By cool Siloam’s shady rill

A hymn to sing along to…

This is one of the earlier hymns written by Revd Reginald Heber (1783-1826). It was published in 1812 and was very popular in the 19th century, and is still found in a number of hymnals today (though not in ours – I suspect it is better known in USA).

The Pool of Siloam is referred to a number of times in the Old Testament. It was fed by the Gihon Spring, and water was conveyed from it by aqueduct to irrigate agricultural fields. In the New Testament, Jesus sent “a man blind from birth” to the pool in order to complete his healing. Chapter 2 of the Song of Solomon begins “I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys” and the hymn mentions “Sharon’s dewy rose”. It is not certain which plant is referred to in the bible (except that it is not any of the various plants that have that name today).

The words are coupled here with the tune Arden by George Thomas Thalben-Ball (1896-1987), an Australian organist and composer who spent almost all his life in England. He gave the inaugural recital on the organ of the Royal Albert Hall.

He wrote a number of hymn tunes, of which this is the best known. It is not in our hymn book but it can be found in the English Hymnal as a tune for O for a thousand tongues to sing.


By cool Siloam’s shady rill
how sweet the lily grows!
How sweet the breath beneath the hill
of Sharon’s dewy rose!

Lo! such the child whose early feet
the paths of peace have trod,
whose secret heart with influence sweet
is upward drawn to God.

By cool Siloam’s shady rill
the lily must decay,
the rose that blooms beneath the hill
must shortly fade away;

And soon, too soon, the wintry hour
of life’s maturer age
will shake the soul with sorrow’s power
and stormy passion’s rage.

O thou, whose infant feet were found
within thy Father’s shrine,
whose years, with changeless virtue crowned,
were all alike divine,

Dependent on thy bounteous breath
we seek thy grace alone,
through every stage of life, and death,
to keep us still thine own.

You can read more about Reginald Heber at the post about Holy, Holy, Holy. Other hymns by Reginald Heber in this collection include Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning and Bread of the world in mercy broken

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