Henry Francis Lyte was born today in 1793, near the Scottish village of Kelso. His father deserted the family when Lyte was a boy, and his mother died shortly after. Young Henry was at the time attending Portora Royal School in Ireland, and the headmaster there adopted him unofficially.
Following Portora he studied at Trinity College in Dublin and was ordained in the Church of England in 1815. After serving at a few other country parishes he settled in Lower Brixham in 1823, where he was employed at All Saints Church until poor health forced his retirement in 1844.
Lyte is primarily remembered for his two most popular hymns, Abide with me and Praise, my soul, the King of heaven, though he wrote several others. That latter hymn first appeared in a collection by Lyte called Spirit of the Psalms (1834) which contained 65 psalm paraphrases, many of which were subsequently used in various hymnals. In the introduction to the book, he wrote: Poetry and music are never better employed than when they unite in the celebration of the praises of God. The first edition of the book was published anonymously, but it proved very successful, and Lyte eventually took credit for it. His paraphrases were compared favorably to those of Isaac Watts written a hundred years earlier, though they are not much known today.
This is Lyte's version of Psalm 46. One reason it is not generally sung today is that there is a much more familiar hymn based on that psalm, if one is called for.
God is our Refuge, tried and proved
Amid a stormy world;
We will not fear though earth be moved
And hills to ocean hurled.
The waves may roar, the mountains shake,
Our comfort shall not cease;
For God the world will not forsake,
And God will give us peace.
A gentle stream of hope and love
To us shall ever flow;
It issues from God's throne above,
And cheers the saints below.
When earth and hell against us came,
God spoke, and quelled their powers;
Eternal God is still the same,
The God of grace is ours.
Henry Francis Lyte, 1830; alt.
Tune: SINAI (C.M.)
Joseph Barnby, 19th cent.
Two Years Ago: Henry Francis Lyte