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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

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

He was born in the Gloucestershire village of Down Ampney (population 644 in the 2011 census!), where his father was the Vicar. His mother was descended from Charles Darwin. When the young Vaughan Williams asked his mother about Darwin's controversial book On the Origin of Species, she answered, "The Bible says that God made the world in six days. Great Uncle Charles thinks it took longer: but we need not worry about it, for it is equally wonderful either way".

In 1903–1904 Vaughan Williams started collecting folk-songs. He went into the English countryside noting down and transcribing songs traditionally sung in various locations. A number of them were made into hymn tunes, even though the original songs were not necessarily very hymn-like.

The English Hymnal was first published in 1906 for the Church of England. It was edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams in association with Revd Percy Dearmer, and was a significant publication in the history of Anglican church music.

RVW composed the tunes Sine Nomine for For all the Saints and arranged the folk tune Herongate for It is a thing most wonderful, both hymns being written by Bishop How. The Call was composed for Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life.

(Scroll down for more hymns)

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Come down, O Love divine

The Italian hymn Discendi amor santo was written by Bianco da Siena (c1350-1399). He eventually settled in Venice, where he died. He wrote many religiously-inspired poems that were popular in the Middle Ages. 122 of them were published altogether. This is the best-known these days.

It was translated into English by Revd Richard Frederick Littledale.

The tune Down Ampney was written for the hymn by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Come down, O Love divine,
seek Thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with Thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let Thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing:
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till he become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

Down Ampney

From the eastern mountains

The words to this Epiphany hymn were written by Revd Godfrey Thring (1823-1903). He was born in Alford, Somerset and was educated at Shrewsbury School. His father was also an Anglican priest, and Godfrey was his father’s curate at Alford for a time. (His father was also Lord of the Manor of Alford.) His other hymns include Fierce raged the tempest o’er the deep.

The tune King’s Weston was written by RVW for the hymn At the name of Jesus and the tune appeared with that hymn in his publications Songs of Praise and English Hymnal.

However, in the New English Hymnal the tune is set to this hymn, while At the name of Jesus is set to the more familiar tune Evelyns (ironically, this was composed by his rival W H Monk, editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern).

From the eastern mountains
pressing on they come,
wise men in their wisdom,
to His humble home;
stirred in deep devotion,
hasting from afar,
ever journeying onward,
guided by a star.

There their Lord and Saviour
as an infant lay,
wondrous light that led them
onward on their way,
ever now to lighten
nations from afar,
as they journey homeward
by that guiding star.

Thou who in a manger
once hast lowly lain,
who dost now in glory
o’er all kingdoms reign,
gather in the peoples,
who in lands afar
ne’er have seen the brightness
of thy guiding star.

Gather in the outcasts,
all who’ve gone astray,
throw Thy radiance o’er them,
guide them on their way;
those who never knew Thee,
those who’ve wandered far,
lead them by the brightness
of thy guiding Star.

Onward through the darkness
of the lonely night,
shining still before them
with Thy kindly light,
guide them, Jew and Gentile,
homeward from afar,
young and old together,
by Thy guiding star.

Until every nation,
whether bond or free,
‘neath thy star-lit banner,
Jesu, follows Thee,
o’er the distant mountains
to that heavenly home
where nor sin nor sorrow
evermore shall come.

King’s Weston

I heard the voice of Jesus say

The words were written by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). He was a minister of the Church of Scotland and wrote a large number of hymns including Fill Thou my life, O Lord, my God and Here O my Lord, I see thee face to face. He was one of eleven children and came from a long line of CoS ministers.

The tune Kingsfold is one of the many English folk-tunes that were adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams to go with hymns in The English Hymnal.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast:’
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Behold, I freely give
the living water, thirsty one;
stoop down, and drink, and live:
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s Light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright:’
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till travelling days are done.

Kingsfold

Who would true valour see

John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a writer and Puritan preacher best remembered as the author of the Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. He was born near Bedford. At the age of sixteen he joined the Parliamentary Army during the English Civil War. Later, he became a Nonconformist preacher. After the Restoration of the Monarchy he spent twelve years in jail as he refused to give up his preaching. During this time he began work on The Pilgrim’s Progress, which was not published until some years after his release. It is one of the most published books in the English language. The hymn words provided here are as they appear in the book.

John Bunyan died on 31 August 1688. In the Church of England, 31 August is dedicated to St Aidan, so John Bunyan is commemorated with a “lesser festival” on 30 August.

The tune Monks Gate was adapted by RVW from an English folk song.

Who would true Valour see
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There’s no Discouragement,
Shall make him once Relent,
His first avow’d Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.

Who so beset him round,
With dismal Storys,
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He’l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right,
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his Spirit:
He knows, he at the end,
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He’l fear not what men say,
He’l labour Night and Day,
To be a Pilgrim.

Monks Gate

Folk Song tunes collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams

RVW realised that these folk tunes would be lost if they were not performed and heard by people outside the small communities where he found them. Using them as hymn tunes was his way of preserving the tunes (even though the words might be lost). He wasn't interested in preserving the words. It is perhaps unfortunate that in a number of cases, his folk tunes supplanted other perfectly good hymn tunes. The folk tunes used for hymns were usually named after the villages where they were found.

Some people are uncomfortable about using secular tunes for hymns, particularly if they are familiar with the original words. (One of my pet hates is We have a king who rides a donkey to the tune of What shall we do with the drunken sailor?)

The examples below may not be familiar to the general public these days, but they will be known to many folk singers and their audiences.

The tune Forest Green is familiar to British people as the tune to O little town of Bethlehem, which is an American hymn with an American tune St Louis that is still the standard tune used in USA. The original song for this tune is The Ploughboy's Dream that RVW collected from Mr. Garman of Forest Green Surrey in 1903.

I am a ploughboy stout and strong
as ever drove a team
And three years since as I lay a-bed
I had a dreadful dream
I dreamt I drove my master's team
three horses travelled far
Before a stiff and armoured plough
as all my masters are.

I found the ground was baked so hard
'twas more like bricks than clay
I could not cut my furrow through
nor would my beasts obey
The more I whipped and slashed and swore
the less my horses tried
Dobbin lay down and Belle and Star
ignored my threats and cries.

Till low above me appeared a youth
he seemed to hang in air
And all around a dazzling light
which made my eyes to stare
"Give over cruel wretch" he cried
"do not thy beasts abuse
Think if the ground was not so hard
they would their work refuse"

Besides I heard thee curse and swear
as if dumb beasts could know
Just what your oaths and cursing meant
it's better far than gold
That you should know that there is one
who knows thy sins full well
And what shall be thy after doom
another shall thee tell"

No more he said but light as air
he vanished from my sight
And with him went the sun's bright beams
'twas all as dark as night
The thunder roared from underground
the earth it seemed to gape
Blue flames broke forth and in those flames
appeared an awful shape.

"I soon shall call thee mine" he cried
with a voice so clear and deep
And quivering like an Aspen leaf
I woke out of my sleep
So ponder well you ploughboys all
this dream that I have told
And if the work goes hard with you
its worth your wage in gold

The tune Monks Gate that he had collected from Mrs Harriet Verrall of Monks Gate near Horsham, Sussex is familiar as the tune to Who would true valour see. The original song is Our Captain Cried All Hands.

Our captain cried all hands
and away tomorrow,
Leaving these girls behind
in grief and sorrow.
What makes you go abroad,
fighting for strangers
When you could stop at home,
free from all dangers?

“You courted me a while
just to deceive me,
Now my heart you have gained
and you means to leave me.”
“There's no belief in men,
not my own brother
So girls if you can love,
love one another.”

“When I had gold in store
you did invite me
And now I'm low and poor
you seems to slight me.”
“Dry off your brandy tears
and leave off weeping,
For happy we shall be
at our next meeting.”

“Oh I'll roll you in my arms,
me dearest jewel,
So stay at home with me
and don't be cruel.”
She fell down on the ground
like one was dying;
This house was full of grief,
sighing and crying.

“Farewell me dearest friends,
father and mother,
I am your only child,
I have no brother.
It's in vain to weep for me
for I am going
To where the lasting joy's
with fountains flowing.”

The tune Kingsfold that he had collected from Kingsfold, Sussex is familiar as the tune to I heard the voice of Jesus say. The original song was about the story of Dives and Lazarus.

As it fell out upon one day,
Rich Dives gave a feast;
And invited all his neighbours in,
And gentry of the best.

And it fell out upon that day,
Poor Lazarus he was so poor,
He came and laid him down and down,
Even down by Dives' door.

Then Lazarus laid him down and down,
Even down by Dives' door,
“Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
Do bestow upon the poor.”

“Thou are none of mine, brother Lazarus,
Lying begging at my door,
No meat, no drink, will I give thee,
Nor bestow upon the poor.”

Then Lazarus he laid him down and down,
Even down by Dives' wall,
“Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
Or surely starve I shall.”

“Thou are none of mine, brother Lazarus,
Lying begging at my wall,
No meat, no drink, will I give thee,
And surely starve you shall.”

Then Lazarus he laid him down and down,
Even down by Dives' gate,
“Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
For Jesus Christ His sake.”

“Thou are none of mine, brother Lazarus,
Lying begging at my gate,
No meat, no drink, will I give thee,
For Jesus Christ His sake.”

Then Dives sent his merry men all
For to whip poor Lazarus away.
They had no will to whip one whip
But threw their whips away.

Then Dives sent his hungry dogs
For to bite poor Lazarus away;
They had not will to bite one bite
But licked his wounds away.

Then it fell out upon one day,
Poor Lazarus he sickened and died.
There came two angels out of Heaven,
His soul thereto to guide.

“Rise up, rise up, brother Lazarus
And come you along with me.
There is a place prepared in Heaven,
For to sit upon an angel's knee.”

Then it fell out upon one day,
Rich Dives he sickened and died.
There came two serpents out of hell,
His soul thereto to guide.

“Rise up, rise up, brother Dives
And come you along with me.
There is a place prepared in hell
For to sit upon a serpent's knee.”

The tune Herongate that he had a servant sing heard at Ingrave Rectory, Herongate, Essex is familiar as the tune to It is a thing most wonderful. The original song was a sad story of girl's unfaithful lover.

In Jessie’s city, Oh there did dwell
a postman boy I loved so well.
Twas he that stole my heart away
and now with me he will not stay.

There is an inn in this same town
Which my love goes and sits himself down
And takes a strange girl on his knee
And tells her what he doesn't tell me,

It's grief to me, I'll tell you for why
Because she has more gold than I
But meeded time her gold shall fly
And she shall be as poor as I.

I went upstairs to make my bed
And nothing to my mother said.
"Oh daughter, O daughter what is the matter?
Oh daughter what is the matter with thee?"

"Oh Mother, mother you do not know
What grief and sorrow comes from joy.
Go get a chair and sit me down
And pen and ink to write it down."

Her father he came home at night
Saying "where has my daughter gone?"
He went upstairs, the door he broke
And found her hanging on a rope

He took his knife and cut her down.
Within her hand these lines were found:
"Oh what a foolish maid was I
To hang myself for a postman boy.

Go dig my grave both long wide and deep.
Place a marble stone at my head and feet
And on my breast a turtle dove
To show the wide world I died for love."

The tune King's Lynn is used in this collection as the tune to We sing the glorious conquest. It is also used for O God of earth and altar The original tune was for the Ballad of Young Henry the Poacher, who was transported to Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land).

Come all you wild and wicked youths
wherever you may be,
I pray you give attention
and listen unto me,
The fate of us poor transports
as you shall understand,
The hardships that we do undergo
upon Van Diemen’s Land.

My parents reared me tenderly,
good learning gave to me,
Till by bad company I was beguiled,
which proved my destiny;
I was brought up in Warwickshire,
near Southam town did dwell,
My name it is young Henry
in Hardourn known full well.

Me and five more went out one night
into Squire Dunhill’s park,
To see if we could get some game,
the night it proved dark;
But to our great misfortune
they trepanned us with speed,
And sent us off to Warwick gaol
which made our hearts to bleed.

It was at the March Assizes
to the bar we did repair
Like Job we stood with patience,
to hear our sentence there;
There being some old offenders,
which made our case go hard,
My sentence was for fourteen years,
then I was sent on board.

The ship that bore us from the land,
the Speedwell was by name,
For full five months and upwards, boys,
we ploughed the raging main,
Neither land nor harbour could we see,
believe it is no lie,
All around us one black water, boys,
above us one blue sky.

I often looked behind me,
towards my native shore
That cottage of contentment
which we shall see more;
Nor yet my own dear father
who tore his hoary hair,
Likewise my tender mother
the womb that did me bear.

The fifteenth of September
’twas, then we made the land,
At four o’clock we went on shore
all chained hand in hand;
To see our fellow-sufferers
we felt I can’t tell how,
Some chained unto a barrow,
and others to a plough.

No shoes nor stocking they had on,
no hat had they to wear,
But a leather frock and linsey drawers,
their feet and heads were bare;
They chained them up by two and two
like horses in a team,
Their driver he stood over them
with his Malacca cane.

Then I was marched off to Sydney town,
without any more delay,
Where a gentleman he bought me
his book-keeper to be;
I took this occupation
my master liked me well,
My joys were out of measure,
and I’m sure no one can tell.

We had a female servant,
Rosanna was her name,
For fourteen years a convict
she from Wolverhampton came;
We often told our tales of love
when we were blest at home,
But now we’re rattling of our chains
in foreign lands to roam.

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: 20 March 2021