Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Francis Turner Palgrave

English educator, critic, and poet Francis Turner Palgrave was born today in 1824 in Great Yarmouth. He attended Balliol College at Oxford University, but temporarily interrupted his studies to serve as private secretary to William Gladstone, then a member of Parliament (and later Prime Minster). Later, upon finishing graduate studies in 1856, he served in a number of positions in the field of education before becoming a Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1884.

As a critic, Palgrave wrote for various publications, and also published his own poetry.  He compiled and edited The Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics (1861), considered to be one of the finest anthologies of English poetry. It is still published today under his name, though others have revised and updated it over the years.

He published a collection of his own sacred texts, titled simply Hymns (1867), which was updated twice with some additional material. According to Gwenllian Palgrave, who assembled Francis Turner Palgrave: His Journals and Memories of his Life (1899), her father considered hymnwriting "a most difficult task, even for the greatest poets." 

Today's hymn comes from that collection, originally beginning "O thou not made with hands," and it appears that way in several places. The Primitive Methodist Hymnal (1887) altered the line to "City not made with hands" (which I and several subsequent hymnal editors prefer), perhaps because hymns which begin "O thou..." are generally addressed directly to some aspect of the Divine, which this is not. In Palgrave's Hymns this is made clear by the descriptive title accompanying the hymn, "Kingdom of God within."

City not made with hands,
Not throned above the skies,
Nor walled with shining walls,
Nor framed with stones of price,
More bright than gold or gem,
God’s own Jerusalem.

Where’er the gentle heart
Finds courage from above;
Where’er the heart forsook
Warms with the breath of love;
Where faith bids fear depart,
City of God, thou art.

Where in life’s common ways
With cheerful feet we go,
In Jesus' steps we tread,
Who trod the way of woe;
Where Christ is in the heart,
City of God, thou art.

Not throned above the skies,
Nor golden-walled afar,
But where Christ’s two or three
In his name gathered are,
Be in the midst of them,
God’s own Jerusalem.

Francis Turner Palgrave, 1867; alt.
Francis Henry Champneys, 1889

In 1862 Palgrave became embroiled in a scandal when he wrote the catalogue for the Great London Exhibition. In it, he praised the sculptor Thomas Woolner, to the detriment of some of Woolner's rivals. When it was revealed that Palgrave and Woolner lived together, he was forced to withdraw the catalogue.

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