Francis Turner Palgrave is best known for his anthology of what he considered to be the finest examples of English poetry, the Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics (1861). This collection included poems by William Cowper (but not any of his hymns). He also published The Treasury of Sacred Song, but none of Cowper's hymns were included here either. Palgrave is generally considered to be a better editor than a poet. He did write a number of hymns, but almost all have been forgotten.
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William Cowper (his surname is pronounced Cooper) was an important English poet, but was subject to periods of depression and spent a short period in an asylum. After recovering from this treatment he met up with John Newton; they collaborated in the collection of Olney Hymns published in 1879, to which Cowper contributed sixty-eight hymn texts, including O for a closer walk with God, Hark my soul it is the Lord, Jesus wheree'er Thy people meet and God moves in a mysterious way.
The hymn by F T Palgrave is based on the phrase "not made with hands", which appears a number of times in the New Testament.
Mark 14.58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
Acts 17.24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
2 Corinthians 5.1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Hebrews 9.11-12 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
The modern tune Sharpthorne is by Revd Dr Erik Routley (1917-1982), who was was an English Congregational minister, composer and musicologist. He was appointed Professor of Church Music at Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey in 1975. The rhythm of the fifth line of the tune has been adapted to suit these words.
O THOU not made with hands,
Not throned above the skies,
Nor walled with shining walls,
Nor framed with stones of price,
More bright than gold or gem,
God’s own Jerusalem!
Where’er the gentle heart
Finds courage from above;
Where’er the heart forsook
Warms with the breath of love;
Where faith bids fear depart,
City of God, thou art.
Thou art where’er the proud
In humbleness melts down;
Where self itself yields up;
Where martyrs win their crown;
Where faithful souls possess
Themselves in perfect peace;
Where in life’s common ways
With cheerful feet we go;
Where in his steps we tread,
Who trod the way of woe;
Where he is in the heart,
City of God, thou art.
Not throned above the skies,
Nor golden-walled afar,
But where Christ’s two or three
In his name gathered are,
Be in the midst of them,
God’s own Jerusalem.
The words were written by William Cowper.
The hymn is set here to the tune Caithness. The melody is from the Scottish Psalter of 1635.
Many different tunes have been published with the hymn over the years in different hymnals. One such is The Green Hill by the American George Coles Stebbins (1846–1945), a gospel hymn writer who worked with evangelists Moodey and Sankey. The tune was presumably written for There is a green hill far away, with which it is more usually associated. It is a double tune – so goes with two verses of the hymn. One verse of this tune is provided.
O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.
Return, O holy Dove, return,
sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,
and drove Thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from Thy throne
and worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.
The Green Hill
(one verse only)
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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