This is such an attractive hymn that it is always in our ears.
'Abide with Me' is a Christian hymn written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte.
He wrote it in 1847 while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he survived only a further three weeks after its completion.
These hymns become more poignant when we search their backgrounds.
The hymn Abide With Me is popular across many denominations, and was said to be a favourite of King George V and Mahatma Gandhi. It is also often sung at Christian funerals. In the aftermath of the sinking of RMS Titanic, survivors reported that the Titanic's band played the hymn as the ship was sinking, although detailed studies have identified other songs played by the band.
The hymn is sung at the annual Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand, and in some Remembrance Day services in Canada and the United Kingdom. It is also played by the combined bands of the Indian Armed Forces during the annual Beating Retreat ceremony held on 29 January at Vijay Chowk, New Delhi, which officially marks the end of Republic Day celebrations.
'Adeste Fideles' is a hymn tune attributed to English hymnist John Francis Wade. The text itself has unclear beginnings, and may have been written in the 13th century by John of Reading, though it has been concluded that Wade was probably the author.
The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into several languages many times, though the English 'O Come All Ye Faithful' translation by the English Roman Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley is particularly widespread.
Frederick Oakeley (September 5, 1802 to January 30, 1880) was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England the sixth son of Sir Charles Oakeley, second baronet, and educated at Christ Church, Oxford. He was ordained in 1828 and in 1845 converted from Church of England to Catholicism, whereupon he became Canon of Westminster in 1852.
We must not forget that strange mystic William Blake; He wrote that great anthem which fills the heart of every English person with pride.
Here are several verses with which we are familiar.
And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
But in Ireland we have a poem which stretches back much further than that.
We attribute it to Saint Patrick but he may not have written it at all.
St. Patrick's Breastplate is a Christian hymn whose original old lyrics were traditionally attributed to St. Patrick during his Irish ministry in the 5th century; however, it was probably actually written later, in the 8th century. It is written in the style of a druidic incantation for protection on a journey. It is part of the 'Liber Hymnorum', a collection of hymns found in two manuscripts kept in Dublin.
Do not downgrade the druids. They have had a terrible press. They were intelligent men, well educated and protected a great Celtic literature. Many became Christians and many of them saints.
Here again I quote:
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
Now I came upon all these poems as I stood in the church and waited for the Corpus Christi procession to commence. Outside stood our local band, dressed in their blue uniform piped with gold. The sound of a brass band cheers me and it seemed only yesterday that as a boy I followed them around The Green. I am familiar with them as just ordinary folks during the year but when they played in the Brass Band, they looked angelic.
So when I followed a sober brass band through Castlebar many thoughts flooded through my mind. We need ceremony and the Church stills hold on to ceremony.
I will finish with one of my favourite hymns. It was written by Cardinal Newman. I have quoted this note by him before.
Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, "I have a work to do in England".
I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services.
At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for one whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, 'Lead, Kindly Light', which have since become so well known.
There is much more to these hymns than meets the eye.