William Garrett Horder.

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

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Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 27 of 37)
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Gould my prayer,

Father! dare
All so weak, to rise to Thee,

But that Thou

Deign'st to bow
In Thy tender love to me ?

Love untold

Humbly told.
Faith adores the mystery.

From the abyss

High to God*s eternal throne,

Mounts my prayer, —

Waiting there.
Waiting on His grace alone,

Saviour dear i

Bend Thine ear,
Of my faith the tribute own.

Lord of all !

Hear my call.
For Thyself, Thyself I cry :

Art Thou near ?

Nought 1 fear ;
Art Thou absent ? then 1 die.

Helper mine,

King divine,
In me reign eternally I

Few finer hymns are to be found in Frencli than the
following — which is a translation hy Mr. Downton— of
"Je suis k toi," by M. Edmond Scherer, Editor of
Ze Tempi : —

Lord, I am Thine, all glory to Thy Name ;

I to Thy law my life, myself resign :
Of right Thou dost my love, my worship claim.
And I am Thine !


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In paths of doabt I wandered lost of yore,

When lo ! apon my path Thou deigndst to shine :
Onoe was my heart a void, and death in store
Now I am Thine !

The world erewhile enchained my captive sonl.

But now I dwell beneath Thy mle divine :
Sweet is Thy yoke ; on Thee my cares I roll,
For 1 am Thine !

Me to receive with welcome to Thy heart

Thine arms ontstretched and looks of love combine :
O Ixnd I come ; 1 choose that better part,
Thine, wholly Thine !

PosMising Thee. I am of all possest.

And 'tis by faith this happy lot is mine :
Upon Thy bosom, Lord, in peace and rest,
Thine, only Thine I

None from Thy book of life shall blot my name.
No tempter from Thy paths my steps incline ;
*Tis death, 'tis life, Thy piercing glance of flame.
Bat I am Thine!

While on this earth I sojonm by Thy will.

My Saviour and my Qod, ihit will be mine,
Till safe in Heaven I bless Thy mercy still,
For ever Thine!

French Hymnody as a whole is marked by so great a
delicacy of expression that it is almost impossible to
reproduce it in our English tongue, and by a subjective
tone which renders its hymns more suitable for private
than public worship.

From the Italian, we have " Glory be to Jesus" f Fiva^
viva 6e9U fj, translated by Edward Caswall. It is taken
from the Aspiraxione Divote of the 17th or 18th century.

Many of the hymns of Denmark have been translated
by (Hlbert Tait, but none of these have passed into
common use. One, however, by Elias ElkUdsen Naur,
Professor in the Gymnasium at Odense, in Funen, who
died in 1728, seems to me very beautiful, and though not
quite suitable for public worship, deserves a place among
hymns for private use: —


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When my tongue om dDff no more,
When my lips have ceased to pray,
Sflent, may 1 still adore, —
Eager, Saviour, seek Thy way !
Hear, O Christ, my latest sigh ;
Open wide the gates on high,
For my soul, which angels bear
Home to glory, deathless, rare; —

Home to heaven's kingdom sweet ;
Home to Join the chosen hand.
Seraph, seraphim to meet :
Home to courts where reigneth grand
Mercy's Monarch ; home to dweU
With the Ood who loves me well ;
Home to all mv fathers dear ;
Home my Christ to serve and fear.

The one Danish hymn-writer that has become well-known

in this country is Bernhardt Severin Ingemann (1789-

1862), who was bom in Denmark the 28th May, 1789.

His father was a clergyman, and he was also intended for

the Church, At a comparatively early age he published

his poems, mostly of a romantic character, concerning

which there was much division of opinion.

He afterwards published a series of romantic-patriotic

description of the hero kings of the middle ages,

undoubtedly greatly influenced by the writings of Sir

Walter Scott. These books are still, and will probably

comtinue to be, the most popular reading amongst the

Danish people. Whilst he thus roused the patriotic spirit

of his countrymen, his early religious training manifested

itself in his hymns, which form a conspicuous part in the

Danish Church and School Service. Manly vigour, and

almost childlike tenderness, together with true faith and a

fihn belief that there will be light after the darkness, form

the most prominent features in his hymns. Scarcely was

any poet more appreciated by his country than Ingemann.

On his 70th birthday the Danish children presented him



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with a splendid golden horn. The sabscriptions were
limited to a halfpenny, and every child throughout the
land gave its mite toward the man, who perhaps even in
the same degree as Hans Christian Andersen, had cheered
their childhood. He died a few years after greatly

Few, who ever saw the old poet and his amiable wif e—
Philemon and Baucis they were called — ^in their quiet
cottage in the beautiful Soro' suirounded by roses, are
likely to forget them.

Through Mr. Baring-Gbuld's fine rendering, one of his
hymn»~a singularly inspiring one— *^ Through the night
of doubt and sorrow " (IgjewMm Nat og I^aengulJ^ has
established itself in English favour.

In her ^'Yoioe of Christian Life in Song," Mrs. Charles

has given translations of a few Swedish hymns, but, so far

as I know, none from this source have passed into English

use. The battle-song of Ghistavus Adolphus, of Sweden,

is probably unique in this respect, that the thoughts were

his, and their versification by another. Here is the story : —

''The brave king was no man of letters. The ^ib of

faith which burned in his heart was more wont to fuse

the iron of heroic deeds than the gold of beautiful words.

But the thoughts were in his heart ; had they not inspired

him in march and battlefield ? So he told his chaplain,

Dr. Jacob Fabricius what his thoughts were, and the

chaplain moulded them into three verses of a hymn, and

the simple-hearted hero took them ever afterwards as his


Be not dIsiDAy'd, thoa little flock,
iJihoogh the foe'f fieroe battle thock
Loudon all aidea aanil thee.


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Though o*er thy ftdl they Isugfa seeure,
Thebr triumph cannot long eMore ;
Let not thy oonrage fidl thee.

Thy oaose li God'f : go at Hii call.
And to His hand commit Thy all;

Fear thoa no ill impending :
His Gideon shall arise for thee,
God's Word and people manfolly,

In God's own nme defending.

Our hope is sore in Jesus' might ;
Against themselvefl the godless fight,

Themselves, not us, distressing ;
Shame and contempt their lot sludl he :
God is with us, with Him are we,

To us helongs His blessing.

Wales is rich in hymns — s« say those who are
acquainted with its hymnody ; but, probably on account
of the difficulty of rendering them into the English
language, only two have come into our hymnals: '^ Guide
me, Thou great Jehovah," and " 0*er the gloomy hills
of darkness," by William Williams. The Eev. H. Elvet
Lewis is about to publish a volume of translations of
Welsh hymns. He is a competent translator, and it
remains to be seen whether any will so meet the taste of
English readers as to find their way into Church use.


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Grkat as is the past of English literatire, its future is
likely to be still greater, both on account of the increase
of the English-speaking race, and the variety of lands in
which its lot is now cast, for there will be not only a
greater number of contributors to the stores of English
literature, but the peoples, climate, condition, and
scenery will probably give rise to new types both of
thought and expression. At present America is the only
English-speaking offshoot from the mother country which
has existed long enough to develop a literature of its own.
Australia is budding into letters, especially of the poetic
kind, but, although the promise is great, the time of fruit
is not yet. In the case of America, however, there has
been sufficient time for the bud, the blossom, the slowly-
forming fruit, and no^ we near the harvest, if not the full
one, yet the first ingatherings of one which bids fair to
rival that of the old country.

My concern in the present chapter is only with one
small part of this literary harvest, one which some would
exclude as altogether unworthy of a place therein, and
not altogether without good reason, since a very large
number of the hymns of the past have been so destitute
of literary grace or poetic inspiration as to be quite
unworthy of a place in literature. Dr. Johnson said of


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Dr. Watts, **that he had saccceded in doing better than
others, what no one had succeeded in doing welL" There
was, at that time, a measure of truth in that saying. But
before Br. Watts there had been writers who had written
fine hymns, even judged from a literary standpoint, so
that even then materials existed for a poodj if not a Utr^e,
collection of English hymns, which, from a variety of
causes, had been strangely overlooked and neglected ;
whilst among Dr. Watts' six hundred hymns, many of
which are very inferior, there are a few grand hymns;
and since his time many writers have produced hynms
which an unprejudiced judgment would include among
the UUrary treasures of the English-speaking race.
Amongst such, the hymns of our friends across the
Atlantic hold no small or undistinguished place. Indeed,
some of the finest work' of this kind of recent times has
had to travel across the ocean which separates us from
that great country.

The excellence of much American hymn-work is due to
certain causes which do not prevail in England. One of
these is the absence of an Established Church, with its
venerable and greatly-loved Liturgy, which allows less
space for hymn-singing than do the churches which rely
on extemporaneous utterance in their devotional services.
Of course there is an Episcopal Church in America, which,
like its elder sister in this country, retains — though in an
altered form — the Book of Common Prayer in its worship,
but that Church is neither the dominant, nor the most
influential, nor the most numerous Church of that land.
The great majority of the American Churches rely, either
altogether or in part, on extemporaneous utterance in
their devotional services, and so leave a larger place open


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for the singmg of hjnms, than Churches whose serrices
are wholly liturgical.

Another reason for the excellence of much American
hymn-writing is to be found in the custom which prevails
of inviting those with poetic power to contribute verses
for the great anniversaries in their history — social,
national, ecclesiastical. This has drawn into the ranks
of the hynmists some of the most notable writers.
Scarcely an American poet of any eminence could be
named who has not been led to consecrate his genius to
hymn-production. Some of the finest hymns by American
authors have had this origin. In England, the names of
our greater poets are conspicuous by their absence from
the roll of the hymoists. They have either not thought
of hymns as a form for the expression of their genius,
or have deemed them unworthy of their powers. And our
national customs have done nothing to call out their
genius in that direction, save occasionally by asking for an
ode, or poem, or song, for some great celebration. What
glorious additions to our hymnals might have been made if
Lord Tennyson, or Robert Browning, or Lewis Morris
had been asked to compose hymns for great occasions, as
Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, and
others, have been in America !

It should also be noted that the American poets have
been more deeply touched by religious feeling than their
brothers in England, so that their poetry is more
devotional in its tone. This has made it possible to
extract verses from their poems, which, though not
written as hymns, have been eminentiy suited for use in


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All these causes combined have conspired to produce a
mass of verses which are very remarkable.

Hymn-writing in America began with the present
century. Before that time only metrical versions of the
Psalms were in use ; the first collection having been the
telebrated Bay Psalm Book, or New England version^
published in 1640, of which it is said that no less than 70
editions were printed in Boston, London, and Edinburgh.
This was revised in 1767 by Thomas Prince, but was soon
superseded by Tate and Brady's version. Bather later
(1760-1780) editions of Tate and Brady were issued with
a sipplement of hymns, chiefly from Dr. Watts. At the
end of the 18th century many editions of Dr. Watts'
Psalms and Hymns were published, in some of which the
Psahns were amended, by Joel Barlow in 1786, and by
Timothy D wight in 1800. After this time the Metrical
Psalms were issued, with hymns appended; in the
Episcopal Church, the version of Tate and Brady, and in
the Presbyterian and Congregational, Watts' version being
used. But as time went on, the Psalms fell more and
more into the background, and hymns became prominent.

The hymns used in America have been chiefly drawn
from English sources, hardly a tenth part being of
native origin. In many collections the proportion of
American hymns is much smaller — in the '* Methodist
Episcopal Hymn Book!' of 1849, only 60 out of a total of
1 , 148 are American ; in the ' ' Baptist Service of Song " there
are 100 out of a total of 1,129 ; so that though the store
of American hymns is by no means small, and is constantly
increasing, yet, as was to be expected from a new
community, it is insignifloant compared with that of
England, which, through many centuries, has been


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gradually aoctuntdating. But in the future America is
destined, I believe, to contribute a larger proportion of
hymna, and to exert an immense influence on our Snglish

A great number of American hymnists are quite un-
known and entirely unrepresented in our English
collections. My concern in the present chapter is chiefly
with those whose hymns haye found a place in our
own hymnals, and these represent the freshest and moec
yigorous writers of the now country. I will group them
under the various Churches to which they belong. '

From the Protestant Episcopal Church, hymns by about
ten writers have been included in English collections.

Henry Ustic Onderdonk, D.D. (1789-1858), seaond
Bishop of Pennsylvania, who is best known by the lymn
of Invitation, which begins, " The Spirit in our heaits."

William Augustus Muhlenberg, D.D. (1796-1879), the
great-grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the
founder of the G^erman Lutheran Church in Aneiica,
whose Baptismal hymn, ''Saviour, who Thy flock art
feeding," has deservedly become popular.

Oeorge Washington Doane, D.D. (1799-1869), Bishop
of New Jersey, was the author of the well-known hymn,
" Thou art the way : to Thee alone ; " and the l^Gssionary
hymn quoted below, a very striking and poetic utterance.

Fling out the banner I let it float

Skjward and seaward, high and wide ;

The aim shall light ita Bhining folda,

The Croai on which the Savioor died.

Fling out the banner I angels bend

In anziooa aileiice o'er the sign ;
And vainly seek to comprehend

The wonder of the Love Divine.


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Fling <mt the banner I heathen lands
Shall see from far the glorious sight.

And nations crowding to be born,
B^>tise their spirits in its light.

FlingOQt the banner I Mn-siok sonk
That sink and perish in the strife,

Shall toach in faith ita radiant hem,
And spring inmiortal into life.

Fling out the banner ! let it float

Skyward and seaward, high and wide,

Our glory, onlv in the Cross ;
Our only hope, the Crucified !

Fling out the banner ! wide and hi^h,
Seaward and skyward, let it shine :

Nor pkill, nor might, nor merit ovan ;
We conquer only in that Sign.

Charles William Everest, M.A. (1814-1877), for thirty-
one years Kector of Hampden, near Kew-Haven, Conn., to
whom we owe a fine hymn which has been so wretchedly
mangled, especially in the third verse, in nearly every
English collection, that I quote it in its proper form.

Take up thy cross, the Saviour said.

If thou wonldst My disciple be ;
Take up thy cross with willing heart,

And humbly follow after Me.

Take un thy cross ; let not its weight
Fill thy weak soul with vain alarm ;

His strenffth diall bear thy spirit up,

Ai)d brace the heart, and nerve thy arm.

Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame.
And let thy foolish pride be stOl ;

Thy Lord refused not e'en to die
Upon a cross, on Calvary's hill.

Take up thy cross, then, in His strength,
And calmly sin's wild deluge brave ;

'Twill guide thee to a better home.
And point to glory o'er the grave.

Take up thy cross, and follow on,

Nor think till death to lay it down ;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.


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In nearly every English hymnal, saye my own, the
third yerse is made to read thus —

Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame ;

Nor let thy foolish pride rebel ;
Thy Lord for thee the cross endured,

To save thy poul ftom deatli and hell.

A more shameless attempt to force dogma into a hymn,
singularly free from it, I do not remember.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (bom 1812), known all over the
world as the authoress of ** Uncle Tom's Cabin," and the
sister of Henry Ward Beecher, of whom, after hearing in
London most of the chief preachers, she exclaimed, *' Oh,
for half-an-hour of my brother Henry," is the authoress
of hymns that are greatly prized in churches which do not
regard poetry in hymns as a fatal disqualification for their
use in public worship. The best known, and they are
very beautiful, are the following: — "When winds are
raging o'er the upper ocean;" "Still, still with Thee,
when purple moroing breaketh;" and the hymn on
" Abide with Me."

That mystic word of Thine, O sovereign Locd,

Is all too pore, too high, too deep for me ;
Weary of striving, and with longing fidnt,

I broatbe it back again in prayer to Thee I

Abide in me, I pray, and I in Thee I
From this good hour, O leave me never more I

Then shall the dif*oord cease, the wound be healed,
The life-long bleeding of the soul be o'er.

Abide in roe ; o'ershadow by Thy love
£aoh half-tormed purpose, and dark thought of dn;

Quench, ere it ri«e, each selfish, low desire,
And keep my soul, as Thine, calm and divine.

As some rare peribme in a vaae of day

Pervades it with a fragrance not its own.
So, when Thou dwellest in a mortal soul.

All heaven's own sweetness seems around it ihiown.


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Abide in me ; there have been moments blett
When I have heard Thy vdoe and felt Thy power,

Then evil loat its grasp, and passion hnshed,
Owned the divine enchantment nf the hoar.

These were bat seasons, beaatiftil and rare ;

Abide in me, and they shall ever be ;
Fulfil at onoe Thy precept and my raayer—

Come, and abide in me, and I in Thee.

Arthur Cleveland Coxe, D.D. (bom 1818), Bishop
of Western New York, is known hy three hymns, all of
which are of great merit. "How beauteous were the
marks divine ! '' " Saviour, sprinkle many nations ! ''
^^me of the finest of our Missionary hymns — and the
very fine verse usually set to a part-song : " Now pray
we for our country," but originally written: **Now
pray we for our Mother."

He is also the author of another hymn of no little
merit, but lacking the unity of thought and compactness
of expression of those we have named — *' Breath of the
Lord, Spirit blest."

Eliza Scudder (bom 1821) possesses a poetic gift equal

to that of Mrs. Beecher Stowe, with a greater mastery of

hymn forms, which renders her productions more available

for public worship. Her tiny little volume of only fifty

pages, ** Hymns and Sonnets," by E.S., is more worthy of

retention than many a portly volume. In my judgment,

two of her hymns, especially, are amongst the very finest

of modem times — ^there is strength, tenderness, melody —

every quality needful to a good hymn to be found in

them. This is high praise, but my readers shall judge

for themselves by the following. The first she calls


Thou long disowned, reviled, oppreeeed,

Strange Friend of human kind,
SeeUnff ihxooflh weary yean a rest

Within oar hearU to find ;«

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

896 THB flTFify LOVSR.

How Uie Thy bright and «wful brow
Breaki through these cloucU of tin :

Hail, Tmth Divine I we know Thee now,
Angel of €k)d, oome in 1

Come, though with purifying fire
And swift-dividing sword,

Thou of all nations the Desire,
Earth waits Tliy cleansing word.

Struck by the Ughtnin«; of Thy glance,

Let old oppressions cue ;
Before Thy doudlesi countenance
* Let fear and falsehood fly.

Anoint our eyes with healing grace.

To see, as not before.
Our Father in our brother's fi^e.

Our Maker in His poor.

Flood our dark life with golden day :
Coovinoe, subdue, entmal ;

Then to a mightier 3rield Thy sway,
And Love be all in all.

The second is on ** The Love of God "—

Thou Qracti Divine, encircling all,
A shoreless, boundless sea.

Wherein at last our souls must fiJl ;
O Love of God most free.

When over dizzy heights wo go,
A soft hand blinds our eyes.

And we are guided safe ana ^w ;
O Love of Ood most wise.

And though we turn us from Thy &oe,
And wander wide and long,

Thou hold*8t us still in kind embrace ;
O Love of God most strong.

The siddened heart, the restless soul.
The toil-worn frame and mind.

Alike confess Thy sweet control,
O Love of God most kind.

Bat not alone Thy care we claim,
Our wayward steps to win ;

We know Thee by a dearer name ;
O Love of God within.

And filled and quickened by Thy breath.

Our souls are strong and f^.
To rise o*er sin and fear and death ;

O Love of God ! to Thee.


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Her hymn on " Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or
whither shall I flee from Thy presence ? " which slie calla
*' The Qnest," is lovely , hut a little too suhtle for pnhlic
worship. Her " Vesper Hymn " and ** Collect for
Ascension Day" are hoth admirahle.

When the Church frees herself from a hlind clinging to
old hymns, simply hocause they are old, and hecomes free
to receive whatever is worthy, for her worship-song, Uiss
Scudder will he more largely represented in our hymnals.
I shall he glad if my reference to her should direct
any future editors to a consideration of her exquisite

Turning to the Freshyterian section of the Church
in America, there is little to detain us. She has no Bonar
in her ranks. All her writers are more or less echoes.

Samuel Davies (1723-1761), the successor of Jonathan
Edwards as President of Princeton College, is remem-
hered as the author of the striking hymn, " Groat (>od of
wonders, all Thy ways," which used to he popular, hut is
somewhat fading in popularity on account of its very
strong expressions concerning sinners.

James Waddell Alexander, D.D. (1804-1859), is
rememhered as the translator of the hest version of
Paul Gerhardt's noble hymn, ** Haupt voU Blut und
Wunden," which begins, **0 Sacred Head, now
wounded," and of a version of the ** Stabat Mater"
by Jacopone da Tode.

Thomas Mackellar (bom 1812) is the author of many
hymns, which have a certain popularity in America, but I
have not been able, though I have examined them
CQrefuUy, to discern a single one distinctive enough to
be worthy of importation into England.


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Qeorge Duffield, M.A. (bom 1818), sacoesaiyely
pastor of Presbytman churches in Brooklyn, Bloomfield,
Philadelphia, and the West, is the author of one of
the best known and most popular of American hymns.
As no other hymn from his pen has the force of <* Stand
up! stand up for Jesus!" it is natural to conclude
that this hymn owes much to the affecting circumstances
under which it was written. In 1858 the Bey. Dudley A.
Tyng had been engaged in a remarkable mission in
Philadelphia, and on the Sunday before his death had
preached in Jaynes Hall one of the most stimng sennons
of modem times, so that out of the 5,000 present at the
delivery, at least a thousand are belieyed to have been
conyerted. On the following Wednesday he left his study
for a moment, and went to a bam where a mule was
at work on a horse-power, shelling com. Patting him on

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 27 of 37)