Friday, March 2, 2012

John Samuel Bewley Monsell

Today is the 101st birthday of John Samuel Bewley Monsell, born in Londonderry in 1811, the son of an archdeacon. He attended Trinity College in Dublin and was ordained in 1834, serving several parishes in Ireland before coming to England in 1853.

From 1870-1875 he was the rector of
St. Nicolas' Church in Guildford and was also chaplain to Queen Victoria during that time. He became interested in the Oxford Movement (that influence can be seen in some of his hymn texts) but never converted to Roman Catholicism as some Anglicans did in his time.

He published eleven volumes of poetry, which included approximately 300 hymns (about a third of which are listed at the
Cyber Hymnal), some of which are still sung today. We have seen one here a while back: Christ is risen! Alleluia! One of his most well-known hymns is Fight the good fight with all thy might, and this is possibly the other, first published in Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church's Year (1863).

On our way rejoicing,
As we homeward move,
Hearken to our praises,
O thou God of love!
Is there grief or sadness?
Thou our joy shalt be;
Is our sky beclouded?
There is light in thee.

On our way rejoicing,
As we onward move,
Hearken to our praises,
O thou God of love!

If with honest hearted
Love for God and all,
Day by day thou find us
Answering thy call,
Thou who giv’st the seed time,
Wilt give large increase,
Crown the head with blessings,
Fill the heart with peace.


On our way rejoicing
Gladly let us go;
Conquered hath our Leader,
Vanquished is the foe!
Christ without, our safety,
Christ within, our joy;
Who, if we be faithful,
Can our hope destroy?


Unto God the Maker
Joyful songs we sing;
Unto God the Savior
Thankful hearts we bring;
Unto God the Spirit
Bow we and adore;
On our way rejoicing
Now and evermore.


John Samuel Bewley Monsell, 1863; alt.
Tune: HERMAS ( with refrain)
Frances Ridley Havergal, 1871

This is probably Havergal's most well-known tune, though I have found more than a dozen others composed by her that have not appeared in any hymnals in the last century.

Monsell died in 1875 durinig the construction of the current church building of his parish of St. Nicolas, though I have read at least three different accounts of exactly how it happened. He either fell from the roof, fell from a boulder at the site, or was struck by falling masonry, and died from a subsequent infection. And these accounts are all from pre-internet sources, so we can't blame Wikipedia!

Three Years Ago: All beautiful the march of days

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