Monday, January 31, 2011

Bernard Barton

Bernard Barton (January 31, 1784 - February 19, 1849) was known in England as the Quaker Poet, years before John Greenleaf Whittier gained that attribution in this country.

Born in Carlisle, in northwest England, into a Quaker family, he eventually settled on a career in banking. His first book of poetry, Metrical Effusions, was published in 1812. Several succeeding volumes over the next sixteen years would help him establish friendships with other famous poets of the day such as Robert Southey and Charles Lamb. It was Lamb who gave him some advice when Barton was considering leaving his position at Alexanders' Bank in Suffolk to support himself through his writing. "Keep to yous bank, and the bank will keep you." So Barton would remain at that same Suffolk bank until his death. After 1828 his books of poetry became less frequent until 1845, when his Household Verses appeared to great acclaim and success.

Many of Barton's poems that later appeared in hymnals are from his Devotional Verses (1826). Today's hymn was probably his most well-known, which finds in more than 200 hymnals, but only two published since 1978. Still, it's probably remembered by many.

Lamp of our feet, whereby we trace
Our path when wont to stray;
Stream from the fount of heav’nly grace,
Brook by the traveler’s way.

Bread of our souls whereon we feed,
True manna from on high;
Our guide and chart wherein we read
Of realms beyond the sky.

Pillar of fire, through watches dark,
Or radiant cloud by day;
When waves would break our tossing bark,
Our anchor and our stay.

Yet to unfold thy hidden worth,
Thy myst'ries to reveal,
That Spirit which first gave thee forth,
Thy volume must unseal.

God, grant us all aright to learn
The wisdom it imparts,
And to its gracious teaching turn
With simple, childlike hearts.

Bernard Barton, 1826
William Henry Havergal, 1846

I think that, in some places today, hymns about the Scriptures themselves are sometimes seen as "singing to the Bible" and are less likely to be found in hymnals. But here I think you could make a broader case; that Barton was talking about the concept of the Word of God and not, strictly speaking, about words on a page.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

The great Apostle, called by grace,
Turned from his wrath aside,
Preached the same faith he once abhorred,
And Christ, whom he denied.

In perils and in troubles oft,
His new-made life he passed;
And God who turned his heart at first,
Upheld him to the last.

A chosen vessel of God's will,
He fought the fight of faith;
And gained the crown of righteousness,
Obedient unto death.

Thus, God of grace, to do thy will,
Thy people may we be;
And follow ever in Paul's steps,
E'en as he followed thee.

Henry Alford, 1845; alt.
Scottish Psalter, 1615

Monday, January 24, 2011

John Mason Neale

John Mason Neale (January 24, 1818 - August 6, 1866) is, in some ways, a sort of godparent to this blog. His birthday today is one day after the anniversary of the first posting here in 2009, and, as you may remember, the title up there at the top of the page comes from one of his translated hymns.

Looking at a listing of his hymns, I am reminded of several that have already appeared here and several more that I expect to write about in the months (years?) to come. Most of his texts were translations from Latin or Greek, or any of the other languages he had mastered, and any familiarity with ancient hymn texts that we have in our own time is largely due to his work.

This short hymn is from a text (Rer­um De­us ten­ax vi­gor) ascribed to Ambrose of Milan, the fourth century bishop who was one of the original four Doctors of the Church, so called because of their importance in establishing Christian doctrine. It was an evening hymn in the Liturgy of the Hours.

O God, creation’s secret force,
Thyself unmoved, all motion’s source,
Who from the morn till evening ray
Through all its changes guid’st the day:

Grant us, when this our life is past,
The glorious evening that shall last;
That, by your holy grace attained,
Eternal glory may be gained.

Mighty Creator, hear my cry
Through Christ our Savior, ever nigh,
Who with the Holy Ghost and thee
Doth live and reign eternally.

Ambrose of Milan, 4th cent.
tr. John Mason Neale, 1852; alt.
William B. Bradbury, 1855

I've mentioned before that I think this tune by William B. Bradbury might have been meant to suggest a chant melody.

So we're beginning our fourth year here. Posting has been a bit sparse for the last few weeks, but I am making some plans for some new and different things in the upcoming year, and there are still plenty of hymns and hymnists to write about. Hope you continue to come back to see what's attracting my interest each week in the world of hymnody.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

However Long the Journey

O star of Truth, down-shining,
Through clouds of doubt and fear,
I ask beneath thy guidance
My pathway may appear.
However long the journey,
However hard it be,
Though I be lone and weary,
Lead on, I follow thee.

I know thy bless├Ęd radiance
Can never lead astray,
Though ancient creed and custom
May point some other way.
E’en if through untrod desert,
Or over trackless sea,
Though I be lone and weary,
Lead on, I follow thee.

Minot Judson Savage, 1883; alt.
Neuvermehrtes Gesangbuch, 1693
harm. Felix Mendelssohn, 1847

Two Years Ago: Phillips Brooks

Sunday, January 16, 2011

As Christ, the Morning Star

The Epiphany season continues in many churches, with lessons about Christ revealing his glory to the world. The image of Jesus as the Morning Star comes from Revelation 22:16, and we know it from another popular hymn often sung during this season. This text is even earlier, and still appears in Lutheran hymnals.

The Savior sent from heaven,
Foretold by ancient seers,
By our Creator given,
In human form appears.
No sphere his light confining,
No star so brightly shining,
As Christ, our Morning Star.

O time of God appointed,
O bright and holy morn!
The Sovereign One anointed,
The Christ, the virgin-born,
Grim death to vanquish for us,
To open heav'n before us,
And bring us life again.

Awaken now our spirit
To know and love you more,
In faith to stand unshaken,
In spirit to adore,
That we, through this world moving,
Each glimpse of heaven proving,
May reap in fullness there.

Creator, here before you,
With God the Holy Ghost,
And Jesus, we adore you,
O pride of angel-host.
Before you mortals lowly
Cry "Holy, Holy, Holy,"
Eternal Trinity!

Elizabeth Cruciger, 1524
tr. Arthur Tozer Russell, 1851; alt.
Erfurt Enchiridion, 1524

Elizabeth Cruciger was the first Lutheran woman to write hymns. Born around 1500, she married Caspar Cruciger, a student of Martin Luther whom Luther encouraged and helped in various ways. Elizabeth also became a friend of Luther's wife Katherine. This text appeared in the Enchiridion, published in Erfurt in 1524, one of the first Protestant hymnals, and Luther later included it in some of his own hymn collections. It was first translated into English by Arthur Tozer Russell in his Psalms and Hymns (1851), an Anglican hymnbook.

The tune was selected by Cruciger hersself, but it was based on an older German folk tune often matched with the secular text Mein Freud mocht such wohl mehren. Like many other chorale melodies set down in the Enchiridion, it was used by Johann Sebastian Bach in some of his cantatas and organ works.

Two Years Ago: Wisdom eternal, brooding o'er creation

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Feast of the Epiphany

Today's Feast of the Epiphany marks the visit of the "three kings" to the baby Jesus and his parents, told in Matthew 2:1-12, though as you can see they aren't called kings there, nor are there said to be three of them.

Another important part of the story is the star that led them on their journey, which always appears in the hymns for this day. Its appearance was foretold in Numbers 24:17, which reads in part: There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, which many will recognize from a popular Epiphany anthem by Felix Mendelssohn.

Today's hymn was written in Latin (Quae stella sole pulchrior) by Charles Coffin and appeared in the Roman Catholic Paris Breviary (1736). It was translated by John Chandler a century later though it has been much altered since.

What star is this, with beams so bright,
More beauteous than the noonday light?
It shines to herald forth the Word.
Of whom the nations long have heard.

True spake the prophet from afar
Who told the rise of this bright star:
And eastern sages with amaze
Upon the wondrous token gaze.

The guiding star above is bright:
Within them shines a clearer light,
And leads them on with power benign
To seek the Giver of the sign.

Their love can brook no dull delay,
Though toil and danger block the way;
Home, kindred, native land, and all
They leave at their Creator's call.

To God our Maker, heav'nly Light,
To Christ, revealed to earthly sight,
And to the Holy Spirit, raise
Our equal and unceasing praise.

Charles Coffin, 1736
tr. John Chandler, 1837; alt.
Michael Praetorius, 1609
harm. George Woodward, 1901

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

That Night In the Long Ago

You may recall that last year I celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas here at CWS with a daily Christmas selection, including several that had likely not been sung anywhere for many years. I decided not to continue that this year (though I certainly would not have run out of things to present), but you can revisit them yourself through the archive links at the right.

Here, on the twelfth day of this Christmas season, I have one last song that I stumbled upon this week. I found it while looking through The Royal Hymnal for the Sunday School (1899) for something else entirely. I don't think I can even explain why I like it; it's a bit like the near-ragtime Easter song from several months ago (harmonically if not rhythmically), and I think it would be fun to sing at least once.

Do you know the song that the angels sang
On that night in the long ago,
When the heav'ns above with their music rang
Till it echoed in the earth below?

All glory in the highest,
Peace on earth, goodwill to all,
Glory, glory in the highest,
(In the highest, glory, glory)
Glory in the highest,
Glory in the highest,
Peace on earth, goodwill to all.

Do you know the song that the shepherds heard
As they watched o’er their flocks by night,
When the skies bent down, and their hearts were stirred
By the voices of the angels bright?

Do you know the song that the sages learned
As they journeyed from the east afar,
O’er a pathway plain, as there nightly burned
In the heights a glorious guiding star?

Abner P. Cobb, 1893; alt.
SONG IN THE NIGHT (Irregular with refrain)
James H. Fillmore, Sr., 1893

P.S. The painting above is from Song of the Angels (1881) by the French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Elizabeth Rundle Charles

Today is the birthday of Elizabeth Rundle Charles, born in 1838 in Tavistock, in the county of Devon. She was raised in the Church of England, and would write more than twenty-five books, including several popular books on various aspects of church history.

Her hymns and poems were published in several different places, and she also translated several hymns from various languages. This text comes from her collection The Women of the Gospels: The Three Wakings and Other Poems (1859).

Come and rejoice with me!
For once my heart was poor;
But I have found a treasury
Of love, an endless store.

Come and rejoice with me!
For I have found a Friend
Who knows my heart's most secret depths
Yet loves me without end.

I knew not of this love
Which God had loved so long,
This love, so faithful and so deep,
So tender and so strong.

And now I know it all,
Have heard and known God's Voice,
And hear it still from day to day --
Can I enough rejoice?

Elicabeth Rundle Charles, 1859; alt.
John Goss, 1872

That same collection also contained a poem entitled New Years' Hymn, probably not a surprising topic for her to write about given her birthday. Its first stanza reads:

What marks the dawning of the year
From any other morn?
No festal garb doth Nature wear
Because a Year is born.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Year With Thee

I've written before on this date how hymnwriter Frances Ridley Havergal had an annual New Years' custom of sending a new poem to her many correspondents. Many of these then received wider distribution in her various collections of verse and some have even made their way into hymnals. Today's hymn may be the most well-known of these, from 1874.

Another year is dawning,
Creator, let it be
In working or in waiting,
Another year with thee.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness
In the shining of thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service,
Of witness for thy love,
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning,
Creator, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for thee.

Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874; alt.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864

Two Years Ago: Bessie Porter Head