Sunday, June 21, 2009

Whose Glories Now We Sing

OK, here we go -- the previously unrevealed Number Seven on the top ten list I submitted to the survey at Semicolon. Numbers 82 - 100 have been counted down thus far, and I feel fairly certain that this one will yet make the list. It's also on the list submitted by Leland (he ranked it at Number Six), so at least two of us voted for it. However, like many other hymns presented here, it won't be quite the way you remember it.

Crown thee with many crowns,
The Lamb upon the throne;
Hark how the heav'nly anthem drowns
All music but its own;
Our souls awake to sing
Sweet praises unto thee,
To hail thee, voices echoing
Through all eternity.

Crown thee the Child of God
Before the worlds began,
Who know'st the paths that we have trod,
According to God's plan;
Who ev'ry grief hath known
That wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for thine own
That all in thee may rest.

Crown thee the God of life
Who triumphed o'er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
For those thou cam'st to save;
Whose glories now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown thee the God of years,
The Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres,
Ineffably sublime;
Glass'd in a sea of light,
Whose everlasting waves
Reflect thy throne -- the Infinite!
Who lives and loves and saves,.

Crown thee the God of peace,
Whose pow'r a sceptre sways
From pole to pole that wars may cease,
Absorbed in prayer and praise;
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou dost live in me;
Thy praise shall never, never fail
Throughout eternity.

Crown thee the God of heav'n,
Enthroned in worlds above;
Crown thee the One to whom is giv'n
The wondrous name of Love;
Crown thee with many crowns
As thrones before thee fall;
We crown thee, Christ, with many crowns,
Who rulest over all.

Matthew Bridges, 1851 and Godfrey Thring, 1874; alt.

George Job Elvey, 1868

This is a composite version of this hymn that merges verses by two different writers. The original version in six verses was by Matthew Bridges, published in the second edition of his collection Hymns for the Heart (1851). Bridges was originally an Anglican, but converted to Roman Catholicism as a young man. It may be for that reason that Godfrey Thring was asked some years later to revise the hymn. He wrote a number of other verses, which first appeared in Church Hymns (1874) and Thring's own Church of England Hymnbook (1882). Since that time many different hymnals have used verses from both versions, always beginning with Bridges' first verse (Thring's opening verse began Crown him with crowns of gold), though there are still hymnals which use only Bridges' verses. Most modern hymnals (nearly all of which still include this hymn, as you'd probably guess) use only four or five verses, but we wanted at least six.

George Elvey composed DIADEMATA, certainly one reason for the continued popularity of this hymn, for the Bridges text in the 1868 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

And I feel safe in saying that the text Sherry posts will have the original incipit intact. ;-) Since I don't share your drive to emasculate the Lamb ;-) I will keep "him" in the incipit on this one, as I'm sure she will. This is not because I oppose gender-neutral singing about Jesus, but simply because (I confess) I know this one by heart, and like it as I learned it. I don't know all the verses by heart, but I'd rather keep the parallel rather than jump around amongst persons, numbers and genders. If you're going to change it, I applaud you for sticking with "thee".

Other texts I see set to DIADEMATA include …
Christ, the eternal Lord (© Hope),
Come, Friends, with joy surround (a Quaker hymn, © 1995)
Give to the winds thy fears (also set to ST. BRIDE, FESTAL SONG, SCHUMANN, ICELAND, OLMUTZ, and STEVENS!)
God, bless your church with strength (© 1990, as an alternative to ICH HALTE TREULICH STILL; 1990 Presyterian Hymnal)
Make me a captive, Lord (also set to LLANLLYFNI, PARADOXY, ST BRIDE, and TRENTHAM)
Maker, in whom we live
No prison wall can hold
Now, in the days of youth (also set to ICELAND)
Peace in our time, O Lord (also set to PAX IAM)
Praise to the living God (not the version of the Yigdal that starts that way; this one is in the New Century Hymnal)
Soldiers of Christ, Arise (also set to BEALOTH, BUCKLANDS, and SILVER STREET)
Sow in the morn thy seed and
Teach me, O Lord, I pray (© 1959 Broadman) …
so this is obviously a powerful tune that in addition to being overwhelmingly the tune of choice for "Crown him/thee with many crowns"—the only other one (vs. 34 occurrences of the text with DIADEMATA) in my list is NEVIN'S PROCESSIONAL, to which it is set in the 1917 New Baptist Praise Book, is also the predominant tune for several other texts of some currency. There is only one case in my list to date where DIADEMATA is one of the choices without being the dominant choice.

In addition to gender issues, I'm disinclined to shrink from either monarchical imagery or substitutionary atonement through blood sacrifice, both of which your version substitutes gentler words for. Regardless, it's a grand hymn and deserves a spot in the top ten (let alone the top hundred) I think.

C.W.S. said...

Just as Godfrey Thring was asked to rewrite Bridges' original for reasons of theology, so too was this version redone.

Guess I should have made the parallel clearer.

I have never claimed that the hymns from this blog should replace the ones in anyone's hymnal; as doctrine varies from denomination to denomination, so too should the primary reinforcers of those doctrines. I think sometimes it's assumed that these changes are my personal versions, but in fact there were specific editorial and theological guidelines that we followed, and many of these hymns were sung around the world in different MCC congregations.

We used DIADEMATA for three different texts: this one, Give to the winds your fears (see March 12 of this year), and Peace in our time, O God (still under copyright), which I think deserves to be as widely known as God of grace and God of glory as another of the finest hymns of the twentieth century.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

In a general way I favor retention of well-known incipits and common titles, as a courtesy to index-browsers like myself ;-), but yes, theology often motivates changes even in these parts of a hymn. And it's true I tend to think of these as "your" versions rather than "MCC's" versions, even though I know that's where you got many of them. But you often mention that you have further emended the texts from that MCC project before posting them here. So I never assume that what I see is what the MCC Hymnal Project decided on.

I'm an eclecticist, myself. In the October Good Shepherd hymn sing, I'm planning on using your text for the Hudson yoke song, i.e. "God's" rather than "His" yoke is easy... But when I have a text thoroughly committed to memory, I find it distracting from worship to be asked to sing slightly different words. Of course, I can also go the other way: at Fremont Baptist we usually sing "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow", with its traditional Thomas Ken text, but I usually sing "... Praise God, all creatures here below / Praise God above, ye heavenly host / Creator, Savior, Holy Ghost. Amen"

Incidentally, I see an error in my list of DIADEMATA alternatives. I listed "Peace in our time, O Lord" (the Oxenham hymn, which I agree is a great text) as also set to PAX IAM; however, that is a different hymn (© 1971 Broadman), with a different meter, so DIADEMATA and PAX IAM are not reciprocal substitutes.

AuntE said...

I always think of my father when I see, sing or hear this hymn. It was one of his favourites, and we sang it many years on Easter. (We didn't observe Christ the King Sun. in that denomination and nowadays, I tend to keep it to use that week.)

It appears that Leland and I share some sentiments. I enjoy singing from memory - it's much easier when I'm playing at the same time - and I find it distracting and maybe even a little annoying to try to watch for changes in gender etc. in the words.

I'm unfamiliar with most of the texts cited as being used with DIADEMATA. Actually, for me this is one of those tunes I'd find difficult to use with any words other than Bridges's and/or Thrings.