Sunday, January 09, 2011

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace and its composition has been the subject of many books and even a movie of the same title. The Wikipedia article lists the six verses here with the seventh verse having been added from a 1790 source that had been passed along by African-American. It appeared in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and has to this day been, perhaps, the best known verse of this well-known hymn. But it wasn't written by John Newton, as were the first six verses...

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
The tune is in Common Meter and no one seems to know which of the many C.M. tunes might have been used at the time Newton wrote this in 1779. The tune which has been most often associated with Amazing Grace is New Britain, composed in the 1830's. It appeared with William Walker's Southern Harmony in 1835.

The image is a page from the 1847 edition of The Southern Harmony showing the melody in the tenor line and the shape notes typical of this period in American hymnbooks. It was obtained from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.

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