Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Like Bells At Evening Pealing

I've thought for a while that we just do not have enough variety in the hymns we sing at Evensong (which we have twice a month from September through May). It seems like every other time we sing either Christ, mighty Savior, O Trinity of blessed light, or O gracious light, Lord Jesus Christ). Admittedly, some that we don't usually sing are slightly twee, as the Brits say (Now the day is over). And the main reason there aren't as many evening hymns in contemporary hymnals as there used to be is that fewer churches have any sort of evening worship. I've looked in older hymnals from time to time for something to resurrect, but many of those hymns suffer from excessive sentimentality (like Hark, hark my soul).

But here's one that I came across in an 1848 hymnal (A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion) that seems fairly acceptable. The language is slightly, but not overly archaic. And it just happens to match pretty well to a tune of T. Tertius Noble (the guy from the other day).

How shall we praise thee, Lord of light!
How shall we all thy love declare!
The earth is veiled in shades of night,
But heav'n is open to our prayer.

That heav'n so bright with stars and suns,
That glorious heav'n which has no bound,
Where the full tide of being runs,
And life and beauty glow around.

We would adore thee, God sublime,
Whose power and wisdom, love and grace,
Are greater than the round of time,
And wider than the bounds of space.

Help us to praise thee, Lord of light!
Help us thy boundless love declare;
And, while we fill thy courts tonight,
Aid us, and hearken to our prayer.

John Bowring, date unknown
T. Tertius Noble, c.1900

You may notice - no alt.! In the old days we would have changed "Lord" but I'm a little more flexible now. I generally like alliteration, and as long as "Lord" is only one of the many names of God, and is not used in 90% of all hymns, I don't mind using it now and then.

The arching lines of Noble's tune and the (admittedly) high range seem appropriate for a hymn that aspires to heaven and talks about the attributes of God being "wider than the bounds of space."

I doubt that this hymn is in any modern hymnal, but in these days of music notation software there's no reason why it couldnt be used.

P.S. The most perfect evening hymn (and probably the biggest crowdpleaser), is here. We don't sing it very often, though. I assumed that someone in authority believed it to be too "vulgar" for our Anglo-Catholic worship, though I've been told that isn't the case.


Dorothy said...

I really do like the words to your latest "find." But I love "Abide With Me." I guess I am part of the crowd.

C.W.S. said...

Sometimes the crowd is absolutely correct! If we sang Abide with me at every third Evensong service I would have no objection. The modern ones we do frequently hold no such charm or interest.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

"Abide with me, fast falls the eventide" is a wonderful hymn, which I agree we (like you) don't sing enough. But I think we feel it is more a funereal than a merely evening hymn, though I'm not sure that's a useful distinction. Incidentally, it's almost universally sung to the Monk tune, but there is a tune proper by Lyte himself, available on the Cyber Hymnal page you linked.

Leland aka Haruo