This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Saturday, 17 August 2013

New Hymns 5

In this slot we have previously invited John Henry Newman, King David, Charles Wesley, and Christina Rossetti to attend masterclasses on how to write a good "modern" hymn. Today, we are pleased to welcome William Williams, author of Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (or possibly ...Redeemer). In fact, Bill, you wrote this song originally in Welsh?

WW: Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch!

Welsh rugby team

Fi, bererin gwael ei wedd...

E: Er, yes, thank you. Of course I speak Welsh fluently, but for the benefit of my readers we'll continue in English, if you don't mind.

WW: Not at all, old fruit.

E: Now, here is the first verse you wrote, in a popular translation:

Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand:
Bread of Heaven, bread of Heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

WW: Yes, and it's usually sung to the stirring tune of Cwm Rhondda.

E: No good, I'm afraid. Too many ideas crammed into one verse, and the tune is not one that you can clap your hands to. Liturgical dancers also find it a bit tricky to participate.

Cwm Dancing

Strictly Cwm Dancing.

WW: Well, I didn't have the benefit of modern musical scholarship, Eccles. Can you help?

E: Yes. Let's change the tune first. How about a song that people can jump to, like Colonel Bogey?

Colonel Bogey

The best tune for today's hymn.

WW: Is that the one about Hitler's deficiencies?

E: Well, in some traditions, but we can adapt your hymn to this too. Note how we just use the first line, and repeat it several times. Thus we don't overload the hymn with ideas!

Guide me, thou great Re-de-e-mer!
Guide me, thou great Re-de-e-mer!
Guide me, oh guide me, guide me,
Oh guide me, guide me, oh guide me, ha-ha!

WW: I don't remember writing "Ha-ha!"

E: Well I would have said "Ch-ch" but Paul Inwood might have complained that I'd pinched one of his deeper theological ideas. We need something clunky to end on.

WW: What happens in Verse 2? "Pilgrim through this barren land" doesn't scan.

E: We can get round that.

I am a jolly pilgrim, Lord!
I am a jolly pilgrim, Lord!
I am a jolly pilgrim,
A jolly pilgrim, a pilgrim, ho-ho!
Like the surprise ending?

jolly pilgrims

I am a jolly pilgrim, Lord!

WW: Well, I didn't see that coming.

E: Note that the verse is now mostly about YOU, and not about God.

WW: So would Verse 3 ("I am weak, but thou art mighty") now be better if it were something like I am - a pretty useless chap?

E: No, that's not inclusive language, Bill. Maybe, I don't - feel very well some days. Still about you, of course. But you know what the real problem with your hymn is?

WW: I'd be very grateful if you could tell me, Eccles.

E: It doesn't mention light, sunrise, shining, etc. These are very popular with modern hymnwriters.

WW: Well...

Sunrise - I like the shining light!
Sunrise - I like the shining light!
Sunrise, I like the sunrise,
I like the sunrise, the sunrise, hee-hee!


Bring me sunshine...

E: Well, we've come a long way from your original hymn, but I'm sure that our new version is a great improvement.

WW: Eccles, thank you very much.

E: My pleasure, Bill.


  1. Paula N Wood has appropriately composed "Millenium Stadium Hymn"; "Breaking of 'The Bread of Heaven' and Cwm Union Song" and, of course, "Cwm, What-ch-ch and Wails".

  2. Never mind Colonel Bogey: the English (and prolly the Welsh) have the worst taste in songs in the world. Having found myself a secluded medieval watchtower for the night, yesterday, and settled down to read the next chapter of a biography of Saint Francis, I had to endure a medley of popular songs played at full volume, echoing up the valley from Port Sant Miquel - played by the disc jockey from hell - including such classics as the Birdie Song, I'm the Music Man, the Dambusters March and anything else that would remind nostalgic English people of home if they could not cope with Ibicenco folk dancing any longer. It finished at 3 am when a thunderstorm put a stop to it, showing that even God frowns upon the English taste in popular music.

    Rabit - on holiday in Ibiza but not for much longer

  3. We had a "hymn" at Mass the other Sunday. The tune was the one used for the Meatball Song (a favourite with Scouts and similar yoof groups). Though, sadly, the refrain had a different tune. Oy vey!