appreciation of the power and value of congregational church music. Milton could write, before 1645:—
“There let the pealing organ blow
Thomas Mace, in his Music’s Monument (1676), thus described the effect of psalm-singing before sermons by the congregation in York Minster on Sundays, during the siege of 1644: “When that vast concording unity of the whole congregational chorus came thundering in, even so as it made the very ground shake under us, oh, the unutterable ravishing soul’s delight! in the which I was so transported and wrapt up in high contemplations that there was no room left in my whole man, body, soul and spirit, for anything below divine and heavenly raptures; nor could there possibly be anything to which that very singing might be truly compared, except the right apprehension or conceiving of that glorious and miraculous quire, recorded in the scriptures at the dedication of the temple.” Nor was there any want of men well qualified, and by the turn of their minds predisposed, to shine in this branch of literature. Some (like Sandys, Boyd and Barton) devoted themselves altogether to paraphrases of other scriptures as well as the psalms. Others (like George Herbert, and Francis and John Quarles) moralized, meditated, soliloquized and allegorized in verse. Without reckoning these, there were a few, even before the Restoration, who came very near to the ideal of hymnody.
First in time is the Scottish poet John Wedderburn, who translated several of Luther’s hymns, and in his Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs added others of his own (or his brothers’) composition. Some of these Wedderburn. poems, published before 1560, are of uncommon excellence, uniting ease and melody of rhythm, and structural skill, with grace of expression, and simplicity, warmth and reality of religious feeling. Those entitled “Give me thy heart,” “Go, heart,” and “Leave me not,” which will be found in a collection of 1860 called Sacred Songs of Scotland, require little, beyond the change of some archaisms of language, to adapt them for church or domestic use at the present day.
Next come the two hymns of “The new Jerusalem,” by an English Roman Catholic priest signing himself F. B. P. (supposed to be “Francis Baker, Presbyter”), and by another Scottish poet, David Dickson, of which the history Dickson. is given by Dr Bonar in his edition of Dickson’s work. This (Dickson’s), which begins “O mother dear, Jerusalem,” and has long been popular in Scotland, is a variation and amplification by the addition of a large number of new stanzas of the English original, beginning “Jerusalem, my happy home,” written in Queen Elizabeth’s time, and printed (as appears by a copy in the British Museum) about 1616, when Dickson was still young. Both have an easy natural flow, and a simple happy rendering of the beautiful scriptural imagery upon the subject, with a spirit of primitive devotion uncorrupted by medieval peculiarities. The English hymn of which some stanzas are now often sung in churches is the true parent of the several shorter forms,—all of more than common merit,—which, in modern hymn-books, begin with the same first line, but afterwards deviate from the original. Kindred to these is the very fine and faithful translation, by Dickson’s contemporary Drummond of Hawthornden of the ancient “Urbs beata Hierusalem” (“Jerusalem, that place divine”). Other ancient hymns (two of Thomas Aquinas, and the “Dies Irae”) were also well translated, in 1646, by Richard Crashaw, after he had become a Roman Catholic and had been deprived by the parliament of his fellowship at Cambridge.
Conspicuous among the sacred poets of the first two Stuart reigns in England was George Wither. His Hymnes and Songs of the Church appeared in 1622–1623, under a patent of King James I., by which they were declared “worthy Wither. and profitable to be inserted, in convenient manner and due place, into every English Psalm-book to metre.” His Hallelujah (in which some of the former Hymnes and Songs were repeated) followed in 1641. Some of the Hymnes and Songs were set to music by Orlando Gibbons, and those in both books were written to be sung, though there is no evidence that the author contemplated the use of any of them in churches. They included hymns for every day in the week (founded, as those contributed nearly a century afterwards by Charles Coffin to the Parisian Breviary also were, upon the successive works of the days of creation); hymns for all the church seasons and festivals, including saints’ days; hymns for various public occasions; and hymns of prayer, meditation and instruction, for all sorts and conditions of men, under a great variety of circumstances—being at once a “Christian Year” and a manual of practical piety. Many of them rise to a very high point of excellence,—particularly the “general invitation to praise God” (“Come, O come, in pious lays”), with which Hallelujah opens; the thanksgivings for peace and for victory, the Coronation Hymn, a Christmas, an Epiphany, and an Easter Hymn, and one for St Bartholomew’s day (Hymns 1, 74, 75, and 84 in part i., and 26, 29, 36 and 54 in part ii. of Hallelujah).
John Cosin, afterwards bishop of Durham, published in 1627 a volume of “Private Devotions,” for the canonical hours and other occasions. In this there are seven or eight hymns of considerable merit,—among them a very good version of the Ambrosian Cosin.“Jam lucis orto sidere,” and the shorter version of the “Veni Creator,” which was introduced after the Restoration into the consecration and ordination services of the Church of England.
The hymns of Milton (on the Nativity, Passion, Circumcision and “at a Solemn Music”), written about 1629, in his early manhood, were probably not intended for singing; but they are odes full of characteristic beauty and power.Milton.
During the Commonwealth, in 1654, Jeremy Taylor published
at the end of his Golden Grove, twenty-one hymns, described
by himself as “celebrating the mysteries and chief
festivals of the year, according to the manner of the
ancient church, fitted to the Jeremy
Taylor.fancy and devotion of the younger and pious persons, apt for memory, and to be joined, to their other prayers.” Of these, his accomplished editor, Bishop Heber, justly says:—
“They are in themselves, and on their own account, very interesting compositions. Their metre, indeed, which is that species of spurious Pindaric which was fashionable with his contemporaries, is an obstacle, and must always have been one, to their introduction into public or private psalmody; and the mixture of that alloy of conceits and quibbles which was an equally frequent and still greater defilement of some of the finest poetry of the 17th century will materially diminish their effect as devotional or descriptive odes. Yet, with all these faults, they are powerful, affecting, and often harmonious; there are many passages of which Cowley need not have been ashamed, and some which remind us, not disadvantageously, of the corresponding productions of Milton.”
He mentions particularly the advent hymn (“Lord, come away”), part of the hymn “On heaven,” and (as “more regular in metre, and in words more applicable to public devotion”) the “Prayer for Charity” (“Full of mercy, full of love”).
The epoch of the Restoration produced in 1664 Samuel Crossman’s Young Man’s Calling, with a few “Divine Meditations” in verse attached to it; in 1668 John Austin’s Devotions in the ancient way of offices, with psalms, hymns and prayers for every day in the week and every Restoration period. holyday in the year; and in 1681 Richard Baxter’s Poetical Fragments. In these books there are altogether seven or eight hymns, the whole or parts of which are extremely good: Crossman’s “New Jerusalem” (“Sweet place, sweet place alone”), one of the best of that class, and “My life’s a shade, my days”; Austin’s “Hark, my soul, how everything,” “Fain would my thoughts fly up to Thee,” “Lord, now the time returns,” “Wake all my hopes, lift up your eyes”; and Baxter’s “My whole, though broken heart, O Lord,” and “Ye holy angels bright.” Austin’s Offices (he was a Roman Catholic) seem to have attracted much attention. Theophilus Dorrington, in 1686, published variations of them under the title of Reformed