Today I found John Bunyan’s hymn, “He Who Would Valient Be,” accompanied by an unfamiliar tune, St. Dunstan’s. I much prefer the one written by Ralph Vaughn Williams.
A Latin hymn from the 7th or 8th Century, it has gone through several translations. This one comes from the 1986 New English Hymnal.
Yesterday the Christian Church celebrated Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, the day our Lord ascended to Heaven.
Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay.
Behold, the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me!
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path!
Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see!
O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath;
And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.
| Latin text
Coelos ascendit hodie
| English translation
Today into the heavens has ascended
One thing I have enjoyed in worshipping in a different tradition (Presbyterian), is singing wonderful old hymns I never knew before. Our choir is also influenced by Episcopalian and Anglican music, from which comes this hymn.
My choir will be singing this 17th century hymn during communion this coming week.
Finally, this week, I will sing this tune. My introduction to it was a recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ organ prelude. I probably listen to it at least 20 weeks a year on my way to church.
Later I heard it sung for the first time, but in a language I don’t understand, Welsh. My recording is much better than this, but it is still beautiful.
The hymn we will sing during the communion service Sunday is “Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor.” Here is a much larger choir singing it:
George Hugh Bourne