Sunday, August 28, 2011

William Hiley Bathurst

William Hiley Bathurst, born today in 1796, was ordained in the Church of England in 1819 following his graduation from Oxford, and served as the rector of a Yorkshire church for thirty-two years.

He was a fairly prolific hymnwriter, though not many of his texts are known today. In 1831 he published Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use, which collected more than three hundred of his hymns and psalm paraphrases (only 18 texts in the book, all psalm paraphrases, are not by Bathurst).

He left the Anglican Church and retired from his parish in 1852 because he had developed doubts about the rites of the church as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer for baptism and burial.

O for that flame of living fire,
Which shone so bright in saints of old!
Which bade their souls to heav’n aspire,
Calm in distress, in danger bold.

Grant us that Spirit, God, which dwelt
In Abram’s breast, and sealed him thine,
Which made Paul’s heart with sorrow melt,
And glow with energy divine.

That Spirit which eternally,
Proclaimed thy love, and taught thy law,
Led to Christ's tomb those women three
And changed their sorrow into awe.

Is not thy grace as mighty now
As when Elijah felt its power;
When glory beamed from Moses’ brow,
Or Job endured the trying hour?

When Miriam, faithful unto death,
Led Israel's children through the wild,
Or Sarah and Elizabeth
Received a long-awaited child?

Remember, God, the ancient days;
Renew thy work; thy grace restore;
As still today our hearts we raise,
On us thy Holy Spirit pour.

William Hiley Bathurst, 1831; adapt. C.W.S. 1993
Pensum Sacrum, 1648;
harm. J.S. Bach, 18th cent.

As you probably noticed, this text is not exactly as Bathurst wrote it. Like most of the hymns we know which talk about people from the Bible, his text included only men. (There were older hymns written about the women of the Scriptures, as we have seen here and here, among others, but these texts have not survived in modern hymnals.) My revision replaced Isaiah and David in stanza three and added the new stanza five, reminding us that God's Spirit was poured on several women as well.

Two Years Ago: Ira David Sankey

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Tempests As They Blow

It's been raining here for the last few hours, with much more predicted to come overnight and into tomorrow. Hurricane Irene has already caused death and destruction with more to come, probably, as it approaches New York City. Many churches in the Northeast have cancelled services tomorrow as the storm is predicted to be at its height during the morning hours, so don't forget to pray for those affected as you worship tomorrow in other places.

Looking around the internet today I came upon
this blog post from several years ago by the Reverend Scott Wells, a Christian Universalist minister who writes at Boy in the Bands. I had been thinking about Eternal Father, strong to save but it wasn't exactly what I wanted. This, too, isn't quite what we might sing today but it has some interesting ideas (I especially like the final stanza). Given that the East Coast felt an earthquake this week too (small though it was), the first line of the second stanza jumped out at me too.

Amid surrounding gloom and waste,
From nature’s face we flee;
And in our fear and wonder haste,
O nature’s Life, to thee!
Thy ways are in the mighty deep;
In tempests as they blow;
In floods that o’er our treasures sweep;
In lightning and the snow.

Though earth upon its axis reels,
And heaven is veiled in wrath;
Not one of nature’s milling wheels
Breaks its appointed path;
Fixed in thy grasp, the sources meet
Of beauty and of awe;
In storm or calm, all pulses beat
True to the central Law.

Thou art that Law, whose will be done,
In seeming wreck or blight,
Sends the calm planets round the sun,
And pours the moon’s soft light.
We trust thy love; thou best dost know
The universal peace;
How long the stormy force should blow,
And when the flood shall cease.

And though our path around some form
Of mystery ever lies,
And life is like the calm and storm
That checker earth and skies
Through all its mingling joy and dread,
Permit us, Holy One,
By faith to see the golden thread
Of thy great purpose done.

Edwin Hubble Chapin, 1871
Thomas Tallis, 16th cent.

Universalist minister Edwin Hubble Chapin was one of the editors of Hymns of Christian Devotion (1871), where some of his other hymn texts appeared with this one.

Two Years Ago: Thomas Gallaudet

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flora Hamilton Cassel

Today is the birthday of composer and songwriter Flora Hamilton Cassel (August 21, 1852 - November 17, 1911). She was raised in the Baptist church in Illinois (where her father was a minister) and learned to play the piano at a young age.

In 1873 she graduated from the Maplewood Institure in Pittsfield, MA (now a collection of
condo-miniums), where she had studied music, including piano and composition. She returned to Illinois and found a teaching position at Shurtleff College, where she later met and married her husband, Elijah Taylor Cassel.

The Cassels collaborated on several songs for Sunday School children, he writing the words and she the music. Later, Flora would go on to write
song texts of her own. This song was written by the duo for the first convention of the Baptist Young People's Union in 1894.

From over hill and plain there comes the signal strain,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Its music rolls along, the hills take up the song,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

“On to victory! On to victory!”
Cries our great commander, “On!”
We’ll move at this command,
And spread across the land,
In loyalty, loyalty,
Yes, loyalty to Christ.

O hear, ye brave, the sound that moves the earth around,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
Arise to dare and do, ring out the watchword true,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

The strength of youth we lay at Jesus’ feet today,
’Tis loyalty, loyalty, loyalty to Christ;
The Gospel we’ll proclaim, throughout the world’s domain,
Of loyalty, loyalty, yes, loyalty to Christ.

Elijah Taylor Cassell, 1894; alt.
LOYALTY TO CHRIST (6.6.12.D. with refrain)
Flora Hamilton Cassel; 1894

The Cassels had moved to Nebraska by this time, where Flora became the president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) chapter in Edgar, NE. She compiled and edited White Ribbon Vibrations (1890), a popular temperance hymnal, which included many of her own songs.

Flora died in 1911, killed in a buggy accident (like Clara Scott before her).

Three Years Ago: Civilla Durfee Martin (another wife-husband team of collaborators)

Two Years Ago: Alexander Reinagle

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saint Mary the Virgin

The feast day of Saint Mary the Virgin (also known as the Assumption) is celebrated today (or was perhaps yesterday) in some churches. Though the story of Mary rising bodily into heaven is not told in the Bible, it dates back several centuries. One theory of its origin is that, although the bones and relics of the apostolic saints were venerated as early as the second century, there never were any claims of finding relics of Mary; therefore, her earthly body was no longer in this world.

We sing this hymn every year in my church when celebrating this feast, though it is not quite as focused on Mary as it is on Jesus (which makes it equally as appropriate for the
Feast of the Presentation, when we also sing it). It is one of the posthumously-published hymns of Reginald Heber in his Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (1827).

Virgin-born, we bow before thee:
Blessed was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
Blessed was she in her Child.
Blessed was the breast that fed thee;
Blessed was the hand that led thee;
Blessed was the parent's eye
That watched thy slumbering infancy.

Blessed she by all creation,
Who brought forth the world's salvation,
And blessed they, for ever blest,
Who love thee most and serve thee best.
Virgin-born, we bow before thee;
Blessed was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
Blessed was she in her Child.

Reginald Heber, 1827
PSALM 86 (
Claude Goudimel, 1564; adapt. 20th cent.

The tune comes from composer Goudimel's setting of Psalm 86 for a sixteenth century French psalter, which he adapted from an earlier tune. It was later used by Gustav Holst in a choral setting os the same psalm.

Three Years Ago: Ye who claim the faith of Jesus

Two Years Ago:
Hail, holy Queen

One Year Ago:
Sing, sing ye angel bands

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Today is the 201st birthday of composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley, the grandson of hymnwriter Charles Wesley. His father, also Samuel, was a composer of some renown in his day but is largely forgotten now. The elder Samuel worked to promote the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in England, and his son (whose middle name came from the German master) would do the same in his day.

Young Samuel Sebastian became a boy chorister at the
Chapel Royal at age ten. One story told of his time there claims that his singing caught the attention of King George IV, who gave him a gold watch.

He obtained his first position as an organist at sixteen at St. James Church, Hampstead Road, and over the next five years worked at three additional London churches (sometimes at more than one at a time). In 1832 he became organist at Exeter Cathedral, and would go on to serve at the cathedrals of Winchester and Gloucester. He published the book A Few Words on Cathedral Music (1849) which argued for higher standards (and therefore higher salaries) for cathedral musicians.

Wesley wrote some music for the organ, but most of his output was
choral music, both anthems and music for the service, as well as 130 hymn tunes, several of which we have already heard here.

Today's hymn is set to a tune by Wesley which appeared in
The European Psalmist (1872), a collection he edited. The text is by an unknown author, but it has been used as a gospel song with a tune by James McGranahan.

O Christ, in thee my soul hath found,
And found in thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.

I sighed for rest and happiness,
I yearned for them, not thee;
But, while I passed my Savior by,
Thy love laid hold on me.

I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But, ah, the waters failed;
Even as I stooped to drink they fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.

Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other Name for me!
There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
Dear Jesus, found in thee.

Author unknown, 19th cent.; alt.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1872

The 'broken cisterns' in stanza three are presumably those in Jeremiah 2:13.

Two Years Ago: Samuel Sebastian Wesley