Sunday, March 29, 2009


I am no musician but, as anyone who has looked as these pages would know, I thoroughly enjoy good hymns. Doctrinally solid words wedded to the right music appeal to both mind and emotion. There are, no doubt, better sources of information than those I have almost accidentally accumulated, but, in any event, here are two more that I have found very useful:

Surely the best online source for information about hymns is The Cyber Hymnal ™, including lyrics, tunes, biographies of composers and authors, scores and midis of the music. I have very seldom failed to find the information I was looking for on that site.

Another source, one that I purchased some years ago in London, now seemingly out of print, is The Penguin Book of Hymns, edited by Ian Bradley. It emphasizes Anglican hymns, but as Bradley observed in his introduction:
...[O]ne of the greatest glories of Christian hymnody is that it is a truly ecumenical enterprise. Hymn-singing really does cross denominational barriers and unite Christians of every persuasion. Roman catholics happily sing the lyrics of Charles Wesley, while Baptists and Presbyterians equally happily sing the words of John Henry Newman.
The book includes one hundred fifty hymns "from the time of the early church to the 20th century.... Each hymn is accompanied by biographical details of the author, notes on the circumstances in which the hymn was written and variant versions." There are hymns familiar in American churches like "Abide With Me," "And Can It Be," "Holy, Holy, Holy," or "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" [The Battle Hymn of the Republic], and less familiar ones [to me, at least], like Newman's "Firmly I believe and truly", with music arranged by Vaughan Williams. It is a great hymn—even if I interpret verse four differently than Newman intended.
Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church as His creation,
And her teachings are His own.

And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.

Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and Heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

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