Posted by: rcottrill | May 25, 2010

Today in 1816 – Samuel Webbe Died

Samuel Webbe has an interesting history. Raised in poverty by his mother, after his father died, he received his early education from her. As a boy he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker, but spoke later of seven wasted years in that pursuit. Around the age of 20 he obtained employment as a music copiest, often working from 5:00 a.m. till midnight to make enough to support himself.

Music became his passion, and he determined to master the subject. He certainly became notably skilled, creating some of the finest unaccompanied vocal music ever written. Webbe was also a talented organist, and he served churches in London in that capacity for a number of years. In addition, he became interested in languages, and before his death he had gained a knowledge of Latin, French, Italian, German, Greek and Hebrew.

Samuel Webbe wrote a number of hymn tunes, including his Consolator for Come, Ye Disconsolate. (For a lovely rendition of this hymn, here is one on YouTube.)

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

(2) Today in 1934 – Gustav Holst Died
Gustav Theodore Holst wrote the hymn tune Cranham for the carol In the Bleak Midwinter. But as a classical composer, he is best known for his orchestral suite The Planets, composed in 1921. The hymn tune Thaxted is actually the theme for the planet Jupiter taken from that piece of music. (The beautiful melody comes near the middle of Holst’s music for Jupiter.) It is used for the hymn I Vow to Thee My Country, written by English career diplomat Sir Cecil Spring-Rice.

In truth, most would not consider this to be a true hymn. Nowhere in the two stanzas is God even mentioned. The second stanza makes a vague reference to the kingdom of God, or perhaps heaven, as “another country,” and the last line quotes from Prov. 3:17, “Her ways are pleasantness [or gentleness], and all her paths are peace.” But this text is speaking of godly wisdom (cf. vs. 13), not heaven. The vow of loyalty to one’s country is appropriate for the military, and it is used at Remembrance Day services.

What has called particular attention to the song is its use on two newsworthy occasions. Princess Diana asked that it be sung at her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981, saying it was her favourite. It certainly suited that event, if we think of it as a pledge of loyalty to Britain by a young woman about to enter public life. It was also used on the sad occasion of Diana’s funeral in Westminster Abbey in 1997 (see the video clip below). It begins:

I vow to thee, my country–all earthly things above–
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays on the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago—
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.


Responses

  1. […] Christina was shy and retiring, but a woman with strong Christian convictions. She turned down at least one offer of marriage from a man for who she had great affection, being concerned about significant differences in their beliefs. Christina Rossetti published three books of poetry and four devotional books. At its best, her poetry compares favourably with that of the most prominent English poets. Her most famous song is a Christmas carol called In the Bleak Midwinter. (The tune was composed by classical composer Gustav Holst. […]

  2. […] Christina was shy and retiring, but a woman with strong Christian convictions. She turned down at least one offer of marriage from a man for who she had great affection, being concerned about significant differences in their beliefs. Christina Rossetti published three books of poetry and four devotional books. at its best, her poetry compares favourably with that of the most prominent English poets. Her most famous song is a Christmas carol called in the Bleak Midwinter. (The tune was composed by classical composer Gustav Holst. […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns (Thomas Moore, and Samuel Webbe) The Cyber […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: