TO THE READER.
"What! another hymn-book? Why surely the world has hymn-books enough." Well, that may be, and yet here is something like another. It is something like another, as there are hymns in it; and yet it is rather unlike any other, in that it has the hymns interwoven with what may be called gossip, innocent, and, it is hoped, not unpleasant gossip, about the hymns and those who wrote them. Who does not like to know the why, the when, and the wherefore of men and things? Who does not love a chat about the people and the affairs which interest him? Here, then, is chat about hymns, their birth and parentage, their circumstances, their character and their influence. These pages make no pretensions to learning—that is left to the doctors. Nor do they aim at criticism, that belongs to those who go up the Rhine. Neither do they affect the style of history—that has been well done in other volumes. It will be enough if the lover of sacred music should snatch up the book now and then, after a good practice in psalmody, and opening it anywhere, find a chapter containing some story about a dear old hymn which makes that hymn still dearer to his heart. Or, if those who like to have some fresh stanzas always on their merry lips, should catch new strains from the voices which mingle in these chapters of chat; or, if those who turn over the leaves should find an hour's pleasant communion with the spirit of Christian hymns, or with the mind and hearts of those who wrote them; or, if a chapter, perchance, arrest the soul of any reader, and teach him the secret of a happy, cheerful, and tuneful life, a life of inward hymn and song,—the book will answer its purpose, and fill its place. Whatever may be thought of the setting, the gems with which these pages are enriched, the psalms and hymns which illuminate the text, need no commendation but their own transparent richness and beauty.
Many of these hymns are from living authors, and grateful acknowledgments are due for permission to reprint them. Mrs. Julius Collins's fine rendering of the hymn from the Synagogue Morning Service has been inserted by the kind consent of Dr. Benisch. Mrs. Charles has freely sanctioned the use of several of her translations of ancient hymns. The following are hers:—Hymn from Ephrera Syrus "On the Children in Paradise;" St. Ambrose's "Advent Hymn;" Bede's hymn "On the Ascension;" portions of St. Bernard's hymn, "To Christ on the Cross;" the "Veni, Sancte Spiritus," by King Robert II. of France; and the "Dies Irse." These are all taken from her beautiful and instructive "Voice of Christian Life in Song." Five hymns translated by Miss Winkworth are reprinted from her "Lyra Germanica," by permission of Messrs. Longman, Green, and Co.—" Gustavus Adolphus' Battle Song," "Queen Maria of Hungary's Song," "Jesus my Redeemer Lives," by Louisa Henrietta, Electress of Brandenburg; "Leave all to God," by Anton Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick; and Notker's hymn by Luther, "In the Midst of Life, Behold." All the other renderings of ancient hymns, without a name in the volume, are new. Among the modern hymns selected, those by the Bev. John 8. B. Monsell are from his "Parish Musings," and are given by the gifted author's permission. The Rev. John Keble, author of the "Christian Year," very kindly sanctions the use of those hymns, which are inserted as from his pen. Most of the other hymns in the volume come from hymnists who are now above our thanks; but "the memory of the just is blessed."
Yes, it may be repeated, "the memory of the just is blessed•;" for scarcely had the above record of John Keble's Christian kindness found its way to the press, before he too had joined the hymnists who are "now above our• thanks." It was but the other evening that one looked at him as his bending form moved gently over the sands along the beautiful shore of Mount's Bay, in Cornwall; and as Ms peaceful face was now and then turned upwards to the star-lighted heavens, it seemed as if he were inwardly singing his own deeply spiritual hymn for "the Fourth Sunday after Easter;" but those who kept him company little thought that he would so soon realize the consoling prophecy of his own verse :—
Then, fainting soul, arise and sing;
Mount, but be sober on the wing;
Mount up, for heaven is won by prayer,
Be sober, for thou art not there;
Till death the weary spirit free,
Thy God hath said, "Tis good for thee
To walk by faith and not by sight:
Take it on trust a little while;
Soon shalt thou read the mystery right
In the full sunshine of His smile.