This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Some New Hymns

As a change from "Bad hymns," where we say cruel things to modern hymn-writers, we are now going to invite in some older hymn-writers, to tell them where they went wrong. Today we welcome John Henry Newman, author of hymns such as Lead, kindly Light, and Praise to the Holiest in the height, which are hardly ever sung in church these days. Now, why is that?


Cardinal Newman - where did he go wrong?

E: Welcome, John, and congratulations on your Beatification - I was really rooting for you. Now, your first hymn starts:

Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
Not very snappy, is it? I suppose you never used to play the guitar, did you? Or shake the tambourine?

JHN: That's true, Eccles, I did try to introduce these to the Birmingham Oratory, but the traddies wouldn't have it. So how can I bring my hymn up to date?

E: Well, taking the tune of Walk in the Light, how about rewriting it as:

Lead, lead, Kindly Li-ight,
Lead, lead, Kindly Li-ight,
Lead, lead, Kindly Li-ight,
Lead on, as I'm far from home!

Holmes and Watson

Watson, the night is dark and we are far from home.

JHN: Yes, I think that would work. So Verse 2 could be:

Keep, keep Thou my fee-eet,
Keep, keep Thou my fee-eet,
Keep, keep Thou my fee-eet,
One step's the right thing for me!
E: You're learning quickly, John. This is the sort of hymn that Catholic congregations are singing these days. None of your flowery language!

JHN: Can we do something about Praise to the Holiest in the height, Eccles? It comes from my poem The Dream of Gerontius.


Gerontius, catching up on some sleep.

E: Gerontius? I suppose it's too late to give him a more with-it name? The Dream of Dave, maybe? Well, let's see how it starts:

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.
E: I think the problem here, John, is that there are at least four different ideas in that verse. And later on you get very involved in sin and redemption, and all that sort of Jesus-stuff, whereas modern congregations should be singing about how happy they are.

JHN: Yes, I think I'm getting the hang of this now. Could I use the tune of "Follow me, follow me?"

When we're up in the heights, or we feel a little blue,
Oh we like to praise our holy holy Friend,
For He sorted us out, yes He did, for me and you,
So we're saved, yes we're saved, and that's the end. 

Chorus: Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, 
praise the holy holy Lord... (ad libitum)

up in the heights

When we're up in the heights, or we feel a little blue...

E: Very good, John. You got through the main points of your hymn much more quickly that time, didn't you?

JHN: Thanks for your wise advice, Eccles. Now I see how real hymn-writers work.


  1. I think it's time that Giovanni da Palestrina is held to account for all those Mass settings. The same old words, over and over again and he kept using bits of plainchant. That's plagarism too.

    OCD, I call it.

    One Mass Ordinary and then move on.

  2. I think our parish will be singing 'Shine Jesus Shine' rather than Hail Redemeer King Divine next Sunday.

  3. Eccles, perhaps you should run a master-class on writing lyrics for hymns.

    I can let you have email addresses for St Thomas Aquinas, Frs Caswell, Faber, Stanfield, Vaughan and of course that very dubious Anon.

    You could get Estelle, Paul and others to join you to teach the reprobates how to do it properly.

  4. "Praise to the Holiest" is almost the theme tune of the Ordinariate - we sang it in St Peter's on our Pilgrimage to Rome last year - and 'Lead kindly light' often features with us too


  5. Eccles

    You need to work on this....

    (I quite like it, as it goes)


  6. This "lead kindly light " song is obviously plagiarised from WALK IN the light", and "Praise to the holiest in the height" is equally a rip off of "praise him praise him, praise him in the morning" . Poor imitations, and you can't even clap along.

    1. In turn, this was clearly plagiarited from the great Chinese Take-away Christian hymn "Wok, wok in the Light", involving a dance with large liturgical frying pans under Chinese lanterns.

      Powerful stuff.

  7. There was a great reworking of "Firmly I believe and truly" sung in the Radio 4 worship service or whatever it was (before Newman's Beatification). Some Oratorians standing near me were so moved they were almost in tears.

  8. But what about JHN's most egregious hymn production?

    Firmly I believe and truly
    [Surely he means "This is my truth, tell me yours"?]
    God is Three and God is One
    [What, that old shibboleth? You'll never attract the present generation with mumbo-jumbo like that.]
    And I next acknowledge duly
    [OK so far, I think …]
    Manhood taken by the Son.
    [Gasp. Has JHN not so much as heard of inclusive language?]

    and, as if that weren't bad enough,

    And I hold in veneration
    For the love of Him alone
    Holy Church, as His creation,
    And her teachings, as His own.

    I notice Eccles didn't even attempt to address this backward-looking, patriarchal, hierarchy-centred mess – all about so-called "truth" and saying nothing about our feelings. Perhaps he just thought it was so far beyond redemption that it was better ignored?

  9. (Oops, I see Alex has just alluded to the said hymn.)

  10. Thanks for de comments, everyone. After consulting a saved pusson, bruvver Newman and I has changed de scansoin of "Lead, Kindly Light," to make it easier to sing.

  11. darling eccles, does we need a light if Jesus is shinin'? xx Jess