William Garrett Horder.

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

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dom could afford, he afterwards betook himself to the
monastery of Jumi^ges, and there formed an acquaintance
with many of its monks. With one of them he had, it
seems, a friendly discussion, whether the interminable ta


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of the Alleluia might not be altered into a religious
sense; a discussion which, for the time, had no result.
But Jumidges, in common with so many other French
monasteries, was desolated by the barbarian Normans.
Whereupon Notker's friend, bethinking himself of S.
Gall, took refuge in that great house ; and the discussion
which, years before, had commenced, was again carried
on between the two associates. At length Notker deter-
mined to put words to the notes which had hitherto only
interminably prolonged the Alleluia. He did so ; and, as
a first attempt, produced a sequence which began with
the line —

* Laades Deo ooodnat orbb miivemm/

and which has lately been republished. He brought this,
notes and all, on a parchment rolled round a cylinder of
wood, to Yso, precentor of what we should now call the
Cantoris side. Yso looked kindly on the composition,
but said that he must refer it to Marcellus, the precentor
on the Decani side. These two sang the sequence over
together, and observed that sometimes two notes went to
one syllable in a slur, sometimes three or four syllables
went to one note in a kind of recitative. Yso thereupon
was charged with the message that the verses would not
answer their purpose. Notker, not much discouraged,
revised his composition ; and now, instead of (for the first
line) Zaudei Deo eoneinai orhie univereue, he substituted
Zaudes Deo coneinat orhii vhique totui ; instead of the
second line, Coluber \Ada ieeeptor, he now wrote Coluber
Ada tnale-suoior; which, as he himself tells us, when the
good-natured Yso had sung over to himself, he gave
thanks to €K>d, he commended the new composition to the


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brethren of the monastery, and more especially to Othmar,
Yso's brother by blood. Such then was the origin of
sequences, at first called Proses, because written rather
in rhythmical prose than with any attention to metre.
St. Notker died about 912."

The introduction of such sequences into the worship
of nearly all our English churches, furnishes one
illustration, out of many which might be given, of
the strange ways in which churches most remote from one
another in doctrine and ritual, profit each other.


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Wb have, in previous chapters, considered the hymns
of the first ages of the Church and Mediseval times,
although their introduction, in an English dress, to the
hymnals of this country belongs to the later years of
the present century. Those of the Latin Church were,
doubtless, used in their original forms in the times before
the Eeformation, and came to oiir land in the Breviaries
of the Eoman Church, but those of the Eastern Church
were used neither in their original nor translated forms till
our own time. When England belonged to the Eoman
Church, her service of praise doubtless consisted of the
Psalms in the Vulgate version, and the Breviary hymns
in their original Latin. But when she threw off the
yoke of Eome, the Psalms of the English Prayer
Book, which were at first only said, began not long
after through metrical versions, to be sun^,* "Song has

• It should not be forgotten that the '* said or song " of the Prayer
Book is a simple eaphemism .taken from the old Offices, and really
meaning monotoned, which is eqaivalent to *'said," or wiitk inflexions
which is eqoi^ent to ** sung." Even up to 1662 Uiere remained a
rubric by which not only the Psalms and Canticles bat also the
Lessons were directed to be *'sang after the manner ot distinct
reading to a plain tune."


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been a feature of every new up-springing of truth, or
marked deliverance at the hand of God." The name of
ZoUardy indeed, was given to the witnesses for evangelical
truth in the Low Countries, and in England and Scotland,
&om their habit of singing, and is connected with our
word lull — ^to sing softly ; they were the »weet tinkers.
And the Beformation time, of which the Lollards were
the heralds, was marked in relation to song by three
closely connected features : (1) Their songs were in the
mother tongue, instead of the Latin, in which before, all
public worship had been conducted. (2) They assumed
metrical form ; and (3) they were for the use of the
people at large, and not, as in the Eoman Church, for the
priests alone. This last feature was one of the great
objects of the Reformers, and brought in its train the two
preceding ones, since, for the people to sing, it was
necessary that the songs should be in their native speech,
whilst, for really united singing, metrical form was
necessary. It is far more difficult for a congregation to
chant Psalms than to sing them in metre, since, in the
former, there is uncertainty as to how many syllables are
to be given to the reciting note, whilst in the latter, each
syllable is wedded to a corresponding note of the tune.
Here lies the real motive which led to the rendering
of the Psalms in metrical form. The Beformation was a
people's movement, and so it demanded songs which the
people could both understand and sing.

Before this time there existed Early Hymns, Carols
both religious and secular, and translations of Breviary
Hymns, but they did not come into church use, partly
because of the apathy of the clergy, and partly because of
the ignorance and indifference of the people.


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The earliest of all the versioiis of the PsalmB in the
popular tongue was the celebrated one into French, of
Clement Marot, who translated fifty Psabns, two being
added by Calvin, and the rest by Theodore Beza. Goudimel,
the first musician of his age, the master of Palestrina,
an ardent Protestant, and one of the victims of St.
Bartholomew, set these to music, drawing the airs from
the popular songs of that time. This became the book
of song in all French-speaking countries, attained great
popularity, and aided greatly in the spread of the doctrines
of the B^formation. ''It was the book of song in the
castle as well as the cottage ; for recreation or at
work; for the lady in the hall, the weaver at the
loom, the peasant at the plough ; the first lesson taught
to children, the last words whispered to, or uttered
by the dying man." Both the words and music of
this collection exercised an important influence on the
Scottish version of 1564.

Even before the Beformation time in England, Miles
Coverdale had made metrical versions of certain of the
Psalms, whilst the three brothers Wedderbum, in Scot-
land, had rendered a similar service by the issue of
what is known as the Dundee Psalms. But the first
complete, or nearly complete, metrical version into
English, is that which goes by the name of Stemhold
and Hopkins. Whilst most of the versions are by them,
the remainder was gradually added by others. It was
first published in London in parts, and afterwards, with
additions, in (Geneva, on account of the English-speaking
refugees who had found shelter in that city. It was adopted
as the version for use in the Church of England in 1562,
and continued to be used for more than 285 years. About


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350 editions of it were issued during that tune ;
being gradually superseded in the Church of England
by the version known as Tate and Brady's. It held its
ground, however, among the Nonconformists untU. sup-
planted by the Psalms of Dr. Watts. In the Established
Church until comparatively recent times, when hymns
came into fovour, the version of Tate and Brady con-
tinued to be sung. The Eoyal assent to Tate and Brady
gave leave to adopt it, but did not impose it on the
church, and it was more than a hundred years before it
was generally adopted. So late as 1828 a new edition by
Stemhold and Hopkins was issued for use. At that time
hymn books were springing up in considerable numbers,
^yal assent had indeed been given to other versions, ^.y..
King James, Oeorge Wither, Patrick, and Blackmore.
But the Church did not avail herself of it, partly because
of their defects, and partly because of the unwillingness
to make a change, and so Stemhold and Hopkins, and Tate
and Brady held the field. Dr. Watts is the real connecting
link between the age of the metrical versions and that of
hymns, since his Psalms partake of the nature of both.
The earlier versions were, in reality, the Psalms done into
metre ; Dr. Watts' are an accommodation of the Psalms to
New Testament thought and language. Over the bridge
erected by him, the English churches of all sections
passed from the use of metrical Psalms to hymn-singing
pure and simple — ^the prose translation being retained
for recitation or chanting. In English Nonconformity, in
some cases, Stemhold and Hopkins gave way to versions
by Barton, Patrick,* who was himself a churchman, and
others, but such versions had only a limited and local
* A aeleoUon from hit PmIxiis was long uaed at the Cbarterhouae.


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acceptance. At last, however, and about the same time^
both in the Established and Nonconformist churches, the
metrical versions gave way to hymns. This was not the
case, however, in Scotland and the Presbyterian Church
generally. There, the version of the "Wedderbums pre-
vailed over a limited area, and in an early time; but
there, as in England, Stemhold and Hopkins was the
first version generally used. But even in this, certain
alterations were made; versions of certain Psalms being^
by other hands. "While the 100th by Kethe, and the
124th by Whittingham, are common to the English and
Scottish versions, and the 13 6th by Craig is substituted
for Churchyard's version, additional versions by Craig of
the 143rd and 145th were inserted from the Genevan
edition. Stemhold and Hopkins, thus improved, was-
adopted by order of the General Assembly in 1564,
and continued in use till 1650. The collection used
in Presbyterian Churches, even to our own day,
is due, however, to the action of the "Westminster
Assembly in 1643. The version selected by them waa
by Francis Rous, Provost of Eaton College, Oxford.
The Assembly, however, could not agree on the matter,
and hence the version of Rous gained no place in the
churches of England; but the General Assembly in
Scotland took up the matter where the Westminster
divines had left it, and, with Rous's version for a basis,
and with the addition of translations from the old
Scottish Psalter, and after many alterations, the new
collection was finally adopted by the Church of Scotland.
From that time to the present, it has held its place in
the worship of the Presbyterian section of the Church,
both in Scotland and other lands, and there still


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remain a few who would restrict the song of the Church
to these metrical Psalms. In a recent book (1886),
the " Memoir of Henry Bazeley, the Oxford Evangelist,"
by the Rev. E. L. Hicks, M.A., there is an elaborate
plea, by the subject of the memoir, for the exclusive
use of the Psalms, as being the only inspired songs*
Pull of earnestness, however, as is this plea, it is
unsupported by anything like reasonable argument, and
is chiefly remarkable for the fact that a man trained
in the University of Oxford, but who afterwards joined
the Church of Scotland, should have grown narrow
enough in thought to have put it forth. There are not
wanting symptoms that its day is nearly over— only a
aelection from it is retained in the latest book, '' Church
Praise" of the English Presbyterian Church — and, in
course of time, it will doubtless pass away altogether,
before the nobler hymnody of the age ; but for nearly
250 years it held its ground. It would be useless to
argue the question of its defects. To the Scotch it is
precious because of its early associations ; but to the
English, who regard it on its merits, whilst allowing that
some versions of great beauty may be found in it, yet as a
whole it seems utterly unworthy of retention in a time
like our own, so rich in noble songs. It certctinly has
the great merit, in which Dr. "Watts' version is the
most deficient of all, that it adheres closely to the actual
ideas of the Biblical Psalms. To the English mind, it is
true, these ideas are, for the most part, presented in their
least attractive form when stretched on the procrustean bed
of modem metre. Still, it is one of the links with the
Psalm-singing of the past; and from its historic and
spiritual associations, ours shall not be the hand to touch


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it roughly. In the Nonconformist Churches of England,
the transition from Psalm-singing in the versions of
Stemhold and Hopkins, Patrick, Barton, and others, to
hymn-singing was, as we have said, brought about by the
labours of Dr. Watts, Whose version of the Psalms forms
a kind of connecting link between the two, partaking as
they do of the characteristics of both. The elements in
them drawn from the Book of Psalms connect them with
the age of the metrical versions, whilst the elements
drawn from the New Testament connect them with the
hymn-singing era which followed, and of which Dr-
Watts was the real pioneer.

Many other metrical versions of the Psalms were made
in early times — ^by Sir Philip Sidney and his sister Mary,
Countess of Pembroke, Bishop King, George Sandys,
Lord Bacon of seven of the Psalms, and others; some of
these were highly poetic, but not oast in a form suitable
or public worship, and never came into use in the Church.

Those who desire to pursue the subject further should consult
" The Story of the Psalters/' by Henry Alexander Bell (Kegan
Paul & Co., 1888) who gives an account of 128 complete versions of
the Psalms, and specimens from each, of renderings of the 1st and
28rd Psalm. In the following table of editions now in the British
Museum Librair, the relative popularity of the principal versions is
clearly seen : — "




























Tate & Brady








Scotch version



















King James




















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Thebe are few, if any, English hymns to be found before
the beginning of the seventeenth century. To the
fifteenth century belong a few hymns addressed to the
Virgin and Christ. These have been edited from the
Lambert MS., No. 863, by Mr. Fumivall, for the Early
English Text Society. One of these, on " The Sweetness
of Jesus," is very tender and beautiful; another, on
** The Love of Jesus," likens love to a fire which cleanses
us from sin, and joins man to Gk>d. But since worship
had not yet come to be offered through the vernacular, it
is all but certain that such hymns were only for private
reading and meditation.

Before the seventeenth century, there is much noble
sacred English poetry^ but few, if any hymns capable of
being sung in the congregation. And these poems, as it
has been well said, were "too subtle and fanciful ever
to come home to the hearts of the people. They were
written for a choice few to enjoy. They were full of
those subtle allusions, half the pleasure of which consists
in the ingenuity required to understand as well as to
invent them. Such hymns could never be sung, like
Luther's, by little children at Christmas, or become a


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nation's battle-song, or sweetly distil peace at moments
when heart and flesh failed, and mortal effort was im-
possible; when the soul had lost its power to cling to
anything. The verses of this period bear witness to the
piety or the poetical power of the writers rather than
to the faith of the times." This is true, especially when
the general ignorance of the people of that time is taken
into acconnt. The spread of education has, however,
now quickened intelligence, and made men capable of
appreciating a style of hymn which, in earlier times,
would have been beyond them. This will account for the
presence, in our hymnals, of verses known in early times
only to those of the literary class ; whilst, in addition
to this, it must be [remembered that the habit of these
earlier times was to look to one hymnist rather than to a
multitude for the provision of hymns for worship. Indeed,
the really hymn-singing ' age was not yet, and did not
begin till the time of Watts. But still, scattered over
the then existing English literature, there were the
materials for a good, if not a large book of worship-song.
It remained for our own age to search out and utilise
these overlooked and neglected treasures.

The hymn, " Lord, turn not Thy face from me,"
attributed [by some to John Mardley, and by others
to John Marckant, and belonging to about the middle
of the 16th century, is probably the earliest really
English hymn to be found in our present-day hymnals.
Sir Egerton Brydges is inclined to attribute some versions
of the Psalms in Stemhold and Hopkins signed M. to
Mardley. The hymn to which we have referred is not
without merit. It is usually given in the variation of
Bishop Heber. Here is the original : —


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O Lofd, turn not Thy face from me,

Who lie in woefbl state,
Lamentinff all my woeful life,

Before Thy mercy-gate ;

A gate which opens wide to those

That do lament their sin :
Shut not that gate against me, Lord,

But let me enter in.

And call me not to strict account.

How I have sc^oumed here.
For then my guuty conscience knows

How vile I shall appear.

So come I to Thy mercy gate,

Where mercy doth abound ;
Imploring pardon for my sin,

To held my deadly wound.

Mercy, good Lord, mercy I ask.

This is the total sum';
For mer<^. Lord, is all my suit:

O let Thy mercy come.

George Sandys (1577-1643), is a mnch more notable
contributor to hymnody. Dryden called him "the best
versifier of his age." He wrote " a Paraphrase npon the
Psalms of David, and upon the hymns dispersed through-
out the Old and New Testaments," and a poetical version
of the Song of Solomon. The most notable of his
renderings is of the 61st Psalm, beginning "Happy sons
of Israel."

George Wither (1588-1667), wrote too much, it is true,
but scattered over his writings are hymns that are likely
to retain their place in the song of the Church. The
best known are ** Come, come, with sacred lays ;"
" The Lord is King, and weareth," a version of the 93rd
Psalm; and "Lord, living here are we," a hymn for the
anniversary of marriage — quaint and beautiful, and not
unlike to George Herbert. It is so little known that I
append it : —


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Lord, liyiDg here are we,

As (kst nnited yet,
Ab when onr handfl and hearts by Thee

Together fint were knit !

And in a thankful song

Now ring we will Thy praise,
For that Thou dost aa well prolong

Our loving aa onr days.

Together we have now

Begun another year,
Bnt how much time Thou wilt allow

Thou mak'st it not appear.

We therefore do implore

That live and love we may
Still 80, aa if but one day more

Together we should stay.

Let each of other's wealth

Preserve a fiuthful care,
And of each other's joy and health

As if one soul we were.

Such oonsdenoe let us make

Each other not to grieve,
As if we daily were to take

Our everlasting leave.

The frowardness that springs

From our corrupted kind.
Or from those troublous outward things

Which may distract the mind;

Permit Thou not, O Lord,

Our constant love to shake,
Or to disturb our true accord,

Or make our hearts to ache.

But let these frailties prove

Affection's exercise.
And that discretion teach our love

Which wins the noblest prize.

So time which wears away

And ruins all things dse,
Shall fix our love on Thee for aye,

In whom perfection dweUs.

Robert Herrick (bom 1591) is better known by the
secular poetry of his " Hesperides," than by bis contri-
butions to sacred song, which are included in ''Noble
Numbers," but his "Litany to the Holy Spirit," though


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containmg verses ill adapted for public worship, as will
be seen below, yet is in parts tender and beautiful.

In the hour of my dUtress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I

When 1 lie within my bed,
Sick in heart and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep.
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I

When the artless doctor sees
No one hope, but of his fees.
And his skill runs on the lees,

Sweet Spirit, comlort me I

When his potion and his pill,
Is of none or little skill.
Meet for nothing but to kill.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I

When the passing-bell doth toU,
And the furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I

When the tapers now bum blue.
And the comforters are few.
And that number more than true.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the priest his last hath prayed.
And I nod to what is said
'Cause my speech is now decayed.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I

When, God knows, I'm tossed about.
Either with despair or doubt.
Yet, before the glass be out.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tempter me punmeth
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me I


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When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,

Sweet Spint, comfort me I

When the Judgment is revealed.
And that opened which was sealed.
When to thee I have appealed.

Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

George Herbert, the model parish priest of Bemerton,

is better known as a writer of sacred poetry — quaint and

suggestive in character — ^than as a writer of hymns ; but

in his well-known book, "The Temple," verses so

lovely are found, that, with slight alterations, they have

been pressed into the service of the Church's song.

Examples may be found in his rendering of the 23rd

Psalm, beginning " The Gtod of Love my Shepherd is,"

"Let all the world in every comer sing," and "Teach me,

my God and King," called " The Elixir." We append

the second of these : —

Let all the world in every comer sing
My God and King I
The heavens are not too high ;
His praise may thither fly :
The earth is not too low ;
His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every comer sing
My God and King I

Let all the world in eveiy comer sing
My God and King I
The Church with psalms must shout :
No door can keep them out :
But, above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every comer sing
My God and King I

Parts of a poem called "Discipline," beginning " Throw

away Thy rod," have been included in certain hymnals,

but they are, in our judgment, not suited for singing, and

are scarcely compatible with high thoughts of the Divine

discipline of men.


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Bishop Cosin finds a place among the hymnists by his
rendering of the **Veni, Creator, Spiritus," beginning
" Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire," incorporated into
the Ordination Service of the English Prayer Book ; the
only hymn which has found a place in the venerable
Liturgy of that Church.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), the well-known
author of the ^'Eeligio Medici," is known in religious
circles even better by his lovely Evening Hymn, ** The
night is come; like to the day," than he is by his famous
book. As this hymn probably contcdns the germ out of
which Bishop Ken's far better known Evening Hymn
grew, I append it, that readers may judge for themselves
to what extent Ken was indebted to the hymn of tho

Online LibraryWilliam Garrett HorderThe hymn lover: an account of the rise and growth of English hymnody → online text (page 6 of 37)