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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 Edward Caswall (1814-1878)


He was born at Yateley, Hampshire on 15 July 1814, the son of Rev. R. C. Caswall, sometime Vicar of Yateley. He was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon 1838 and priest 1839. He was appointed Perpetual Curate* of Stratford-sub-Castle near Salisbury in 1840, but resigned the living in 1847 as he followed John Henry Newman into the Church of Rome. His conversion to Roman Catholicism caused estrangements within his family. His wife, who had also converted, died in 1849. Caswall joined J H Newman at the Birmingham Oratory and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1852.

He wrote a number of hymns, but few are found in Anglican hymnals, the notable exception being See amid the winter’s snow.

He translated a number of hymns into English, and many of these are familiar, including O Sion, open wide thy gates and When morning gilds the skies as well as the examples provided here.

*In the mid-19th century, many former “Chapels of Ease” became parishes in their own right. But because of the legal difficulties involved in dividing up ancient parishes, their incumbents were not appointed as Vicars, but instead with the status of Perpetual Curate. Incumbents of Bollington were appointed as Perpetual Curates up to and including Revd Charles Brooke Gwynne, who was responsible for the building of St Oswald’s church. Perpetual Curates were allowed legally to call themselves “Vicar” from 1868, but the status did not disappear completely until the Pastoral Measure Act 1968.

(Scroll down for more hymns)

Bethlehem, of noblest cities

This Epiphany hymn was written by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348- c413), who was a Roman Christian poet, born in what is now Northern Spain. He is often simply known as Prudentius. Originally a lawyer, he retired from public life to become an ascetic, fasting until evening and abstaining entirely from meat. He wrote poems, hymns, and controversial works in defence of Christianity. His Liber Cathemerinon (“Book in Accordance with the Hours”) comprises 12 lyric poems on various times of the day and on church festivals. The poems include Corde natus ex parentis (Of the Father’s Love Begotten) and O sola magnarum urbium (Bethlehem, of noblest cities). Various versions of the text of this hymn exist, some beginning “Earth has many a noble city”. This version dates from 1853. Many hymnals omit the last verse.

In the last line of the second verse, the final phrase refers to Genesis 2.7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The tune Stuttgart was written by Christian Friedrich Witt (c1660-1716). He was a composer, editor and teacher of music and published Psalmodia sacra, an important hymnal from the late baroque which contained 762 hymns, 351 with melodies and figured basses, and an appendix of 12 more hymns and five more melodies. About 100 of the tunes are considered to be by him (including this one).

Bethlehem, of noblest cities
none can once with thee compare;
thou alone the Lord from heaven
⁠didst for us incarnate bear.

Fairer than the beam of morning
⁠was the star that told his birth,
to the lands their God announcing,
⁠hid beneath a form of earth.

By its lambent beauty guided,
⁠see the Eastern kings appear;
see them bend their gifts to offer,
⁠purest incense, gold, and myrrh.

Sacred gifts of mystic meaning;
incense doth the God disclose,
gold a royal child proclaimeth,
⁠myrrh a future tomb foreshows.

Holy Jesu, in Thy brightness
⁠to the Gentile world revealed,
still to babes thyself disclosing,
⁠ever from the proud concealed;

Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
⁠be to Thee, O Virgin’s Son,
with the Father and the Spirit,
⁠while eternal ages run.


Jesu, the very thought of thee

The original Latin text Jesus, dulcis memoria is attributed to St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). He is commemorated on the date of his death, 20 August. He was commissioned by the Pope to preached at the Council of Vézelay (1146) to recruit for the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard’s life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at the age of 63, after 40 years as a Cistercian monk.

The hymn O sacred head, sore wounded is also attributed to him.

The tune St Botolph was written by Gordon Archbold Slater (1896-1979). He was organist of St Botolph’s, Boston 1919-1927, Leicester Cathedral 1927-1931 and Lincoln Cathedral 1931-1966.

Jesu, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills my breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.

No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
nor can the memory find,
a sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Saviour of mankind.

O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek,
to those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
no tongue nor pen can show;
the love of Jesus, what it is
none but his loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be thou,
as thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
and through eternity.

St Botolph

My God, I love Thee

The original Latin text is attributed to St Francis Xavier (1506-1552). He is regarded as one of the greatest missionaries since Saint Paul, and was a co-founder of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus). He was born in Spain and his missionary work was mainly in Asia (India, Malacca, Japan and offshore China). He is commemorated on the day of his death 3 December.

The tune St Francis Xavier was written for this hymn by John Stainer.

My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because who love Thee not
are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
upon the Cross embrace;
for me didst bear the nails and spear,
and manifold disgrace,

and griefs and torments numberless,
and sweat of agony;
yea, death itself; and all for one
who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O Blessèd Jesu Christ,
should I not love Thee well,
not for the hope of winning heaven,
or of escaping hell;

not with the hope of gaining aught,
nor seeking a reward;
but as Thyself hast lovèd me,
O ever-loving Lord!

So would I love Thee, dearest Lord,
and in Thy praise will sing,
solely because Thou art my God,
and my eternal King.

St Francis Xavier

Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding

The Latin text of the hymn Vox clara ecce intonat dates from the 6th century. Whilst it has been attributed to a number of different authors, including St Ambrose, the author is generally recorded in modern books as "Anon".

The tune Merton was written by William Henry Monk.

Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding,
‘Christ is nigh’, it seems to say;
‘Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.’

Wakened by the solemn warning,
let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all ill dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies.

Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
comes with pardon down from Heaven:
let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
one and all to be forgiven.

That when next He comes in glory,
and the world is wrapped in fear,
with His mercy He may shield us,
and with words of love draw near.

Honour, glory, might and blessing
to the Father and the Son,
with the everlasting Spirit,
while eternal ages run.


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