for England. The fatigue of travelling was
too much for me, and 1 was laid up for several days at
Lyons. At last I got off again, and did not stop night or
day till I reached England, and my mother's hoiif^o. My
brother had arrived from Persia only a few hours before.
This was on the Tuesday. The following Sunday,
July 14th, Mr. Keble preached the Assize Sermon in the
University Pulpit. It was published under the title of
* National Apostasy.' I have ever considered and kept
the day as the start of the religious movement in 1833."

Another hymn of great force and beauty from his pen is
the following, which forms ** The fifth choir of Angelicals,"
in his greatest poem, " The Dream of Gerontius."

Pndae to the Holiest in the height,

Aod in the depth be praise :
In all His words most wonderfnl,

Most sore in all His ways !

O loving wisdom of our God I

When aU was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight

And to the rescoe came.

O wisest love ! that flesh and Uood,

Which did in Adam fail,
Shonld strive afresh against their foe,

Shoold strive and should prevail.

O senerous love ! that He, who smote
in man for man the foe,


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The doable agony in man
For man should ondergo.

And in the garden secretly,

And on the cross on high,
Should teach His brethren, and inspire

To soffer and to die.
Praise to the Holiest in the height,

And in the depth be pndse :
In aU His words most wonderful,

Most sure in all His ways.

The hymn called "Desolation," written, like "Lead,

kindly Light/' at the time of his great doubt and anxiety

in 1S83, "off Sardinia," though not quite suitable lor

public worrfiip, is exquisitely beautiful and suggestiTe : —

O say not thoa art left of Qod,
Because His tokens in the sky
Thou canst not read ; this earth He trod
To teach thee He was ever nigh.

He sees beneath the fig-tree green
Nathaniel con His sacred lore ;
Shooklst thou the doset seek, unseen
He enters through the unopened door.

And when thou Uest, by slumber bound,
Outweaiied in the Christian fight,
In glory, girt with saints around,
He stands above thee through the night.

When friends to Emmaus bend their course,
He joins, ilthough He holds their eves :
Or, shouldst thou feel some fever's force.
He tiJces tiiy hand, He bids thee rise.

Or, on a voyage, when calms prevail.
And prison thee upon the sea.
He walks the waves, He wings the sail,
The shore is gained, and thou art fi«e.

Dr. Newman has translated many hymns from the Latin
Breviary, and as was to be expected from such a man, they
are models of what translations should be. The following
is a fine example : —

Now that the sun La gleaming bright.
Implore we, bending low.


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That He, the uncreated Light,
May guide us as we go.

No ainfVil word, nor deed of wrong,

Nor thoughta that idly rove.
Bat simple tmih be od our tongae,

And in onr hearts be love.

And while the hours in order flow,

O Christ, securely fence
Our gates, beleaguered by the fi>e,

The gate of every sense.

And grant that to Thine honour, Lord,

Our daily toil may tend ;
That we begin it at Thy Word,

And in Tny favour end.

Dr. Newman was one of the chief contributors to the
** Lyra Apostolica," where his verses appear under the
signatare of a Greek delta^ and in 1868 he gathered his
poems together and published them under the modest title^
" Verses on various occasions." This is one of the most
beautiful and suggestive volumes of religious poetry in the
language. Those on Scripture Character are full of fine
insighty expressed in the most terse and vigorous language.
I may be permitted to travel a little out of the path marked
out for myself in these pages^ and quote the one on
** Moses," which, though not a hymn, is only one degree
removed therefrom.* This may lead readers to seek
further acquaintance with Dr. Newman's suggestive verses.

Moses, the patriot fierce, became

The meekest man on earth,
To show us how love*s quick'ning flame

Can give our souls new birth.

Moses, the man of meekest heart,
Lost Canaan by self-will,

* By his kind permivion, 1 have been enabled to introduce the
finest of bis scripture poems into my work, ** The Poets* Bible **
(William IsUster, Lfanited).


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To show, where grace has done its part.

How sin defiles ns still. .
Thou who hast tanght me in Thy fear,

Yet seeet me frail at best,
O gnint me loss with Moses here,

To gain his future rest.

James Martineau (bom 1805), the most distingaished
preacher of the age in the Unitarian body, one of the
greatest philosophers, and certainly the most eloquent, of
his time, has edited two hymnals for the use of his own
section of the Church, and written, though without
appending his name to them, two or three hymns of great
beauty. The one quoted below was included in my
<< Congregational Hymns" without any ascription of
authorship. On receiving the volume Prof. F. M. Bird,
the most erudite hymnologist of America, wrote to me
saying he believed the hymn was by James Martineau,
and urging me to ask him. I appended his name in the
copy I was revising, and on the printers suddenly calling
for copy for a new edition, I sent them the volume in
which I had appended his name to the hymn. I had
previously written to ask him if the hymn was from his
pen, and he replied that he was not at liberty to relieve
it of its anonymity. Forgetful of the fact that his name
had been added to the hymn, the new edition came out
ascribing the authorship to him. I then called to explain
the circumstance, and he told me that the hymn had been
written nearly forty years before, and he fancied that
some German hymn had been running in his head at the
time he composed it, and so he scarcely liked to claim it
as his own. Probably only the suggestion came from a
German source, and to all intents and purposes the hymn


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is by him. At all events, it is very fine, as my readers
will see: —

Thy waj is in the deep, O Lord !

E'en there we'll go with Thee :
Well meet the tempest at Thy word,

And walk upon the sea.

Poor tremblers at His rougher wind,

Why do we doabt Him so ?
Who gives the storm a nath, will find

The way our feet shall go.

A moment may His hand be lost,

Drear moment of delay !
We cnr, *' Lord, keep the tempest-tost,"

And safe we're borne away.

The Lord yields nothing to onr fears,

And flies from selfish care;
Bat comes Himself, where'er He hears

The ydoe of loving prayer.

O happy sool of faith divine !

Thy victory how sore I
The love that kindles joy is thine,

The patience to endure.

Come, Lord of peace 1 our grie& dispel,

And wipe onr tears away :
'Tis Thine, to order all things well,

And ours to bless Thy sway.

One other hymn is also ascribed to him ; very striking,
but scarcely so suitable for public worship. It begins
'' A voice upon the midnight air."

George Kawson (bom 1807), is a man whose leisure
hours have been largely occupied with meditation on sacred
themes. I am told that his Bible is neatly annotated
with his own devout musings as well as by illustrations
drawn from a wide range of reading. But every now
and then his thoughts have found expression in verse.
His first songs saw the light under the signature,
'*A Leeds Layman," and for a long time he refused


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permission to append his name to his hymns, so that
they appeared anonymously ; but at last, what had been
before an open secret to the few, ceased to be a secret at
all, and in nearly every hymnal of a truly eclectic character
one, or even more, hymns from his pen appeared with
his name appended. Still later, in 1877, all the hymns
he had then written were collected and published under
the title ** Hymns, Verses, and Chants," by George Bawson.
Quite recently (1885) a little volume called ** Songs of
Spiritual Thought" was issued by the Religious Tract
Society, containing a selection of hymns from the former
volume, together with others written since its publication.
I have before me the original volume with the additions*
in the venerable author's own handwriting, of all the
hymns he has since produced, together with improved
readings of some of the earlier ones. I am bound to say,
that with one or two exceptions, the earlier are finer than
the later hymns. The best fruits are from the tree of
middle life. Very rich and diversified they are. Indeed^
diversity of style and treatment is one of the character-
istics of this^little volume. There is an entire absence of
the monotony which renders the collected hymss of so
many of the earlier hymnists unattractive. Each hymn
seems Hke an idea which has possessed the author's mind,
and then gradually taken on its appropriate dress. Stand-
ing first in the voltmie are Mr. Bawson's renderings of
certain of the Psalms. Some of these are but variations
from renderings by other hands. There are three ver-
sions of the twenty-third Psalm ; in one of these, it is
evident that the beautiful one of Francis Rous in the


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Scotch Psalter is ringing in the author's ears. Br. Watts's
version of the 148th Psalm must have heen in his mind
when he wrote his version of the same Psalm ; but^Mr.
Bawson's is far the finer of the two, indeed, it is one of
the grandest versions of a Psalm in our English tongue.

Praise ye the Lord I immortal quire,

In heavenly heights above,
With harp and voice and souls of fire,

Burning with perfect love.

Shine to His glory, worlds of light f

Ye million sons of space.
Fair moons and glittering stars of night.

Running your mystic race !

Te gor^us clouds, that deck the sky

With crystal, crimson, gold.
And rainbow arches raised on high,

The light of light unfold !

Lift to Jehovah, wintry main ,

Your grand white hands in prayer ;

Still summer seas, in dulcet strain
Murmur hosannas there !

Do homage, breezy ocean floor.

With many- twinkling sign ;
Majestic calms, be hushed before

The Holiness Divine.

Storm, liffhtning, thunder, hail and snow,

Wild winds that keep His word.
With the old mountains Ar below,

Unite to bless the Lord.

His name, ye forests, wave along :

Whiiper it, every flower ;
Birds, beasts, and insects, swell the song

That tells His love and power.

And round the wide world let it roll)

Whilst man shall lead it on ;
Join every ransomed human soul.

In glorious unison !

Gome, aged man ! come little child !

Youth, maiden, peasant, king -
To Qod in Jesus reconciled,

Your hallelujahs bring!


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The all-creating Deitj,

Ifaker of earth and heaven !
The jneat redeeming Majesty,

To Him the praiae he given

When we pass from his yersions of certain of the Psalms
to his hymns, the work is, of course more original, save in
one or two instances where the hymn is clearly suggested
by one from another author. This is the case with his

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 16 of 37)