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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

Bollington Road, Bollington Cross, SK10 5EG
07895 363 038



Sing-Along Hymns

Revd John Mason Neale (1818-66)


He was born in London, the son of a clergyman and a descendant on his mother’s side of Revd John Mason, author of How shall I sing that majesty. Neale was ordained in 1842 and was briefly incumbent of Crawley, but had to resign on account of chronic lung disease. He was Warden of Sackville House (an alms house at East Grinsted) from 1846 until his death at the age of 48. He died on 6 August 1866 – the feast of The Transfiguration of Our Lord, so he is commemorated on the following day. He translated many hymns from Latin and Greek. The 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern included 58 of them and there were even more in the English Hymnal of 1906. He also wrote hymns of his own. In many cases the English translations preserved the metre of the original Latin, so that the translated hymns could still be sung to the original plainsong melodies.

He is commemorated in the Calendar of the Church of England on 7 August.

He also translated Art thou weary, art thou languid

and Creator of the stars of night

(Scroll down for more hymns)

Good King Wenceslas

Although J M Neale is best remembered for his many translations, this familiar carol was written by him.

Saint Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, is commemorated on 26 December, the first day after Christmas Day. Although there are some hymns about him, none of them are very familiar. But this carol is about what is said to have happened on St Stephen's Day over 1,000 years ago in Bohemia.

There was a King of Bohemia Wenceslaus I (c. 1205–1253), also known as Wenceslaus the One-Eyed, who was King of Bohemia from 1230 to 1253. His sister Agnes (1211–1282) was a nun who was venerated in her lifetime, but not officially canonised as St Agnes of Bohemia until 1989. However, this carol is not about him, and his sister is not the St Agnes who had the fountain named after her. (Perhaps J M Neale got this bit wrong?).

Wenceslas I or Václav the Good was not a king in his lifetime, but the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I posthumously conferred on him the “regal dignity and title” of King. This Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935 by a group including his younger brother, Boleslaus the Cruel. Wenceslas was considered a martyr and saint immediately after his death (so there is a connection with St Stephen). His personal almsgiving and visits to the poor became legendary and are illustrated in the carol.

The tune is Tempus adest floridum, originally a secular Spring song Time is here for flowering that was included in Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum (Pious ecclesiastical and school songs of the ancient bishops), a collection of late medieval Latin songs first published in 1582. This arrangement of the tune is by Reginald Jacques (1894-1969). It can be found in Carols for Choirs.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the Feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me,
if thou know it, telling,
yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence,
by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me food and bring me wine,
bring me pine logs hither,
thou and I will see him dine,
when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together,
through the cold wind’s wild lament
and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger,
fails my heart, I know not how;
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page,
tread now in them boldly,
thou shall find the winter’s rage
freeze your blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod,
where the snow lay dinted;
heat was in the very sod
which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
while God’s gifts possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor
shall yourselves find blessing.

There is a short orchestral introduction.

Tempus adest floridum

According to a text discovered in a Christmas cracker, Santa’s favourite pizza is “deep pan, crisp, and even.”

We have not seen, we cannot see

A Hymn commemorating Saint Thomas, whose day is 3 July. It was written by J M Neale.


John 20.24–29: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

The tune chosen here is the 15th century English Carol tune This Endris Nyght. You may know it as a tune for the 17th century carol Behold the Great Creator makes.

We have not seen, we cannot see,
the happy land above,
from sin and death and suffering free,
where all is peace and love.

We only see the path is long
by which we have to go;
we only feel the foes are strong
who seek to work us woe.

We have not seen, we cannot see
the cross our Master bore,
with all its pains, that we might be
the slaves of sin no more.

We only think it hard to part
with every pleasant sin,
and give to God a perfect heart,
and make Him Lord within.

We walk by faith, and not by sight;
and, blessèd saint, like thee,
we sometimes doubt if faith tells right,
because we cannot see.

Upon the promise we would lean
thy doubting heart received;
blessèd are they that have not seen,
and that have yet believed.

This Endris Nyght

Jerusalem the golden

Bernard of Cluny was a 12th century Benedictine monk, whose dates of birth and death are uncertain. He is best known as the author of De contemptu mundi (On Contempt for the World), a long verse satire in Latin. He spared no one; priests, nuns, bishops, monks, and even Rome itself were mercilessly scourged for their shortcomings. The poem also included highly wrought pictures of heaven and hell.

Seven hundred years later the Archbishop of Dublin, Richard Chevenix Trench, published the initial stanzas of the poem, beginning Urbs Sion aurea, patria lactea, in his Sacred Latin Poetry (1849). J M Neale translated part of this to create the first three verses of this hymn. The fourth verse is thought to have been added by the editors of the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861. Another part of the Latin text was translated by Neale as For thee, O dear, dear country, a verse of which is shown below.

Alexander Ewing was a career officer in the British Army who served in Constantinople during the Crimean War. He later served in China and Canada, but never (as far as we know) visited Dallas. When he arrived at Fredericton, New Brunswick (Canada) in 1867, the bulk of the garrison troops were from the 1st Cheshire Regiment.

Before the Crimean War, Ewing had composed a tune for For thee, O dear dear country. His cousin, the Bishop of Argyll and The Isles (whose name was also Alexander Ewing) later submitted the tune to the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern, who used it for Jerusalem the Golden instead. However, at first it was thought that it was the Bishop who had written the tune, which is simply called Ewing.

Jerusalem the golden,
with milk and honey blest,
beneath thy contemplation
sink heart and voice opprest.
I know not, O I know not,
what social joys are there,
what radiancy of glory,
what light beyond compare.

They stand, those halls of Sion,
Conjubilant with song,
and bright with many an angel,
and all the martyr throng;
The Prince is ever in them,
the daylight is serene,
the pastures of the blessèd
are decked in glorious sheen.

There is the throne of David,
and there, from care released,
the song of them that triumph,
the shout of them that feast;
and they who, with their Leader,
have conquered in the fight,
for ever and for ever
are clad in robes of white.

O sweet and blessèd country,
Shall I ever see thy face?
O sweet and blessed country,
Shall I ever win thy grace?
Exult, O dust and ashes!
The Lord shall be thy part:
His only, his for ever,
Thou shalt be, and thou art!


For thee, O dear, dear country,
Mine eyes their vigils keep;
For very love, beholding
Thy happy name, they weep;
The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,
And love, and life, and rest

O come, O come, Emmanuel

This ancient advent hymn originated in part from the Great ‘O’ Antiphons, part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy. On each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse would be chanted, each including a different Old Testament name for the coming Messiah. Five of the seven verses were translated by J M Neale.

Matthew 1.23: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Isaiah 11.1: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

Luke 1.76-79: And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Isaiah 22.22: And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Exodus 19.16: And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

The tune now known as Veni Emmanuel was not associated with the hymn in ancient time (although as the Latin metre is the same as that of the English translation, it would fit). It has been found in a 15th century French manuscript in a set of processional chants for burials and may have an earlier source in a Missal. The tune was first published with an earlier version of Neale’s translation in 1851. A selection of arrangements is provided here.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save
and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
our spirits by Thine advent here;
and drive away the shades of night,
and pierce the clouds and bring us light!
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst give the law
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Veni Emmanuel

O what their joy and their glory must be

The original Latin hymn O quanta qualia sunt illa sabbata was written by Peter Abelard (1079-1142). He was born in Brittany. His father had been a military man, but Abelard became a philosopher, theologian and logician. In about 1115 he became the master of the cathedral school of Notre Dame in Paris (although the present cathedral had not yet been constructed). While there he famously had an affair with Héloïse, and the couple secretly married. However, things did not turn out well (you can read the gory details on Wikipedia), and he became a monk. He seems to have had a talent for upsetting people.

The tune Regnator orbis was adapted from a 17th century French melody by Revd Thomas Helmore (1811-1890), precentor at St. Mark’s College, Chelsea from 1842 to 1877).

The arrangement here is for four of the seven verses (the missing verses are shown below).

[1] O what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless sabbaths the blesséd ones see!
Crown for the valiant; to weary ones rest;
God shall be all, and in all ever blest.

[3] Truly Jerusalem name we that shore,
‘Visions of peace,’ that brings joy evermore!
Wish and fufilment can severed be ne’er,
or the thing prayed for come short of the prayer.

[4] We, where no trouble distraction can bring,
Safely the anthems of Sion shall sing;
While for thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise
Thy blesséd people shall evermore raise.

[7] Low before him with our praises we fall,
Of whom, and in whom, and through whom are all;
Of whom, the Father; and through whom, the Son;
In whom, the Spirit, with these ever One.

Regnator orbis

[2] What are the Monarch, his court, and his throne?
What are the peace and the joy that they own?
Tell us, ye blest ones, that in it have share,
If what ye feel ye can fully declare.

[5] There dawns no sabbath, no sabbath is o’er,
Those sabbath-keepers have one and no more;
One and unending is that triumph-song
Which to the angels and us shall belong.

[6] Now in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high,
We for that country must yearn and must sigh,
Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land,
Through our long exile on Babylon’s strand.

The royal banners forward go

The Latin text of Vexilla Regis prodeunt was written by Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (530-609). The dates of his birth and death are approximate, but he was born at Treviso, 30km north of Venice. He was ordained about 576 and became Bishop of Poitiers in 599 or 600. Although called a saint after his death, he was not formally canonised. His other major hit was Pange lingua gloriosi (“Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle”). The English translation was originally by J M Neale, but there are many variations of the text in different hymnals.

The tune provided here is Gonfalon Royal, the best-known of the hymn tunes by Sir Percy Carter Buck (1871-1947). It is sometimes used for New every morning is the love (but in that case, usually without the final Amen).

The royal banners forward go;
The cross shows forth in mystic glow,
Where He in flesh, our flesh who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid:

There whilst He hung, His sacred side
By soldier’s spear was opened wide,
To cleanse us in the precious flood
Of water mingled with His blood.

Fulfilled is now what David told
In true prophetic song of old.
How God the nations’ King should be
For God is reigning from the tree.

O Tree of glory, tree most fair,
Ordained those holy limbs to bear:
How bright in purple robe it stood
The purple of a Saviour’s blood.

Upon its arms, like balance true,
He weighed the price for sinners due,
The price which none but He could pay
And spoiled the spoiler of his prey.

To Thee, eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
As by the cross Thou dost restore,
So rule and guide us evermore.

Gonfalon Royal

Good Christian men, rejoice

This medieval song was originally written in a mixture of Latin and German, and was translated and adapted by J M Neale. The earliest surviving manuscript of the text dates from about 1400.

The tune In dulci jubilo was originally a folk dance and has been associated with the song for many centuries. There was a tradition of in the Middle Ages of teaching Bible stories to peasants by means of folk music.

The harmonisation is by Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856), an English composer born in Bristol, and it is for this tune that he is mainly remembered.

Good Christian men, rejoice
with heart, and soul, and voice;
give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born to-day;
ox and ass before him bow,
and he is in the manger now.
Christ is born to-day!
Christ is born to-day!

Good Christian men, rejoice
with heart, and soul, and voice;
now ye hear of endless bliss:
Jesus Christ was born for this!
He hath oped the heavenly door,
and man is blessed evermore.
Christ was born for this!
Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice
with heart, and soul, and voice;
now ye need not fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save:
calls you one, and calls you all
to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

In dulci jubilo

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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