Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saint Simon and Saint Jude

Another October 28 has come around, the commemoration of Saint Simon and Saint Jude.  General hymns about saints and martyrs are always appropriate for saints' days if one for the specific day is not available.  This hymn is a John Mason Neale translation of the medieval Latin text O beata beatorum.

Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs,
Holy women, holy men,
With affection's recollections,
Greet we your return again.
Mighty deeds are theirs, and wonders,
Worthy of the name they bore;
We, with joyful praise and singing,
Honor them for evermore.

Faith prevailing, hope unfailing,
Loving Christ with single heart,
Thus they, glorious and victorious
Bravely bore the martyr's part
By contempt of every anguish,
By far-ranging journeys done;
Victors at the last, they triumph
With the host of angels one.

Therefore, ye that reign in glory,
Fellow heirs with Christ on high,
Join to ours your praise and worship
When before him we draw nigh,
Praying that, this life completed,
All its fleeting moments past,
By his grace we may be gathered
To eternal bliss at last.

Latin, 12th cent.
tr. John Mason Neale, 1851; alt.
Henry T. Smart, 1867

Neale's original translation was a bit longer but it has been altered by many hands over the years.  His original last four lines may show why it is probably not considered to be his best work.  

That this naughty life completed,
And its transient labors past.
We may merit to be seated
In our Lord's bright home at last.

'Naughty' is probably not a word ever used in a hymn text outside, perhaps, some for Victorian-era children. Hymn texts are sometimes altered not only for theological reasons, or for modernization, but just because a generally-great poet sometimes needs a little help.

EVERTON is one of many tunes by Henry Smart, whose birthday this past Friday (October 26) has been marked a few times at this site.  Though the tune is no longer very well-known, there is nothing about it that should relegate it to forgotten status.

Four Years Ago: Saint Simon and Saint Jude

Three Years Ago: Saint Simon and Saint Jude 

Two Years Ago: Saint Simon and Saint Jude

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Today is the 140th birthday of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.  His home town of Down Ampney (in the Cotswolds) is planning a memorial concert of some of his works this evening.

He did not show any particular talent for composition at an early age, though he attended the Royal College of Music, studying with Charles Villiers Stanford. His first published piece, a secular song called Linden Lea, did not appear until he was thirty.  By the time of his death in 1958 he had compiled a very long list of compositions in nearly every possible form, from traditonal choral and instrumental works to scores for radio, film, and television.

Today's tune by Vaughan Williams first appeared in The English Hymnal (1906) which he edited and which contained many of hsi tunes and arrangements of English folk melodies.  This hymnal was extremely successful, adopted by many Anglican churches, and also very influential for future hymnal editors.  Not only many tunes of Vaughan Williams have survived, but also many of the text-tune combinations that were first matched in that book.

God be with you till we meet again;
May God's counsels guide, uphold you,
With the sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
When life’s perils thick confound you;
Put Love's arms unfailing round you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
'Neath God's wings protecting hide you;
Daily manna still provide you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
Keep Love’s banner floating o’er you,
Smite death’s threatening wave before you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Jeremiah E. Rankin, 1880; alt.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

You may have sung this text to a rather different tune.  Author Jeremiah Rankin first published it in the American collection Gospel Bells (1880) where it was set to a gospel song tune (with a refrain "Til we meet at Jesus' feet") by William G. Tomer.  Rankin's text was written as a closing song for worship, based on "good-bye," which derives from "God be with you."  There are at least four additional stanzas which I have never heard sung.  One of these is this original final stanza:

God be with you till we meet again;
Ended when for you earth’s story,
Israel’s chariot sweep to glory;
God be with you till we meet again.

Four Years Ago: Ralph Vaughan Williams

Four Years Ago: Cecil Frances Alexander

Four Years Ago: Healey Willan

Three Years Ago: Ralph Vaughan Williams

Two Years Ago: Cecil Frances Alexander

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Henry Alford

The Reverend Henry Alford, author, theologian, and hymnist was born today in 1810.  As recounted here before, he took a very early interest in hymns, writing his earliest texts while still a schoolboy, and compiling them into a collection at age eleven.

While serving as curate under his father, the rector of the Anglican congregation at , he began to educate the children in the parish, another interest he would cultivate throughout his life.

We have already seen a number of his more familair texts here, so today's is more obscure, and quite short.

O God, at whose divine command,
Good seed is sown in every land,
Your heavenly grace to us impart,

And for your Word prepare each heart.

So may it, while your sowers toil,
Fall in a good and honest soil;
And springing up from firmest root,
With patience bear abundant fruit.

Henry Alford, 1844; alt.
Geistliche Lieder, 1539

As we know, some churches use different kinds of hymns at different places in worship.  A hymn sung before the Gospel reading for the day is called in some traditions a sequence hymn, and sometimes specifically refers to the Word of God.  These hymns are also often shorter than the sort of hymns sung as opening or closing hymns, so a text of only two stanzas is not so unusual in this case.

Four Years Ago: Henry Alford

Three Years Ago: Henry Alford

Two Years Ago: Charles Crozat Converse