Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Saints Day 2008

One of my favorite hymns for this season (and all seasons) is the rousing For All the Saints. In the Presbyterian tradition, six verses have been employed -- 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 11 of the ones shown below -- not even The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990) could not bring itself to totally "correct" its martial metaphors, instead tucking the offending verses out of the way. I have expressed the opinion before, and I do so again: Tinkering with hymns rarely improves the product, and this is no exception. Verses 9 and 10 are particularly meaningful, and do much to enhance the story being told. I have not seen verses 3, 4, or 5 in any hymnal.

William Walsham How wrote the words in 1864 and Ralph Vaughan Williams published the most familiar hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906).
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
We remember those who have gone before.


Anonymous said...

A great post! This, too, is one of my favorite hymns (we sing it also in the Methodist Church). The verses normally "left out" speak most strongly to today's world and the pain and suffering of her people. Is not much of the world at war? Martial hymns could give us the courage to turn our differences over to Jesus.

Denis Hancock said...

Wow -- This is the first time a family member left me a comment on the blog!

People seem to have a hard time with the idea that martial imagery can be used metaphorically for the spiritual struggle.

I seem to recall that one of the Methodist Hymnals had eight verses.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by and I'll keep in touch.