Posted by: rcottrill | February 24, 2014

Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun

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Words: Thomas Ken (b. July ___, 1637; d. Mar. 19, 1711)
Music: Mainzer, by Joseph Mainzer (b. Oct. 21, 1801; d. Nov. 10, 1851)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Bishop Ken wrote this hymn in 1674 or earlier. It was later revised, likely by Thomas Ken himself. This may account for the many variations in the text and the stanzas used. Lyra Britannica, usually authoritative, has some stanzas the Cyber Hymnal does not, but the latter includes several missing from Lyra Britannica. The version I’ve used for this article is the 1709 revision.

The good bishop suffered from physical pain, day by day, and was troubled with insomnia at night. He had a timepiece which enabled him to discern the time by touch, in the dark. (It has been preserved as a significant artifact of his life.) He wrote of this watch in his poetry:

Pain keeps me walking in the night;
I longing lie for morning light;
Methinks the sluggish sun forgets
He this day’s course must run.
O heavenly torch! Why this delay
In giving us our wonted day?
I feel my watch, I tell my clock,
I hear each crowing of the cock.

Eminent hymn historian John Julian considered the present hymn among a handful of the greatest hymns in the English language. Others agree, placing Ken’s evening hymn (“Glory [or, all praise] to Thee, my God, this night”) in similar high esteem. The hymns were written for the boys of Winchester College (a school the bishop himself had once attended) with the instruction that they were to, “Be sure to sing the Morning and Evening hymn in their chamber devoutly.”

T his morning hymn is a summons to diligence and discipline in every area of life, living under the watchful eye of God. Picture the boys in their frigid dormitory rising at five in the morning–“with the sun,” or even before it broke the horizon. They are prodded by the hymn to “shake off dull sloth” to offer to the Lord their sacrifice of praise (I Thess. 5:8; Heb. 13:15).

“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Ps. 5:3).

CH-1) Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

CH-4) In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

It’s impossible to include a discussion of the entire fourteen stanzas of this great hymn in a short article, but you can read eleven of the stanzas in the Cyber Hymnal. Think of this concise prayer surely reflecting what it means to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 25).

CH-9) Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

Or consider these two stanzas (the first of which is not currently included in the Cyber Hymnal). They are based on the thought that heaven is heaven because God is there, and that the grandest employment of eternity will be the praise of God (cf. Ps. 61:8). That will be not only a life of quantity (i.e. endless) but of supreme quality. As the Lord Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3; cf. Jer. 9:23-24).

I would not wake nor rise again,
E’en heav’n itself I would disdain,
Were not Thou there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

CH-7) Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

The morning hymn, along with the bishop’s evening and midnight hymns, each ends with the familiar Doxology. The third line of this has, I think, been improved from the author’s earlier version which read: “Praise Him above y’ Angelick Host.”

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

These four lines have likely been sung in the English speaking church more than any others. They are a masterpiece of compactness and completeness. Repeated praise for all blessings, by all on earth and all in heaven, addressed to all of God (cf. I Chron. 29:11).

1) What will be the character of a day that is lived by the code of CH-9?

2) In contrast, what will be missing from the day if CH-9 is not applied?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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