Abide with Me

Do you ever get songs stuck in your head? I have two that are really stuck. I’m hoping that by blogging about each one, they will become un-stuck and free up precious gray matter for some other things.

The first song was planted in my consciousness when I was listening to a podcast about the sinking of the Titanic. I like listening to podcasts when I’m working out at the gym. It makes me feel like I’m getting an intellectual workout at the same time as my physical workout. Plus, I select topics I’m interested in, but don’t seem to have the time to squeeze in the regular course of my days. Working out is b-o-r-i-n-g and so necessary to keep my bionic parts moving, so having something to look forward to keeps me motivated and engaged.

April 15, 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage and demise of the Titanic and there have been a lot of programs and publicity around the remembrance. One of the great legends has been what the band was playing as the ship was sinking. Various surviving eyewitnesses recall popular tunes like Alexander’s Ragtime Band and In the Shadows. Certainly familiar hymns were also played and both Abide with Me and Nearer My God to Thee were reported among the survivors.

Abide with Me is what has been stuck in my head! It’s probably stuck because it isn’t so dirge-like as Nearer My God and I like the tune better. It’s also a favorite of some really interesting people. Jazz artist Thelonious Monk has a great instrumental jazz rendition. Interestingly, it was also a favorite of Mahatma Gandhi (yes, THE Gandhi and inspiration for our social sin series). It has been sung prior to kickoff every Rugby League Challenge Cup since 1929. It was a funeral standard for several of my parishioners of a certain generation.

As with most composers and song writers, something in their personal life is the inspiration for their music. Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte wrote the words as a poem, setting it to William Henry Monk’s tune Eventide, shortly before he died from tuberculosis. The words are a beautiful prayer to God, asking for God’s abiding presence through life, trials, and death. Also appropriate for this season of Easter.

The following are all the verses from Henry Francis Lyte’s poem. The YouTube video is one of my favorite classical vocalists, Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins singing Abide with Me. Yes, this is the same Katherine Jenkins currently on Dancing with the Stars.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord abide with me.

Unfortunately I’m not able to embed the YouTube video into my post. You’ll need to click on the video and it will take you to YouTube to watch. Also, since it’s not an html 5 video, you won’t be able to watch it at all on an iPad. Im also not excited about the video (which Katherine Jenkins did not do), but it’s a limitation of using free material. Nevertheless, the effort to listen to the song is worth it!



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