In writing this chapter the task of identifying the tune
, and its author, in the case of every hymn, would have required more time and labor than, perhaps, the importance of the facts would justify.
Peculiar interest, however, attaches to Welsh hymns, even apart from the airs which accompany them, and a general idea of Welsh music may be gathered from the tone and metre of the lyrics introduced. More particular information would necessitate printing the music itself.
From the days of the Druids, Wales has been a land of song. From the later but yet ancient time when the people learned the Christian faith, it has had its Christian psalms. The |March of the White Monks of Bangor| (7th century) is an epic of bravery and death celebrating the advance of Christian martyrs to their bloody fate at the hands of the Saxon savages. |Its very rhythm pictures the long procession of white-cowled patriots bearing peaceful banners and in faith taking their way to Chester to stimulate the valor of their countrymen.| And ever since the |Battle of the Hallelujahs| -- near Chirk on the border, nine miles from Wrexham -- when the invading Danes were driven from the field in fright by the rush of the Cymric army shouting that mighty cry, every Christian poet in Wales has had a hallelujah in his verse.
Through the centuries, while chased and hunted by their conquerors among the Cambrian hills, but clinging to their independent faith, or even when paralyzed into spiritual apathy under tribute to a foreign church, the heavenly song still murmured in a few true hearts amidst the vain and vicious lays of carnal mirth. It survived even when people and priest alike seemed utterly degenerate and godless. The voice of Walter Bute (1372) rang true for the religion of Jesus in its purity. Brave John Oldcastle, the martyr, (1417) clung to the gospel he learned at the foot of the cross. William Wroth, clergyman, saved from fiddling at a drunken dance by a disaster that turned a house of revelry into a house of death, confessed his sins to God and became the |Apostle of South Wales.| The young vicar, Rhys Pritchard (1579) rose from the sunken level of his profession, rescued through an incident less tragic. Accustomed to drink himself to inebriety at a public-house -- a socially winked-at indulgence then -- he one day took his pet goat with him, and poured liquor down the creature's throat. The refusal of the poor goat to go there again forced the reckless priest to reflect on his own ways. He forsook the ale-house and became a changed man.
Among his writings -- later than this -- is found the following plain, blunt statement of what continued long to be true of Welsh society, as represented in the common use of Sunday time.
Of all the days throughout the rolling year
There's not a day we pass so much amiss,
There's not a day wherein we all appear
So irreligious, so profaned as this.
A day for drunkenness, a day for sport,
A day to dance, a day to lounge away,
A day for riot and excess, too short
Amongst the Welshmen is the Sabbath day.
A day to sit, a day to chat and spend,
A day when fighting 'mongst us most prevails,
A day to do the errands of the Fiend --
Such is the Sabbath in most parts of Wales.
Meantime some who could read the language -- and the better educated (like the author of the above rhymes) knew English as well as Welsh -- had seen a rescued copy of Wycliffs New Testament, a precious publication seized and burnt (like the bones of its translator) by hostile ecclesiastics, and suppressed for nearly two hundred years. Walter Bute, like Obadiah who hid the hundred prophets, may well be credited with such secret salvage out of the general destruction. And there were doubtless others equally alert for the same quiet service. We can imagine how far the stealthy taste of that priceless book would help to strengthen a better religion than the one doled out professionally to the multitude by a Civil church; and how it kept the hallelujah alive in silent but constant souls; and in how many cases it awoke a conscience long hypnotized under corrupt custom, and showed a renegade Christian how morally untuned he was.
Daylight came slowly after the morning star, but when the dawn reddened it was in welcome to Pritchard's and Penry's gospel song; and sunrise hastened at the call of Caradoc, and Powell, and Erbury, and Maurice, the holy men who followed them, some with the trumpet of Sinai and some with the harp of Calvary.
Cambria was being prepared for its first great revival of religion.
There was no rich portfolio of Christian hymns such as exists to-day, but surely there were not wanting pious words to the old chants of Bangor and the airs of |Wild Wales.| When time brought Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland, and the great |Reformation| of the eighteenth century, the renowned William Williams, |the Watts of Wales,| appeared, and began his tuneful work. The province soon became a land of hymns. The candles lit and left burning here and there by Penry, Maurice, and the Owens, blazed up to beacon-fires through all the twelve counties when Harris, at the head of the mighty movement, carried with him the sacred songs of Williams, kindling more lights everywhere between the Dee and the British Channel.
William Williams of Pantycelyn was born in 1717, at Cefncoed Farm, near Llandovery. Three years younger than Harris, (an Oxford graduate,) and educated only at a village school and an academy at Llwynllwyd, he was the song protagonist of the holy campaign as the other was its champion preacher. From first to last Williams wrote nine hundred and sixteen hymns, some of which are still heard throughout the church militant, and others survive in local use and affection. He died Jan.11, 1791, at Pantycelyn, where he had made his home after his marriage. One of the hymns in his Gloria, his second publication, may well have been his last. It was dear to him above others, and has been dear to devout souls in many lands.
My God, my portion and my love;
My all on earth, my all above,
My all within the tomb;
The treasures of this world below
Are but a vain, delusive show,
Thy bosom is my home.
It was fitting that Williams should name the first collection of his hymns (all in his native Welsh) The Hallelujah. Its lyrics are full of adoration for the Redeemer, and thanksgivings for His work.
|ONWARD RIDE IN TRIUMPH, JESUS,|
Marchog, Jesu, yn llwyddiannus,
Has been sung in Wales for a century and a half, and is still a favorite.
Onward ride in triumph, Jesus,
Gird thy sword upon thy thigh;
Neither earth nor Hell's own vastness
Can Thy mighty power defy.
In Thy Name such glory dwelleth
Every foe withdraws in fear,
All the wide creation trembleth
Whensoever Thou art near.
The unusual militant strain in this paean of conquest soon disappears, and the gentler aspects of Christ's atoning sacrifice occupy the writer's mind and pen.
[Footnote 37: The following shows the style of Rev. Elvet Lewis' translation:
Blessed Jesus, march victorious
With Thy sword fixed at Thy side;
Neither death nor hell can hinder
The God-Warrior in His ride.]
|IN EDEN -- O THE MEMORY!|
Yn Eden cofiaf hyny byth!
The text, |He was wounded for our transgressions,| is amplified in this hymn, and the Saviour is shown bruising Himself while bruising the serpent.
The first stanza gives the key-note, --
In Eden -- O the memory!
What countless gifts were lost to me!
My crown, my glory fell;
But Calvary's great victory
Restored that vanished crown to me;
On this my songs shall dwell;
-- and the multitude of Williams' succeeding |songs| that chant the same theme shows how well he kept his promise. The following hymn in Welsh (Cymmer, Jesu fi fel'r ydwyf) antedates the advice of Dr. Malan to Charlotte Elliott, |Come just as you are| --
Take me as I am, O Saviour,
Better I can never be;
Thou alone canst bring me nearer,
Self but draws me far from Thee.
I can never
But within Thy wounds be saved;
-- and another (Mi dafla maich oddi ar fy ngway) reminds us of Bunyan's Pilgrim in sight of the Cross:
I'll cast my heavy burden down,
Remembering Jesus' pains;
Guilt high as towering mountain tops
Here turns to joyful strains.
* * * * *
He stretched His pure white hands abroad,
A crown of thorns He wore,
That so the vilest sinner might
Be cleansed forevermore;
Williams was called |The Sweet Singer of Wales| and |The Watts of Wales| because he was the chief poet and hymn-writer of his time, but the lady he married, Miss Mary Francis, was literally a singer, with a voice so full and melodious that the people to whom he preached during his itineraries, which she sometimes shared with him, were often more moved by her sweet hymnody than by his exhortations. On one occasion the good man, accompanied by his wife, put up at Bridgend Tavern in Llangefin, Anglesea, and a mischievous crowd, wishing to plague the |Methodists,| planned to make night hideous in the house with a boisterous merry-making. The fiddler, followed by a gang of roughs, pushed his way to the parlor, and mockingly asked the two guests if they would |have a tune.|
|Yes,| replied Williams, falling in with his banter, |anything you like, my lad; 'Nancy Jig' or anything else.|
And at a sign from her husband, as soon as the fellow began the jig, Mrs. Williams struck in with one of the poet-minister's well-known Welsh hymns in the same metre, --
Gwaed Dy groes sy'n c' odi fyny
Calvary's blood the weak exalteth
More than conquerors to be,
-- and followed the player note for note, singing the sacred words in her sweet, clear voice, till he stopped ashamed, and took himself off with all his gang.
[Footnote 38: A less literal but more hymn-like translation is: Jesu's blood can raise the feeb The Welsh learn their hymns by heart, as they do the Bible -- a habit inherited from those old days of scarcity, when memory served pious people instead of print -- so that a Welsh prayer-meeting is never embarrassed by a lack of books. An anecdote illustrates this characteristic readiness. In February, 1797, when Napoleon's name was a terror to England, the French landed some troops near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. Mounted heralds spread the news through Wales, and in the village of Rhydybont, Cardiganshire, the fright nearly broke up a religious meeting; but one brave woman, Nancy Jones, stopped a panic by singing this stanza of one of Thomas Williams' hymns, --
Diuw os wyt am ddylenu'r bya
If Thou wouldst end the world, O Lord,
Accomplish first Thy promised Word,
And gather home with one accord
From every part Thine own,
Send out Thy Word from pole to pole,
And with Thy blood make thousands whole,
And, after that come down.
Nancy Jones would have been a useful member of the |Singing Sisters| band, so efficient a century or more afterwards.
The tunes of the Reformation under the |Methodist Fathers| continued far down the century to be the country airs of the nation, and reverberations of the great spiritual movement were heard in their rude music in the mountain-born revival led by Jack Edward Watkin in 1779 and in the local awakenings of 1791 and 1817. Later in the 19th century new hymns, and many of the old, found new tunes, made for their sake or imported from England and America.
The sanctified gift of song helped to make 1829 a year of jubilee in South Wales, nor was the same aid wanting during the plague in 1831, when the famous Presbyterian preacher, John Elias, won nearly a whole county to Christ.
[Footnote 42: Those who read his biography will call him the |Seraphic John Elias.|
His name was John Jones when he was admitted a member of the presbytery. What followed is a commentary on the embarrassing frequency of a common name, nowhere realized so universally as it is in Wales.
|What is his father's name?| asked the moderator when John Jones was announced.
|Elias Jones,| was the answer.
|Then call the young man John Elias,| said the speaker, |otherwise we shall by and by have nobody but John Joneses.|
And |John Elias| it remained.]
An accession of temperance hymns in Wales followed the spread of the |Washingtonian| movement on the other side of the Atlantic in 1840, and began a moral reformation in the county of Merioneth that resulted in a spiritual one, and added to the churches several thousand converts, scarcely any of whom fell away.
The revival of 1851-2 was a local one, but was believed by many to have been inspired by a celestial antiphony. The remarkable sounds were either a miracle or a psychic wonder born of the intense imagination of a sensitive race. A few pious people in a small village of Montgomeryshire had been making special prayer for an outpouring of the spirit, but after a week of meetings with no sign of the result hoped for, they were returning to their homes, discouraged, when they heard strains of sweet music in the sky. They stopped in amazement, but the beautiful singing went on -- voices as of a choir invisible, indistinct but melodious, in the air far above the roof of the chapel they had just left. Next day, when the astonished worshippers told the story, numbers in the district said they had heard the same sounds. Some had gone out at eleven o'clock to listen, and thought that angels must be singing. Whatever the music meant, the good brethren's and sisters' little meetings became crowded very soon after, and the longed-for out-pouring came mightily upon the neighborhood. Hundreds from all parts flocked to the churches, all ages joining in the prayers and hymns and testimonies, and a harvest of glad believers followed a series of meetings |led by the Holy Ghost.|
The sounds in the sky were never explained; but the belief that God sent His angels to sing an answer to the anxious prayers of those pious brethren and sisters did no one any harm.
Whether this event in Montgomeryshire was a preparation for what took place six or seven years later is a suggestive question only, but when the wave of spiritual power from the great American revival of 1857-8 reached England, its first messenger to Wales, Rev. H.R. Jones, a Wesleyan, had only to drop the spark that |lit a prairie fire.| The reformation, chiefly under the leadership of Mr. Jones and Rev. David Morgan, a Presbyterian, with their singing bands, was general and lasting, hundreds of still robust and active Christians today dating their new birth from the Pentecost of 1859 and its ingathering of eighty thousand souls.
A favorite hymn of that revival was the penitential cry, --
O'th flaem, O Dduw! 'r wy'n dyfod,
-- in the seven-six metre so much loved in Wales.
Unto Thy presence coming,
O God, far off I stand:
|A sinner| is my title,
No other I demand.
For mercy I am seeking
For mercy still shall cry;
Deny me not Thy mercy;
O grant it or I die!
* * * * *
I heard of old that Jesus,
Who still abides the same,
To publicans gave welcome,
And sinners deep in shame.
Oh God! receive me with them,
Me also welcome in,
And pardon my transgression,
Forgetting all my sin.
The author of the hymn was Thomas Williams of Glamorganshire, born 1761; died 1844. He published a volume of hymns, Waters of Bethesda in 1823.
The Welsh minor tune of |Clwyd| may appropriately have been the music to express the contrite prayer of the words. The living composer, John Jones, has several tunes in the Welsh revival manual of melodies, Ail Attodiad.
The unparalleled religious movement of 1904-5 was a praying and singing revival. The apostle and spiritual prompter of that unbroken campaign of Christian victories -- so far as any single human agency counted -- was Evan Roberts, of Laughor, a humble young worker in the mines, who had prayed thirteen years for a mighty descent of the heavenly blessing on his country and for a clear indication of his own mission. His convictions naturally led him to the ministry, and he went to Newcastle Emlyn to study. Evangelical work had been done by two societies, made up of earnest Christians, and known as the |Forward Movement| and the |Simultaneous Mission.| Beginnings of a special season of interest as a result of their efforts, appeared in the young people's prayer meetings in February, 1904, at New Quay, Cardiganshire. The interest increased, and when branch-work was organized a young praying and singing band visited Newcastle Emlyn in the course of one of their tours, and held a rally meeting. Evan Roberts went to the meeting and found his own mission. He left his studies and consecrated himself, soul and body, to revival work. In every spiritual and mental quality he was surpassingly well-equipped. To the quick sensibility of his poetic nature he added the inspiration of a seer and the zeal of a devotee. Like Moses, Elijah, and Paul in Arabian solitudes, and John in the Dead Sea wilds, he had prepared himself in silence and alone with God; and though, on occasion, he could use effectively his gift of words, he stood distinct in a land of matchless pulpit orators as |the silent leader.| Without preaching he dominated the mood of his meetings, and without dictating he could change the trend of a service and shape the next song or prayer on the intuition of a moment. In fact, judged by its results, it was God Himself who directed the revival, only He endowed His minister with the power of divination to watch its progress and take the stumbling-blocks out of the way. By a kind of hallowed psychomancy, that humble man would detect a discordant presence, and hush the voices of a congregation till the stubborn soul felt God in the stillness, and penitently surrendered.
Many tones of the great awakening of 1859 heard again in 1904-5, -- the harvest season without a precedent, when men, women and children numbering ten per cent of the whole population of a province were gathered into the membership of the church of Christ. But there were tones a century older heard in the devotions of that harvest-home in Wales. A New England Christian would have felt at home, with the tuneful assemblies at Laughor, Trencynon, Bangor, Bethesda, Wrexham, Cardiff, or Liverpool, singing Lowell Mason's |Meribah| or the clarion melody of Edson's |Lenox| to Wesley's --
Blow ye the trumpet, blow,
The gladly solemn sound;
-- or to his other well-known --
Arise my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears,
The bleeding Sacrifice
In thy behalf appear.
In short, the flood tide of 1904 and 1905 brought in very little new music and very few new hymns. |Aberystwyth| and |Tanymarian,| the minor harmonies of Joseph Party and Stephens; E.M. Price's |St. Garmon;| R.M. Pritchard's, |Hyfrydol,| and a few others, were choral favorites, but their composers were all dead, and the congregations loved the still older singers who had found familiar welcome at their altars and firesides. The most cherished and oftenest chosen hymns were those of William Williams and Ann Griffiths, of Charles Wesley, of Isaac Watts -- indeed the very tongues of fire that appeared at Jerusalem took on the Cymric speech, and sang the burning lyrics of the poet-saints. And in their revival joy Calvinistic Wales sang the New Testament with more of its Johannic than of its Pauline texts. The covenant of peace -- Christ and His Cross -- is the theme of all their hymns.
|HERE BEHOLD THE TENT OF MEETING.|
Dyma Babell y cyfarfod.
This hymn, written by Ann Griffiths, is entitled |Love Eternal,| and praises the Divine plan to satisfy the Law and at the same time save the sinner. The first stanza gives an idea of the thought:
Here behold the tent of meeting,
In the blood a peace with heaven,
Refuge from the blood-avengers,
For the sick a Healer given.
Here the sinner nestles safely
At the very Throne divine,
And Heaven's righteous law, all holy.
Still on him shall smile and shine.
|HOW SWEET THE COVENANT TO REMEMBER.|
Bydd melus gofio y cyfammod.
This, entitled |Mysteries of Grace,| is also from the pen of Ann Griffiths. It has the literalness noticeable in much of the Welsh religious poetry, and there is a note of pietism in it. The two last stanzas are these:
He is the great Propitiation
Who with the thieves that anguish bare;
He nerved the arms of His tormentors
To drive the nails that fixed Him there.
While He discharged the sinner's ransom,
And made the Law in honor be,
Righteousness shone undimmed, resplendent,
And me the Covenant set free.
My soul, behold Him laid so lowly,
Of peace the Fount, of Kings the Head,
The vast creation in Him moving
And He low-lying with the dead!
The Life and portion of lost sinners,
The marvel of heaven's seraphim,
To sea and land the God Incarnate
The choir of heaven cries, |Unto Him!|
Ann Griffiths' earliest hymn will be called her sweetest. Fortunately, too, it is more poetically translated. It was before the vivid consciousness and intensity of her religious experience had given her spiritual writings a more involved and mystical expression.
My soul, behold the fitness
Of this great Son of God,
Trust Him for life eternal
And cast on Him thy load,
A man -- touched with the pity
Of every human woe,
A God -- to claim the kingdom
And vanquish every foe.
This stanza, the last of her little poem on the |Eternal Fitness of Jesus,| came to her when, returning from an exciting service, filled with thoughts of her unworthiness and of the glorious beauty of her Saviour, she had turned down a sheltered lane to pray alone. There on her knees in communion with God her soul felt the spirit of the sacred song. By the time she reached home she had formed it into words.
The first and second stanzas, written later, are these:
Great Author of salvation
And providence for man,
Thou rulest earth and heaven
With Thy far-reaching plan.
Today or on the morrow,
Whatever woe betide,
Grant us Thy strong assistance,
Within Thy hand to hide.
What though the winds be angry,
What though the waves be high
While wisdom is the Ruler,
The Lord of earth and sky?
What though the flood of evil
Rise stormily and dark?
No soul can sink within it;
God is Himself the ark.
Mrs. Ann Griffiths, of Dolwar Fechan, Montgomeryshire, was born in 1776, and died in 1805. |She remains,| says Dr. Parry, her fellow-countryman, |a romantic figure in the religious history of Wales. Her hymns leave upon the reader an undefinable impression both of sublimity and mysticism. Her brief life-history is most worthy of study both from a literary and a religious point of view.|
[Illustration: Isaac Watts, D.D.]
A suggestive chapter of her short earthly career is compressed in a sentence by the author of |Sweet Singers of Wales:|
|She had a Christian life of eight years and a married life of ten months.|
She died at the age of twenty-nine. In 1904, near the centennial of her death, amid the echoes of her own hymns, and the rising waves of the great Refreshing over her native land, the people of Dolwar Fechan dedicated the new |Ann Griffiths Memorial Chapel| to her name and to the glory of God.
Although the Welsh were not slow to adopt the revival tones of other lands, it was the native, and what might be called the national, lyrics of that emotional race that were sung with the richest unction and hwyl (as the Cymric word is) during the recent reformation, and that evinced the strongest hold on the common heart. Needless to say that with them was the world-famous song of William Williams, --
Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah;
Arglwydd ar wain truy'r anialoch;
-- and that of Dr. Heber Evans, --
Keep me very near to Jesus,
Though beneath His Cross it be,
In this world of evil-doing
'Tis the Cross that cleanseth me;
-- and also that native hymn of expectation, high and sweet, whose writer we have been unable to identify --
The glory is coming! God said it on high,
When light in the evening will break from the sky;
The North and South and the East and the West,
With joy of salvation and peace will be bless'd.
* * * * *
O summer of holiness, hasten along!
The purpose of glory is constant and strong;
The winter will vanish, the clouds pass away;
O South wind of Heaven, breath softly today!
Of the almost countless hymns that voiced the spirit of the great revival, the nine following are selected because they are representative, and all favorites -- and because there is no room for a larger number. The first line of each is given in the original Welsh:
|DWY ADEN COLOMEN PE CAWN.|
O had I the wings of a dove
How soon would I wander away
To gaze from Mount Nebo I'd love
On realms that are fairer than day.
My vision, not clouded nor dim,
Beyond the dark river should run;
I'd sing, with my thoughts upon Him,
The sinless, the crucified one.
This is another of Thomas Williams' hymns. One of the tunes suitable to its feeling and its measure was |Edom,| by Thomas Evans. It was much sung in 1859, as well as in 1904.
|CAELBOD YN FORSEC DAN YR IAN.|
Early to bear the yoke excels
By far the joy in sin that dwells;
The paths of wisdom still are found
In peace and solace to abound.
The young who serve Him here below
The wrath to come shall never know;
Of such in heaven are pearls that shine
Unnumbered in the crown divine.
Written for children and youth by Rev. Thomas Jones, of Denbigh, born 1756; died 1820, -- a Calvinistic Methodist preacher, author of a biography of Thomas Charles of Bala, and various theological works.
|DYMA GARIAD FEL Y MOROEDD, TOSTURIASTHAN FEL Y LLI.|
Love unfathomed as the ocean
Mercies boundless as the wave!
Lo the King of Life, the guiltless,
Dies my guilty soul to save;
Who can choose but think upon it,
Who can choose but praise and sing?
Here is love, while heaven endureth,
Nought can to oblivion bring.
This is called |The great Welsh love-song.| It was written by Rev. William Rees, D.D., eminent as a preacher, poet, politician and essayist. One of the greatest names of nineteenth century Wales. He died in 1883.
The tune, |Cwynfan Prydian,| sung to this hymn is one of the old Welsh minors that would sound almost weird to our ears, but Welsh voices can sing with strange sweetness the Saviour's passion on which Christian hearts of that nation love so well to dwell, and the shadow of it, with His love shining through, creates the paradox of a joyful lament in many of their chorals. We cannot imitate it.
|RHYFEDDODAU DYDD YR ADGYFODIDD.|
Unnumbered are the marvels
The Last Great Day shall see,
With earth's poor storm-tossed children
From tribulation free,
All in their shining raiment
Transfigured, bright and brave,
Like to their Lord ascending
In triumph from the grave.
The author of this Easter hymn is unknown.
The most popular Welsh hymns would be named variously by different witnesses according to the breadth and length of their observation. Two of them, as a Wrexham music publisher testifies, are certainly the following; |Heaven and Home,| and |Lo, a Saviour for the Fallen.| The first of these was sung in the late revival with |stormy rapture.|
|O FRYNAU CAERSALEM CEIR GIVELED.|
The heights of fair Salem ascended,
Each wilderness path we shall see;
Now thoughts of each difficult journey
A sweet meditation shall be.
On death, on the grave and its terrors
And storms we shall gaze from above
And freed from all cares we shall revel (?)
In transports of heavenly love.
According to the mood of the meeting this was pitched in three sharps to Evelyn Evans' tune of |Eirinwg| or with equal Welsh enthusiasm in the C minor of old |Darby.|
The author of the hymn was the Rev. David Charles, of Carmarthen, born 1762; died 1834. He was a heavenly-minded man who loved to dwell on the divine and eternal wonders of redemption. A volume of his sermons was spoken of as |Apples of gold in pictures of silver,| and the beautiful piety of all his writings made them strings of pearls. He understood English as well as Welsh, and enjoyed the hymns not only of William and Thomas Williams but of Watts, Wesley, Cowper, and Newton.
[Footnote 43: The following verses were written by him in English: Spirit of grace and love divine,
Help me to sing that Christ is mine;
And while the theme my tongue employs
Fill Thou my soul with living joys.
Jesus is mine -- surpassing thought!
Well may I set the world at nought;
Jesus is mine, O can it be
That Jesus lived and died for me?]
|DYMA GEIDWAD I R COLLEDIG.|
Lo! a Saviour for the fallen,
Healer of the sick and sore,
One whose love the vilest sinners
Seeks to pardon and restore.
Praise Him, praise Him
Who has loved us evermore!
The little now known of the Rev. Morgan Rhys, author of this hymn, is that he was a schoolmaster and preacher, and that he was a contemporary and friend of William Williams. Several of his hymns remain in use of which the oftenest sung is one cited above, and |O agor fy llygaid i weled:|
I open my eyes to this vision,
The deeps of Thy purpose and word;
The law of Thy lips is to thousands
Of gold and of silver preferred;
When earth is consumed, and its treasure,
God's words will unchanging remain,
And to know the God-man is my Saviour
Is life everlasting to gain.
|Lo! a Saviour for the Fallen| finds an appropriate voice in W.M. Robert's tune of |Nesta,| and also, like many others of the same measure, in the much-used minors |Llanietyn,| |Catharine,| and |Bryn Calfaria.|
|O SANCTEIDDIA F'ENAID ARGLWYDD.|
Sanctify, O Lord, my spirit,
Every power and passion sway,
Bid Thy holy law within me
Dwell, my wearied soul to stay;
Let me never
Rove beyond Thy narrow way.
This one more hymn of William Williams is from his |Song of a Cleansed Heart| and is amply provided with tunes, popular ones like |Tyddyn Llwyn,| |Y Delyn Aur,| or |Capel-Y-Ddol| lending their deep minors to its lines with a thrilling effect realized, perhaps, only in the land of Taliessin and the Druids.
The singular history and inspiring cause of one old Welsh hymn which after various mutilations and vicissitudes survives as the key-note of a valued song of trust, seems to illustrate the Providence that will never let a good thing be lost. It is related of the Rev. David Williams, of Llandilo, an obscure but not entirely forgotten preacher, that he had a termagant wife, and one stormy night, when her bickerings became intolerable, he went out in the rain and standing by the river composed in his mind these lines of tender faith:
In the waves and mighty waters
No one will support my head
But my Saviour, my Beloved,
Who was stricken in my stead.
In the cold and mortal river
He would hold my head above;
I shall through the waves go singing
For one look of Him I love.
Apparently the sentiment and substantially the expression of this humble hymn became the burden of more than one Christian lay. Altered and blended with a modern gospel hymn, it was sung at the crowded meetings of 1904 to Robert Lowry's air of |Jesus Only,| and often rendered very impressively as a solo by a sweet female voice.
In the deep and mighty waters
There is none to hold my head
But my loving Bridegroom, Jesus,
Who upon the cross hath bled.
If I've Jesus, Jesus only
Then my sky will have a gem
He's the Sun of brightest splendor,
He's the Star of Bethlehem.
He's the Friend in Death's dark river,
He will lift me o'er the waves,
I will sing in the deep waters
If I only see His face.
If I've Jesus, Jesus only, etc.
A few of the revival tunes have living authors and are of recent date; and the minor harmony of |Ebenezer| (marked |Ton Y Botel|), which was copied in this country by the New York Examiner, with its hymn, is apparently a contemporary piece. It was first sung at Bethany Chapel, Cardiff, Jan, 8, 1905, the hymn bearing the name of Rev. W.E. Winks.
Send Thy Spirit, I beseech Thee,
Gracious Lord, send while I pray;
Send the Comforter to teach me,
Guide me, help me in Thy way.
Sinful, wretched, I have wandered
Far from Thee in darkest night,
Precious time and talents squandered,
Lead, O lead me into light.
Thou hast heard me; light is breaking --
Light I never saw before.
Now, my soul with joy awaking,
Gropes in fearful gloom no more:
O the bliss! my soul, declare it;
Say what God hath done for thee;
Tell it out, let others share it --
Christ's salvation, full and free.
One cannot help noticing the fondness of the Welsh for the 7-6, 8-7, and 8-7-4 metres. These are favorites since they lend themselves so naturally to the rhythms of their national music -- though their newest hymnals by no means exclude exotic lyrics and melodies. Even |O mother dear, Jerusalem,| one of the echoes of Bernard of Cluny's great hymn, is cherished in their tongue (O, Frynian Caerselem) among the favorites of song. Old |Truro| by Dr. Burney appears among their tunes, Mason's |Ernan,| |Lowell| and |Shawmut,| I.B. Woodbury's |Nearer Home| (to Phebe Cary's hymn), and even George Hews' gently-flowing |Holley.| Most of these tunes retain their own hymns, but in Welsh translation. To find our Daniel Read's old |Windham| there is no surprise. The minor mode -- a song-instinct of the Welsh, if not of the whole Celtic family of nations, is their rural inheritance. It is in the wind of their mountains and the semitones of their streams; and their nature can make it a gladness as the Anglo-Saxon cannot. So far from being a gloomy people, their capacity for joy in spiritual life is phenomenal. In psalmody their emotions mount on wings, and they find ecstacy in solemn sounds.
|A temporary excitement| is the verdict of skepticism on the Reformation wave that for a twelvemonth swept over Wales with its ringing symphonies of hymn and tune. But such excitements are the May-blossom seasons of God's eternal husbandry. They pass because human vigor cannot last at flood-tide, but in spiritual economy they will always have their place, |If the blossoms had not come and gone there would be no fruit.|