These two harvest hymns may not be familiar. Neither of them is about "thankful people" rejoicing that "all is safely gathered in".
The words were written by Mrs Alice Flowerdew (1759-1830), a widow whose maiden name is unknown. She was a Baptist who published a number of poems, but this seems to have been the only one used as a hymn.
The words are here coupled with a more modern tune Ayrshire by Kenneth George Finlay (1882-1974). He worked as a naval architect for the first half of his life. In 1928, aged 46, he decided to become a full-time musician. He studied at the Royal College of Music for a year under R Vaughan Williams. He wrote a number of hymn tunes; perhaps the best-known is Glenfinlas Hands that have been handling holy things and high.
In modern hymnals, the first verse is usually rendered as “Father of Mercies, God of love, whose gifts all creatures share…”
Fountain of Mercy! God of Love!
How rich Thy bounties are!
The rolling seasons, as they move,
Proclaim Thy constant care.
When in the bosom of the earth
The sower hid the grain,
Thy goodness marked its secret birth,
And sent the early rain.
The spring’s sweet influence was Thine,
The plants in beauty grew;
Thou gav’st refulgent suns to shine,
And mild refreshing dew.
These various mercies from above
Matured the swelling grain;
A yellow harvest crowned Thy love,
And plenty fills the plain.
Seed-time and harvest, Lord, alone
Thou dost on man bestow;
Let him not, then, forget to own
From whom his blessings flow.
Fountain of love! our praise is Thine;
To Thee our songs we’ll raise,
And all created nature join
In sweet harmonious praise.
The words to this hymn were written by William St. Hill Bourne (1846–1929). He was ordained in 1869 and was a curate at Derby, Harrow-on-the-Hill St. Leonards-on-Sea and and Ashford, then Vicar of Pinner (1875), All Saints, Haggerstone (1880), before becoming Rector of Finchley in 1900.
This hymn was written for Harvest Festival at Christ Church, South Ashford, Kent in 1874. It used to be sung lustily by agricultural workers, back in the days when farming was a lot less mechanised than it is now.
Apparently in Victorian and Edwardian times it was sometimes sung at funerals. These days, as cremation is more common, the last verse might not be considered suitable.
The tune is St Beatrice by Sir John Frederick Bridge (1844–1924). At the age of 24 he was appointed organist at Manchester Cathedral. He moved to become organist at Westminster Abbey from 1875 until he retired in 1918.
The sower went forth sowing,
The seed in secret slept
Through weeks of faith and patience,
Till out the green blade crept;
And warmed by golden sunshine,
And fed by silver rain,
At last the fields were whitened
To harvest once again.
O praise the heavenly Sower,
Who gave the fruitful seed,
And watched and watered duly,
And ripened for our need.
Behold! the heavenly Sower
Goes forth with better seed,
The Word of sure salvation,
With feet and hands that bleed;
Here in His Church ’tis scattered,
Our spirits are the soil;
Then let an ample fruitage
Repay His pain and toil.
Oh, beauteous is the harvest,
Wherein all goodness thrives,
And this the true thanksgiving,
The first fruits of our lives.
Within a hallowed acre
He sows yet other grain,
When peaceful earth receiveth
The dead He died to gain;
For though the growth be hidden,
We know that they shall rise;
Yea even now they ripen
In sunny Paradise.
O summer land of harvest,
O fields forever white
With souls that wear Christ’s raiment,
With crowns of golden light.
One day the heavenly Sower
Shall reap where He hath sown,
And come again rejoicing,
And with Him bring His own;
And then the fan of judgment
Shall winnow from His floor
The chaff into the furnace
That flameth evermore.
O holy, awful Reaper,
Have mercy in the day,
Thou puttest in the sickle,
And cast us not away.
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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"A joyful image of a Eucharistic community which knows how to celebrate God's goodness to us but also how to reach out to the community and connect with those in need, in pain, in difficulty, who feel lost or neglected, or that they don't belong."
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