William Henry Havergal, born today in 1793, may have been one of the people most responsible for the immense surge in hymn singing in England in the middle of the nineteenth century. He and Henry J. Gauntlett worked to adapt and arrange older melodies, such as psalm tunes and chorales from Germany into the four-part harmonies that we still sing today (much like Lowell Mason was doing in the United States). He composed a number of original hymn tunes and also wrote hymn texts.
Havergal was ordained in the Church of England in 1816, serving several churches, the longest in Astley, a village in Worcestershire, where he is buried.
Today's hymn has both a text by Havergal as well as one of his arrangements, adapted from a sixteenth-century German melody.
To praise our Shepherd's care,
His wisdom, love, and might,
Your loudest, loftiest songs prepare,
And bid the world unite.
Supremely good and great,
He tends his earthly fold;
And stoops, though throned in highest state,
The weary to uphold.
He hears their softest plaint,
Follows them when they roam;
And if one single lamb should faint,
His bosom bears it home.
Kind Shepherd of the sheep,
A faithful flock are we,
And snares and foes are nigh, but keep
The lambs who look to thee.
William Henry Havergal, 19th cent.; alt.
Tune: NARENZA (S.M.)
Catholicum Hymnologium, 1584;
arr. William Henry Havergal, 1847
One of his daughters, Frances Ridley Havergal, followed in his line of work as a writer of hymns and composer of tunes. Havergal is now mostly remembered for his tunes rather than his texts, while the texts of Frances are most familiar and her tunes are all but unknown. Following Havergal's death in 1870, Frances edited a collection of his tunes and arrangements which was published in 1871.
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