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The Hymns of Reginald Heber




Reginald Heber, hymn writer, scholar, poet and bishop

Bishop

Heber’s

Hymns

1827

BISHOP HEBER’S HYMNS

In 1827, after his death, was published Hymns, written and adapted to the weekly church service of the year.  This was the first collection hymns in the Church of England specifically written or collected to fit the requirements of the liturgical year. 
    Some had been printed earlier with the following explanation: ‘The following hymns are part of an intended series, appropriate to the Sundays and principal holydays of the year, connected in some degree with their particular Collects and Gospels, and designed to be sung between the Nicene Creed and the sermon.’
    57 out of the 98 were written by Heber, during his time as Rector of Hodnet.  He would undoubtedly have written more, had he not been called to Calcutta.  A brief list of those still known is followed by a selection of those now rarely sung (except at St Peter’s, Marton)

‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’
His masterpiece for Trinity Sunday.

‘From Greenland’s icy mountain’ 
In 1819, the government had authorized collections to be made in every church and chapel in England for the Mission of the Church in India.  On Whit Sunday, the Dean of Asaph, Reginald’s father-in-law, had arranged to preach the missionary sermon in the morning, with Heber delivering the first in a series of lectures that evening.  On the Saturday the Dean asked his son-in-law to write ‘something for them to sing in the morning’.  Retiring to a corner of the room, Heber at once wrote down the first three verses of ‘From Greenland’s icy mountains’.  The Dean asked, ‘What have you written?’  Heber read over the lines, when the Dean exclaimed, ‘There, there, that will do very well.’  ‘No,’ replied the poet, ‘the sense is not complete,’ and added the fourth verse.  In the second verse, it now reads ‘Blow soft o’er Java’s isle’ where Heber wrote ‘Ceylon’s’;  while the oft-quoted ‘The heathen in his blindness…’ was originally ‘The savage…’

‘Brightest and best of the sons of the morning’  (Epiphany)

‘Virgin-born, we bow before thee’  (Lent 3)

‘God is gone up with a merry noise’  (Easter)

‘The Son of God goes forth to war’  (Saints days)

‘O most merciful’  (An introit to the Communion Service)

‘Bread of the world, in mercy broken’  (Before the Sacrament)

‘God who madest earth and heaven’  (Evening)

Fourth Sunday in Advent

THE world is grown old, and her pleasures are past;
The world is grown old, and her form may not last;
The world is grown old, and trembles for fear;
For sorrows abound, and judgement is near!

The sun in the Heaven is languid and pale;
And feeble and few are the fruits of the vale;
And the hearts of the nations fail them for fear,
For the world is grown old, and judgement is near!

The king on his throne, the bride in her bower,
The children of pleasure all feel the sad hour;
The roses are faded, and tasteless the cheer,
For the world is grown old, and judgement is near!

The world is grown old! —but should we complain,
Who have tried her and know that her promise is vain?
Our heart is in Heaven, our home is not here,
And we look for our crown when judgement is near!

Sunday after Christmas

LORD of mercy and of might!
Of mankind the life and light!
Maker, teacher infinite!
            Jesus! hear and save!

Who, when sin’s tremendous doom
Gave creation to the tomb,
Didst not scorn the Virgin’s womb,
            Jesus! hear and save!

Mighty monarch!  Saviour mild!
Humbled to a mortal child,
Captive, beaten, bound, revil’d,
            Jesus! hear and save!

Throned above celestial things,
Borne aloft on angels’ wings,
Lord of lords, and King of kings!
            Jesus! hear and save!

Who shall yet return from high,
Robed in might and majesty,
Hear us! help us when we cry!
            Jesus! hear and save!

Sexagesima

OH GOD!  by whom the seed is given;
            By whom the harvest blest;
Whose word, like  manna shower’d from heaven,
            Is planted in our breast;

Preserve it from the passing feet,
            And plunderers of the air;
The sultry sun’s intenser heat,
            And weeds of worldly care!

Though buried deep or thinly strewn,
            Do thou thy grace supply;
The hope in earthly furrows sown
            Shall ripen in the sky!

Trinity 2

FORTH from the dark and stormy sky,
Lord, to Thine altar’s shade we fly;
Forth from the world, its hope and fear,
Saviour, we seek Thy shelter here:
Weary and weak Thy grace we pray:
Turn not, O Lord! Thy guests away!

Long have we roam’d in want and pain,
Long have we sought Thy rest in vain;
Wildered in doubt, in darkness lost,
Long have our souls been tempest-tost:
Low at Thy feet our sins we lay;
Turn not, O Lord! Thy guests away!

Trinity 13

‘WHO yonder on the desert heath,
Complains in feeble tone?’
            ‘A pilgrim in the Vale of Death,
            Faint, bleeding, and alone!’

‘How cam’st thou to this dismal strand
Of danger, grief, and shame?’
            ‘From blessed Zion’s holy land,
            By Folly led, I came!’

‘Whose ruffian hand hath stript thee bare?
Whose fury laid thee low?’
            ‘Sin for my footsteps twin’d her snare,
            And death has dealt the blow!’

‘Can art no medicine for thy wound,
Nor Nature strength supply?’
            ‘They saw me bleeding on the ground,
            And passed in silence by!’‘But, sufferer! is no comfort near
Thy terrors to remove?’
            ‘There is to whom my soul was dear,
            But I have scorned His love.’

 ‘What if His hand were nigh to save
From endless Death thy days!’
            ‘The soul He ransomed from the grave
            Should live but to His praise!’

‘Rise then, oh rise!  His health embrace,
With heavenly strength renewed;
            And such as is thy Saviour’s grace,
            Such be thy gratitude!’

St James’ Day

THOUGH sorrows rise, and dangers roll
In waves of darkness o’er my soul,
Though friends are false and love decays,
And few and evil are my days,
Though conscience, fiercest of my foes,
Swells with remembered guilt my woes,
Yet e’en in nature’s utmost ill,
I love Thee, Lord!  I love Thee still!

Though Sinai’s curse, in thunder dread,
Peals o’er mine unprotected head,
And memory points, with busy pain,
To grace and mercy given in vain,
Till nature, shrinking in the strife,
Would fly to hell to ’scape from life,
Though every thought has power to kill,
I love Thee, Lord!  I love Thee still!

Oh, by the pangs Thyself hast borne,
The ruffian’s blow, the tyrant’s scorn;
By Sinai’s curse, whose dreadful doom
Was buried in Thy guiltless tomb:
By these my pangs, whose healing smart,
Thy grace hath planted in my heart;
I know, I feel, Thy bounteous will!
Thou lov’st me, Lord!  Thou lov’st me still!

In times of distress and danger

OH GOD that madest earth and sky, the darkness and the day,
Give ear to this Thy family, and help us when we pray!
For wide the waves of bitterness around our vessel roar,
And heavy grows the pilot’s heart to view the rocky shore!

The cross our Master bore for us, for Him we fain would bear,
But mortal strength to weakness turns, and courage to despair!
Then mercy on our failings, Lord! our sinking faith renew!
And when Thy sorrows visit us, oh send Thy patience too!

At a funeral

Written after the death of his first-born, an infant daughter

THOU are gone to the grave!  but we will not deplore thee,
            Though sorrows and darkness encompass the tomb,
Thy Saviour has pass’d through its portals before thee,
            And the lamp of His love is thy guide through the gloom!

Thou art gone to the grave!  we no longer behold thee,
            Nor tread the rough path of the world by thy side;
But the wide arms of Mercy are spread to enfold thee,
            And sinners may die, for the Sinless has died!

Thou art gone to the grave!  and its mansions forsaking,
            Perchance thy weak spirit in fear linger’d long;
But the mild rays of Paradise beam’d on thy waking,    
            And the sound which thou heardst was the Seraphim’s song!

Thou art gone to the grave!  but we will not deplore thee,
            Whose God was thy ransom, thy guardian and guide;
He gave thee, He took thee, and He will restore thee,
            And death has no sting, for the Saviour has died!