Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"God be with you"

Again from Ian Bradley's Penguin Book of Hymns about "God Be With You Till We Meet Again":
This is an unashamedly sentimental hymn and, such things being out of fashion nowadays, it fails to make an appearance in any of the modern hymn-books I have consulted.... Traditionally sung at partings and farewells, it never failed to bring a lump to the throat. I personally very much regret its loss from our current stock of hymns. I can think of nothing more appropriate or moving to sing at times of parting from old friends.

The author, Dr Jeremiah Eames Rankin (1828-1904), was a Congregational minister and President of Howard University, Washington, D C. He wrote this hymn in 1882, basing it on the etymology of the word 'goodbye' which is a shortened form of 'God be with you'. The hymn was first sung at the First Congregational Church in Washington where Rankin was minister, and it was immensely popular. He himself attributed its popularity largely to the tune to which it was sung, which had been composed by William Gould Tomer (1832-96)[...]a former soldier in the Civil War and clerk in the US Treasury Department who had taken up schoolteaching.

Tomer's tune, also known as God be with You, was for long favoured by British Nonconformists, but Anglicans have largely rejected it in favour of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Randolph. The latter is undoubtedly more sophisticated, but I have to say that I prefer Tomer's melody despite the fact that one critic has dismissed it as 'a tedious maudlin tune'. Its sentimentality goes well with Rankin's words. ....
There were two settings for the hymn in the hymnbook we used in my church when young but I believe we only sang Tomer's tune. This is the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting, "Randolph":

Bradley also provides some more modern verses:

God be with you till we meet again,
May he through the days direct you;
May he in life's storms protect you;
God be with you till we meet again.
God be with you till we meet again;
May he go through life beside you,
And through death in safety guide you;
God be with you till we meet again.

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