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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

Bollington Road, Bollington Cross, SK10 5EG
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Sing-Along Hymns

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

The American poet John Greenleaf Whittier was a Quaker, whose form of worship followed the advice given in Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.

In the 30-year struggle to abolish slavery, he played an important role as a poet, as a politician, and as a moral force.

Among his works are two poems, some stanzas of which have been extracted to become hymns. The full texts of the poems are shown below.

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Dear Lord and Father of mankind

The Brewing of Soma is a poem published in 1872 contrasting the fevered spirit of non-Christian worship (and perhaps also of some of his Christian contemporaries) with the stillness of the Quaker view of Christianity. It is the final stanzas of the poem that make up the hymn, although one stanza is usually omitted.

C H H Parry originally wrote the tune as a contralto aria Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land in the oratorio Judith. Words and music came together in 1924 in a set of tunes put together for Repton school chapel – hence the name of the tune. To make the tune fit, it is necessary to repeat the last line of each verse.

By the time Repton became known in the UK, the tune Rest was well established with the hymn in the USA. This was written by the Bristol organist Frederick Charles Maker (1844-1927) and does not require repeating a line.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

Repton

(one verse of the tune by F C Maker)

Rest

The Brewing of Soma

The fagots blazed, the caldron's smoke
Up through the green wood curled;
"Bring honey from the hollow oak,
Bring milky sap," the brewers spoke,
In the childhood of the world.

And brewed they well or brewed they ill,
The priests thrust in their rods,
First tasted, and then drank their fill,
And shouted, with one voice and will,
"Behold the drink of gods!"

They drank, and lo! in heart and brain
A new, glad life began;
The gray of hair grew young again,
The sick man laughed away his pain,
The cripple leaped and ran.

"Drink, mortals, what the gods have sent,
Forget your long annoy."
So sang the priests. From tent to tent
The Soma's sacred madness went,
A storm of drunken joy.

Then knew each rapt inebriate
A winged and glorious birth,
Soared upward, with strange joy elate,
Beat, with dazed head, Varuna's gate,
And, sobered, sank to earth.

The land with Soma's praises rang;
On Gihon's banks of shade
Its hymns the dusky maidens sang;
In joy of life or mortal pang
All men to Soma prayed.

The morning twilight of the race
Sends down these matin psalms;
And still with wondering eyes we trace
The simple prayers to Soma's grace,
That Vedic verse embalms.

As in that child-world's early year,
Each after age has striven
By music, incense, vigils drear,
And trance, to bring the skies more near,
Or lift men up to heaven!

Some fever of the blood and brain,
Some self-exalting spell,
The scourger's keen delight of pain,
The Dervish dance, the Orphic strain,
The wild-haired Bacchant's yell,--

The desert's hair-grown hermit sunk
The saner brute below;
The naked Santon, hashish-drunk,
The cloister madness of the monk,
The fakir's torture-show!

And yet the past comes round again,
And new doth old fulfil;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
The heathen Soma still!

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

Immortal love, forever full

The poem Our Master was published in 1856 and some decades later a few stanzas were extracted from the poem and published as this hymn. In the poem, the last two stanzas are another reminder of Whittier's Quakerism.

The tune Bishopsthorpe was published about 1786, and has been ascribed to Jeremiah Clarke. The exact dates of his birth and death are uncertain, but are approximately 1674-1707. He is most famous for writing the Trumpet Voluntary often played at weddings. He was an organist at Winchester College, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Chapel Royal.

Immortal love, forever full,
forever flowing free,
forever shared, forever whole,
a never ebbing sea!

Our outward lips confess the name
all other names above;
love only knoweth whence it came,
and comprehendeth love.

We may not climb the heavenly steeps
to bring the Lord Christ down;
in vain we search the lowest deeps,
for Him no depths can drown;

but warm, sweet, tender, even yet,
a present help is He;
and faith still has its Olivet,
and love its Galilee.

The healing of His seamless dress
is by our beds of pain;
we touch Him in life’s throng and press,
and we are whole again.

Through Him the first fond prayers are said
our lips of childhood frame;
the last low whispers of our dead
are burdened with His Name.

Alone, O Love ineffable,
Thy saving name is given;
to turn aside from Thee is hell,
to walk with Thee is heaven!

Bishopsthorpe

Our Master

Immortal Love, forever full, forever flowing free,
forever shared, forever whole, a never-ebbing sea!

Our outward lips confess the name all other names above;
love only knoweth whence it came and comprehendeth love.

Blow, winds of God, awake and blow the mists of earth away!
Shine out, O Light Divine, and show how wide and far we stray!

Hush every lip, close every book, the strife of tongues forbear;
why forward reach, or backward look, for love that clasps like air?

We may not climb the heavenly steeps to bring the Lord Christ down;
in vain we search the lowest deeps, For Him no depths can drown.

Nor holy bread, nor blood of grape, the lineaments restore
of Him we know in outward shape And in the flesh no more.

He cometh not a king to reign; the world’s long hope is dim;
the weary centuries watch in vain the clouds of heaven for Him.

Death comes, life goes; the asking eye and ear are answerless;
The grave is dumb, the hollow sky is sad with silentness.

The letter fails, and systems fall, and every symbol wanes;
the Spirit over-brooding all eternal Love remains.

And not for signs in heaven above or earth below they look,
who know with John His smile of love, with Peter His rebuke.

In joy of inward peace, or sense of sorrow over sin,
He is His own best evidence, His witness is within.

No fable old, nor mythic lore, nor dream of bards and seers,
no dead fact stranded on the shore Of the oblivious years;-

but warm, sweet, tender, even yet a present help is He;
and faith has still its Olivet, and love its Galilee.

The healing of His seamless dress is by our beds of pain;
we touch Him in life’s throng and press, and we are whole again.

Through Him the first fond prayers are said our lips of childhood frame,
the last low whispers of our dead are burdened with His name.

Our Lord and Master of us all! Whate’er our name or sign,
we own Thy sway, we hear Thy call, we test our lives by Thine.

Thou judgest us; Thy purity doth all our lusts condemn;
the love that draws us nearer Thee is hot with wrath to them.

Our thoughts lie open to Thy sight; and, naked to Thy glance,
our secret sins are in the light of Thy pure countenance.

Thy healing pains, a keen distress Thy tender light shines in;
Thy sweetness is the bitterness, Thy grace the pang of sin.

Yet, weak and blinded though we be, Thou dost our service own;
we bring our varying gifts to Thee, and Thou rejectest none.

To Thee our full humanity, its joys and pains, belong;
the wrong of man to man on Thee inflicts a deeper wrong.

Who hates, hates Thee, who loves becomes therein to Thee allied;
all sweet accords of hearts and homes in Thee are multiplied.

Deep strike Thy roots, O heavenly Vine, within our earthly sod,
most human and yet most divine, the flower of man and God!

O Love! O Life! Our faith and sight Thy presence maketh one
as through transfigured clouds of white we trace the noon-day sun.

So, to our mortal eyes subdued, flesh-veiled, but not concealed,
we know in Thee the fatherhood and heart of God revealed.

We faintly hear, we dimly see, in differing phrase we pray;
but, dim or clear, we own in Thee the Light, the Truth, the Way!

The homage that we render Thee is still our Father’s own;
no jealous claim or rivalry divides the Cross and Throne.

To do Thy will is more than praise, as words are less than deeds,
and simple trust can find Thy ways we miss with chart of creeds.

No pride of self Thy service hath, no place for me and mine;
our human strength is weakness, death, our life, apart from Thine.

Apart from Thee all gain is loss, all labour vainly done;
the solemn shadow of Thy Cross is better than the sun.

Alone, O Love ineffable! Thy saving name is given;
to turn aside from Thee is hell, to walk with Thee is heaven!

How vain, secure in all Thou art, our noisy championship.
The sighing of the contrite heart is more than flattering lip.

Not Thine the bigot’s partial plea, nor Thine the zealot’s ban;
Thou well canst spare a love of Thee which ends in hate of man.

Our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord, what may Thy service be?–
nor name, nor form, nor ritual word, but simply following Thee.

We bring no ghastly holocaust, we pile no graven stone;
he serves Thee best who loveth most his brothers and Thy own.

Thy litanies, sweet offices of love and gratitude;
Thy sacramental liturgies, the joy of doing good.

In vain shall waves of incense drift the vaulted nave around,
In vain the minster turret lift its brazen weights of sound.

The heart must ring Thy Christmas bells, thy inward altars raise;
Its faith and hope Thy canticles, and its obedience praise!

For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.

The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.

In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.

Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.

This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).

When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.

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Last modified: 02 March 2021