Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Anne Steele

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1778 of Anne Steele, the first female hymnwriter in England who produced a substantial number of texts, though many of them were not published until nearly a century after her death. Daughter of a Baptist minister, Steele was born on an unrecorded date in 1716 in the town of Broughton in Hampshire, where she lived her whole life.  The hymns and poems that were published in her lifetime were credited to her pseudonym of "Theodosia."

The image here is from the title page of a book published in Boston in 1908, but it is incorrect in at least two ways: Steele never married, and thus was never "Mrs." and these two volumes did not include her "complete works," which were not actually compiled and published until 1863.

Today's hymn appears to be one of those that was published later.  Though the Wikipedia entry linked above claims that her hymns "emphasize the less optimistic phases of Christian experience" I find that this one, while acknowledging earthly troubles, still tells of the hope and trust found in God (also, I don't find the other hymns of hers we have seen here in the past -- see the links below -- to be "less optimistic" either).

Almighty Refuge of my soul,
On thee when sorrows rise,
On thee, when waves of trouble roll
My weary hope revives.

While hope revives, though pressed with fears,
And I can say "My God,"
Before thy throne I spread my cares
And pour my woes abroad.

To thee I tell each rising grief,
For thou alone canst heal;
Thy word can bring a sweet relief
For every pain I feel.

But oh, when gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline.

Yet, gracious God, where can I flee?
Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cling to thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.

Thy mercy-seat is open still;
Here let my soul retreat,
With humble hope attend thy will,
Expectant at thy feet.

Anne Steele,  18th cent.; alt.
John Playford, 1671

Steele may well have known Playford's tune, which was published in his collection Psalms and Hymns a century earlier than her hymns were written, but of course we can't know whether she thought of matching this text to that tune. 

Seven Years Ago:  Anne Steele

Five Years Ago:  Anne Steele

Three Years Ago: Anne Steele

P.S. Steele's hymn from 2008 can now be seen and downloaded at my Facebook page (Conjubilant W. Song).  "Follow" that page for continuing updates.

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