Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jessie Seymour Irvine

Born on this day in 1836, Jessie Irvine was the daughter of a Scottish clergyman. As a young student of the organ, she wrote a tune which was later published in the Northern Psalter (1872) called CRIMOND, harmonized by David Grant. The tune was assumed to be Grant's for many years, and it was not until the Scottish Psalter of 1929 that Irvine was finally credited as the composer. I've found no reference to any other compositions by her.

Though it was not the original text used for this tune, this paraphrase of Psalm 23 is now the most widely used for CRIMOND.

Thou art my Shepherd, I’ll not want.
Thou makest me down to lie
In pastures green; thou leadest me
The quiet waters by.

My soul thou dost restore again;
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
Even for thine own Name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk in death’s sad vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me; and thy rod
And staff my comfort still.

My table thou hast furnish├Ęd
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house forevermore
My dwelling place shall be.

Scottish Psalter, 1650; adapt. 1990
Tune: CRIMOND (C.M.)
Jessie Seymour Irvine; harm, David Grant, 1872

This hymn is believed to be a favorite of Queen Elizabeth; it was sung at her wedding in 1947. It has appeared in many hymnals, and as I've said before, appears to be the oldest hymn tune written by a woman that remains in wide use today.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

That's a good change to the incipit, I'm glad it is not modernized.

I just got a copy of the 1996 Quaker hymnal Worship in Song: A Friends' Hymnal, from the Hymn Society book service (it seems to be out of print everywhere else, and the cheapest used copy I could locate was twice the HS's new price), and that's one of the wonderful things in it, the (quite Friendly) refusal to eschew the thees and thous.

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Though I generally like the inclusiveness of The New Century Hymnal (to name just one modern one) I don't at all like their modernization of the texts, which really ruins the poetry in many cases. If kids still have to read Shakespeare in school (which I hope is the case) they've seen "thee" and "thou" before.

The original of this hymn mixes the "he" of the first verses with the "thou" of the later ones, making it easy to alter. Any good writing teacher would probably say that they shouldn't be mixed anyway, but it's a "mistake" that goes all the way back to the Psalm (in most translations, I guess). But I hear that that David guy was always kind of a rule breaker.