Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008

This hymn, written by William Whiting in 1860, is known widely as the "Navy Hymn" and is a common staple of Memorial Day services. Liam's late grandfather (my father-in-law) served in the US Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Both my brothers served in the US Navy in the mid to late 1970s and I tried to enlist in the USN when I "won" the draft lottery in 1971. As events turned out, I had some medical issues that made me a 4F, so I returned to college.

What I think about most, when I hear this tune, is the summer of 1970. I had recently graduated high school and the shocking news came that a beloved music teacher had died. Mr. Dubin was a veteran of World War II (as were a number of teachers in my high school) and he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Many of his students were present, and in the course of the graveside ceremony a military brass band played the Navy Hymn. It was not unfamiliar to me, as it has long been a part of the Presbyterian hymn tradition, but since that time I have an emotional response when I hear or sing this great trinitarian hymn.

The words below are from the Cyber Hymnal, and I suspect they are the original words. They differ in some ways with the various Presbyterian hymnals.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

[Added Later] -- Wikipedia has an informative article on "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" with its history and a compendium of supplemental verses written over the years.

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