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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

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Sing-Along Hymns

Revd John Keble (1792-1866)

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He was one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after him. He was ordained in 1816 and served initially as his father’s curate. He was the vicar of Hursley in Hampshire for the last thirty years of his life. He is commemorated in the Calendar of the Church of England on 14 July.

His first major publication was The Christian Year, a series of poems for all the Sundays and some other feasts of the liturgical year of the Church of England, written in 1827. It was intended as an aid to meditation and devotion following the services of the Prayer Book. Though at first anonymous, its authorship soon became known, with Keble in 1831 appointed to the Chair of Poetry at Oxford, which he held until 1841. Victorian scholar Michael Wheeler calls The Christian Year simply "the most popular volume of verse in the nineteenth century".

Stanzas from some of the long poems (see below) were used as hymns.

Despite its widespread appeal among the Victorian readers, the popularity of The Christian Year faded in the 20th century even though some of the hymns are still very well-known.

Although the first two hymns are familiar, the tunes we have chosen are not the ones ususally associated with them. We hope you find them refreshingly different!

Blest are the pure in heart

The version that appears in most hymnals includes middle verses written by other people, but the version presented here includes appropriate verses from the complete poem (shown below). The poem was set for the feast of the Purification; these days usually known as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple or Candlemas.

The event is described in the Gospel of Luke; Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, according to Jewish law. At the temple, they encountered Simeon, who had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”. Simeon then uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to your word: For my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people: A light to lighten to the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”.

The words are here coupled with a tune thought to have been published in 1896. Spiritus Dei by “Frederick Ellis” was probably written for Breathe on me, Breath of God. It is possible that the composer was Bishop Frederick Ellis (1835-1921) of the Moravian Church, who was born in Yorkshire and was recorded at the Moravian Settlement in Ockbrook, Derbyshire on the 1911 census.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see our God,
The secret of the Lord is theirs,
Their soul is Christ’s abode.

“Now hath Thy servant seen
Thy saving health, O Lord;
’Tis time that I depart in peace,
According to Thy word.”

Wide open from that hour
The temple-gates are set,
And still the saints rejoicing there
The holy Child have met.

Still to the lowly soul
He doth Himself impart,
And for His cradle and His throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.

Spiritus Dei

The complete poem

Bless’d are the pure in heart,
For they shall see our God,
The secret of the Lord is theirs,
Their soul is Christ’s abode.

Might mortal thought presume
To guess an angel’s lay,
Such are the notes that echo through
The courts of Heaven to-day.

Such the triumphal hymns
On Sion’s Prince that wait,
In high procession passing on
Towards His temple-gate.

Give ear, ye kings—bow down,
Ye rulers of the earth—
This, this is He: your Priest by grace,
Your God and King by birth.

No pomp of earthly guards
Attends with sword and spear,
And all-defying, dauntless look,
Their monarch’s way to clear;

Yet are there more with Him
Than all that are with you—
The armies of the highest Heaven,
All righteous, good, and true.

Spotless their robes and pure,
Dipped in the sea of light,
That hides the unapproachèd shrine
From men’s and angels’ sight.

His throne, thy bosom blest,
O mother undefiled—
That throne, if aught beneath the skies,
Beseems the sinless child.

Lost in high thoughts, “whose son
The wondrous Babe might prove,”
Her guileless husband walks beside,
Bearing the hallowed dove;

Meet emblem of His vow,
Who, on this happy day,
His dove-like soul—best sacrifice—
Did on God’s altar lay.

But who is he, by years
Bowed, but erect in heart,
Whose prayers are struggling with his tears?
“Lord, let me now depart.

“Now hath Thy servant seen
Thy saving health, O Lord;
’Tis time that I depart in peace,
According to Thy word.”

Yet swells this pomp: one more
Comes forth to bless her God;
Full fourscore years, meek widow, she
Her heaven-ward way hath troth.

She who to earthly joys
So long had given farewell,
Now sees, unlooked for, Heaven on earth,
Christ in His Israel.

Wide open from that hour
The temple-gates are set,
And still the saints rejoicing there
The holy Child have met.

Now count His train to-day,
All who may meet Him, learn:
Him child-like sires, meek maidens find,
Where pride can nought discern.

Still to the lowly soul
He doth Himself impart,
And for His cradle and His throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.

New every morning is the love

The verses are taken from a much longer poem from The Christian Year entitled “Morning”, the full version of which is shown below. Canon Veronica commented that the complete poem seemed quite appropriate for Lockdown.

A modern tune has been coupled with the words - Cross Deep by Barry Rose OBE (born 1934). His musical career began playing hymns at Sunday School and as a teenager playing a harmonium at a Mission Church in Chingford. After leaving school he worked as an insurance clerk. After singing bass at Hampstead parish church for a couple of years, he became organist and choirmaster at St Andrew’s Kingsbury (North London). While there, he was offered a place at the Royal Academy of Music. Even before he had received his academic qualification, he was appointed as the first organist of Guildford Cathedral in 1960. He retired from being organist at St Alban’s Abbey in 1997.

New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life, and power, and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

The trivial round, the common task,
would furnish all we ought to ask,
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
fit us for perfect rest above;
and help us this and every day
to live more nearly as we pray.

Cross Deep

The complete poem

Hues of the rich unfolding morn,
That, ere the glorious sun be born,
By some soft touch invisible
Around his path are taught to swell;—

Thou rustling breeze so fresh and gay,
That dancest forth at opening day,
And brushing by with joyous wing,
Wakenest each little leaf to sing;—

Ye fragrant clouds of dewy steam,
By which deep grove and tangled stream
Pay, for soft rains in season given,
Their tribute to the genial heaven;—

Why waste your treasures of delight
Upon our thankless, joyless sight;
Who day by day to sin awake,
Seldom of Heaven and you partake?

Oh, timely happy, timely wise,
Hearts that with rising morn arise!
Eyes that the beam celestial view,
Which evermore makes all things new!

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of Heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes will lovelier be,
As more of Heaven in each we see:
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

As for some dear familiar strain
Untired we ask, and ask again,
Ever, in its melodious store,
Finding a spell unheard before;

Such is the bliss of souls serene,
When they have sworn, and stedfast mean,
Counting the cost, in all t’ espy
Their God, in all themselves deny.

Oh, could we learn that sacrifice,
What lights would all around us rise!
How would our hearts with wisdom talk
Along Life’s dullest, dreariest walk!

We need not bid, for cloistered cell,
Our neighbour and our work farewell,
Nor strive to wind ourselves too high
For sinful man beneath the sky:

The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves; a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

Seek we no more; content with these,
Let present Rapture, Comfort, Ease,
As Heaven shall bid them, come and go:—
The secret this of Rest below.

Only, O Lord, in Thy dear love
Fit us for perfect Rest above;
And help us, this and every day,
To live more nearly as we pray.

Word supreme, before creation

Although Keble wrote this hymn to commemorate St John the Evangelist, it is not the poem included for St John’s Day in his book The Christian Year.

The author of the Gospel of John does not identify himself by name, but only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Most Christians believe that St John’s Gospel was written by the Apostle John. He is thought to have been born about 15AD and therefore to be the youngest of The Twelve. He was the only one of the Apostles not to die for his faith and is believed to have lived until about the year 100. The words of the hymn mention “Thy belov’d, thy latest born” and “Latest he, the warfare leaving”.

There are more scriptural references in the hymn. Psalm 81.7: Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee: I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. The psalmist is referring to the long journey of the Israelites out of Egypt. Exodus 16 tells us that Meribah was where Moses struck the rock and water gushed forth and in Exodus 19 we read how Moses went up Mount Sinai in the thunderclouds to hear the voice of God, while the people below only heard the thunder. In Chapter 12 of his Gospel, John describes how the crowds flocked to see Jesus as He was coming to Jerusalem for the Passover just after the raising of Lazarus: And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified…. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him… Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.“

The tune Grafton was published in Paris in 1881 to a French version of the hymn Tantum ergo (Therefore we before Him bending, this great sacrament revere). The composer is unknown.

Word supreme, before creation
Born of God eternally
Who didst will for our salvation
To be born on earth, and die;
Well thy saints have kept their station,
Watching till thine hour drew nigh.

Now ’tis come, and faith espies thee:
Like an eagle in the morn,
John in steadfast worship eyes thee,
Thy belov’d, thy latest born:
In thy glory he descries thee
Reigning from the tree of scorn.

He first hoping and believing
Did beside the grave adore;
Latest he, the warfare leaving,
Landed on the eternal shore;
And his witness we receiving
Own thee Lord for evermore.

Much he asked in loving wonder,
On thy bosom leaning, Lord!
In that secret place of thunder,
Answer kind didst thou accord,
Wisdom for thy Church to ponder
Till the day of dread award.

Thee, the Almighty King eternal,
Father of the eternal Word;
Thee, the Father’s Word supernal,
Thee, of both, the Breath adored;
Heaven, and earth, and realms infernal
Own, one glorious God and Lord. Amen.

Grafton

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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: 07 March 2021