Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee"

"Abide with us, for it is toward evening"

(Luke 24:29, KJV)

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold thou Thy Cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies:
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

About the hymn:
...[T]his Victorian hymn is particularly associated with funeral services and has given hope and comfort to many facing death or bereavement.

The author, Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), was born at Ednam, near Kelso in the Scottish borders, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he won the prize for English poetry three times. He was ordained in 1815 and served as a curate in churches in Ireland and the West of England. In 1823 he became perpetual curate of the parish of Lower Brixham, a seaside and fishing village in Devon. There he remained for the rest of his life, increasingly dogged by illness.

....In 1820, when he was just 27, Lyte visited an old friend, Augustus le Hunte, who was in his last illness. The dying man apparently kept repeating the phrase 'Abide with me', and these words greatly impressed the young curate. When Lyte knew himself to be close to death, he recalled le Hunte's words and wrote out his hymn. Shortly before leaving Brixham he gave the manuscript to his daughter, who published it in 1850.

The scriptural inspiration for the hymn comes from St Luke 24:29, where the disciples journeying on the road to Emmaus beseech Christ: 'Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.' ...[W]hen Hymns Ancient and Modern was being compiled...William Henry Monk (1823-89), organist of St Matthias, Stoke Newington, was asked to write a new melody. His tune, Eventide, accompanied the hymn in the first edition of the new hymn-book which was published in 1861, and has been its inseparable companion ever since. ....

'Abide with me' was much parodied by soldiers in the First World War. .... In its original version the hymn gave much comfort to Edith Cavell, the British nurse imprisoned and condemned to death by the Germans in 1915 for helping wounded soldiers to escape. On the night before she was shot, she sat in her cell singing it with a British chaplain. (Ian Bradley, ed., The Penguin Book of Hymns, 1989.)

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