Mystifying Hymns

In school hymn practice sessions I always used to wonder:

Why should a green hill have a city wall?

When you cut Jesus down, why did He leap up high?

When love is shown to the loveless, how does it make them lovely?

And where do I hope to follow Julie?
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  • We followed Julie last Sunday, as I commented to a friend after the service.

    Perhaps more important for Valentine's Day is the prophetic word: "You shall go out with Joy".
  • Whenever I hear the term "Defender of the weak" in a hymn or prayer it brings someone like Bobby Moore to mind.
  • The bafflement of singing at final school assembly each year words that made you wonder what went on before the world confessed.

    For all the saints who from their labours rest
    Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
  • I still don't really know what Newman meant when he wrote:

    The double agony in man
    For man should undergo.


    And of course there are railway trophes, for instance:

    Jesus takes the highest station;
    O what joy the sight affords!


    takes me straight to Snowdon Summit or Jungfraujoch.



  • I still don't really know what Newman meant when he wrote:

    The double agony in man
    For man should undergo.


    And of course there are railway trophes, for instance:

    Jesus takes the highest station;
    O what joy the sight affords!


    takes me straight to Snowdon Summit or Jungfraujoch - assuming it's not a cloudy day.



  • The ‘purple-headed mountain’ always baffled me as a child. I had no idea why a mountain should have a head, let alone a purple one.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    There is also the vicar's hymn:

    Dark and cheerless is the morn, unaccompanied by tea...
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The Dentist's Hymn - Crown Him With Many Crowns.

    The Tailor's Hymn - Holy, Holy, Holy.

    The Cobbler's Hymn - Is It Well With My Soul.

    The Librarian's Hymn - Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.

    The Golfer's Hymn - There Is A Green Hill Far Away.

    The Tax Collector's Hymn - I Surrender All.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    The airline pilot's hymn (second verse):

    And humbly I'll receive thee,
    The bridegroom of my soul.
    No more by sin to grieve thee
    Or fly thy sweet control.
  • A perfect hymn for weddings, "Go, labor on" contains the final line:
    soon shall you hear the Bridegroom's voice,
    the midnight cry, "Behold, I come."

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I also used to wonder why:

    He leads His children on / To the place where He is gone.

    If He is not there, then why mislead the poor children?
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    wrote:
    @Pigwidgeon A perfect hymn for weddings, "Go, labor on" contains the final line:
    soon shall you hear the Bridegroom's voice,
    the midnight cry, "Behold, I come."
    That's not the only one of that theme. There's also,

    "Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night,
    And blest is he whose loins are girt, whose lamp is burning bright;"

    Good theology, but perhaps unsurprisingly, I don't think it's sung much now.

    On @la vie en rouge and the ‘purple-headed mountain’, growing up on the edge of the Pennines, that was never a puzzle.

    As a child, I always thought,
    "Praise my soul the King of Heaven" was the wrong way round.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Enoch wrote: »
    ... As a child, I always thought,
    "Praise my soul the King of Heaven" was the wrong way round.
    But "Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven" isn't.

    See? Punctuation does matter! :wink:

    Back in my Baptist/Moodie & Sankey days, there was a hymn with the refrain "When the roll is called up yonder I'll be there", and I wondered when the right time was for a roll to be called a "pyonder".

    I never found out ... :mrgreen:
  • SpikeSpike Admin
    edited February 14
    Every Friday at primary school we used to sing “The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want”. I was always left thinking “why wouldn’t I want him”
  • Being Catholic, I naturally understood "On Jordan's bank, the Baptists cry..." (again, a punctuation problem).
  • Hedgehog wrote: »
    Being Catholic, I naturally understood "On Jordan's bank, the Baptists cry..."
    ”If I were Baptist, so would I.
    They drink no beer, they have no fun.
    I’m glad I’m Presbyterian*”

    * Or “I’m glad I am an Anglican/a Lutheran.”




  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    "Crown him with many crowns" . . . I know he's God and all that, but just how big is his head?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Or, indeed, how many has he got.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Surely three for the Trinity Godhead.
  • Mystifying to many is the line "Here I'll raise my Ebenezer...." (Haven't sung that hymn for a long time, but I bet someone still uses it!)
  • Cathscats wrote: »
    Mystifying to many is the line "Here I'll raise my Ebenezer...." (Haven't sung that hymn for a long time, but I bet someone still uses it!)
    It's a commonly-sung hymn on this side of The Pond, at least in my experience. I do know that the Episcopal hymnal alters that line and perhaps the next line to avoid "Ebenezer." (I don't have my Hymnal 1982 handy, but I'll check when I do.) I once heard an Episcopal choirmaster go on a little rant about it; he considered it an example of dumbing down. But the piskies are the only ones I know over here who don't sing "Here I raise my Ebenezer."

    I mentioned on another thread recently that my mother-in-law named her walker (Zimmer frame in the UK?) "Ebenezer," because "hither by thy help I'm come."

    Rublev wrote: »
    And where do I hope to follow Julie?
    I'll admit it. I haven't been able to figure out which hymn this is.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    ‘O Jesus, I have promised’

    IIRC ‘My hope to follow duly is in thy grace alone.’
  • BroJames wrote: »
    ‘O Jesus, I have promised’

    IIRC ‘My hope to follow duly is in thy grace alone.’
    Ah, thanks. Not one I've sung much in a long time.

    And unlike the Episcopal hymnal, I do have our hymnal handy. Just took a look, and it doesn't have that line, nor did earlier hymnals to the best of my memory. Hymnal.net tells me that there are 5 verses to that hymn. Our hymnals have only had 4 of those verses; the 5th one is unfamiliar to me.

  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited February 15
    It's always struck me as a hymn which effectively has two "last verses",
  • Cathscats wrote: »
    Mystifying to many is the line "Here I'll raise my Ebenezer...." (Haven't sung that hymn for a long time, but I bet someone still uses it!)

    "Baptist Praise & Worship" modernised it. I can't remember, though, if it also got rid of that wonderful word "interposed".
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I've not come across that one in the C of E. I've just googled it and it says it is called: 'O Thou fount of every blessing' and the reference to raising an Ebenezer is from 1 Sam 7: 12.
  • "Baptist Praise & Worship" modernised it. I can't remember, though, if it also got rid of that wonderful word "interposed".
    On checking, I find that I am wrong. The book's omitted it completely! However "Mission Praise" has:
    I remember God's great mercy, by his help I've safely come;
    and I know he will not fail me, but will surely bring me home.


    Is Outrage, say I!
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yes, I must admit that it is very annoying when modern editors update the words of classic hymns. It catches me out every year at the Carol Service and parishioners give me disapproving looks as if I am the Philistine responsible. Beware of downloading your hymns from the Internet!
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    BroJames wrote: »
    ‘O Jesus, I have promised’

    IIRC ‘My hope to follow duly is in thy grace alone.’
    Ah, thanks. Not one I've sung much in a long time.

    And unlike the Episcopal hymnal, I do have our hymnal handy. Just took a look, and it doesn't have that line, nor did earlier hymnals to the best of my memory. Hymnal.net tells me that there are 5 verses to that hymn. Our hymnals have only had 4 of those verses; the 5th one is unfamiliar to me.

    Hymnary.org has a function which enables you to compare texts across a range of hymnals.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Thanks, I shall remember to do that next time. It is usually the second or third verse that gets altered and you don't notice it until the choir start giving you disgusted looks.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    Beware of downloading your hymns from the Internet!
    Even worse: beware of having different versions of hymns on printed sheets/.hymnbooks and screens!

  • Rublev wrote: »
    I've not come across that one in the C of E. I've just googled it and it says it is called: 'O Thou fount of every blessing' and the reference to raising an Ebenezer is from 1 Sam 7: 12.
    Close. It's "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." You can here it here.
    BroJames wrote: »
    Hymnary.org has a function which enables you to compare texts across a range of hymnals.
    Thanks! I looked there first, but failed to dig deeply enough. But thanks to your prompt to go back, I did find that TEC's Hymnal 1982 only changes the first line of the second verse of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing":

    Here I find my greatest treasure;
    hither by the help I'm come.
    and I hope, by thy good measure,
    safely to arrive at home.


    And yes, @Baptist Trainfan. Is Outrage Indeed.


  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    edited February 15
    Rublev wrote: »
    Thanks, I shall remember to do that next time. It is usually the second or third verse that gets altered and you don't notice it until the choir start giving you disgusted looks.

    Indeed. All guilty clergy will be assembled at some point before the last trump and their consitutent atoms boiled in oil for the remainder of time.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    What is the difference between an organist and a terrorist?

    You can negotiate with a terrorist.
  • But what if the person you're talking to is both?
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    edited February 15
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I do know that the Episcopal hymnal alters that line and perhaps the next line to avoid "Ebenezer." (I don't have my Hymnal 1982 handy, but I'll check when I do.)
    "Here I find my greatest treasure." I've sung it that way in a concert arrangement of the hymn also.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I do know that the Episcopal hymnal alters that line and perhaps the next line to avoid "Ebenezer." (I don't have my Hymnal 1982 handy, but I'll check when I do.)
    "Here I find my greatest treasure"
    Which has the value of rhyming but lacks the value of retaining anything close to the original meaning.

  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Mystifying to many is the line "Here I'll raise my Ebenezer...."
    I've never come across that one, but it conjures up in my mind someone proposing a toast while drinking from an enormous bottle of wine - surely an Ebenezer must be the equivalent of two Jeroboams?
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    From “Jesus bids us shine” I struggled to know what a nose-it was.
    “Well he sees and knows it if our light grows dim” dredged up from memories of about 300 years ago.
  • I always wondered about the feast of Stephen. And why was Wenceslas so good if he was a cannibal?
  • I always wondered about the feast of Stephen. And why was Wenceslas so good if he was a cannibal?
    I've always preferred the version from the Pogo comic strip: "Good King Whatsisname looked out, on his feets uneven!"
  • My father was in the habit of referring to "And can it be" as the broken bicycle song.
  • My chain fell off - groan.
  • Can a mother's tender care
    E'er forget the child she-bear ...
  • Enoch wrote: »
    As a child, I always thought,
    "Praise my soul the King of Heaven" was the wrong way round.

    I've always found the line 'Who like me his praise should sing?' to be impossible to parse. I think the intended meaning is 'Who has more reason than me to sing his praise?', but I'm not sure that's what the words actually say ...
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited February 16
    If you really want convoluted words, you need look no further than the Church of Scotland metrical psalms. (Remember: "he leadeth me" not "in pastures green" but "the quiet waters by").

    e.g. from Psalm 43 (which I love, especially to the tune "Invocation"):
    Still trust in God; for him to praise
    good cause I yet shall have:
    he of my countenance is the health,
    my God that doth me save.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Piglet wrote: »
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Mystifying to many is the line "Here I'll raise my Ebenezer...."
    I've never come across that one, but it conjures up in my mind someone proposing a toast while drinking from an enormous bottle of wine - surely an Ebenezer must be the equivalent of two Jeroboams?

    You have to keep that - Because Ebeneezer Goode. Ez are good.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited February 16
    Apparently 2 x Jeroboam = Salmanazar, although there seem to be two sizes of Jeroboam!
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    edited February 16
    Like Psalm 103 on which it is based, the opening lines of ‘Praise, my soul’ are a command by the writer/singer to her/his own soul.

    In many modern hymnals the editing used to remove archaic second person pronouns has made rather a hash of the meaning of the hymn, “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven; to his feet thy tribute bring.
    Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like thee his praise should sing?” I.e. “Who has more cause than you, my soul, to sing his praise?”
  • BroJames wrote: »
    Like Psalm 103 on which it is based, the opening lines of ‘Praise, my soul’ are a command by the writer/singer to her/his own soul.

    In many modern hymnals the editing used to remove archaic second person pronouns has made rather a hash of the meaning of the hymn, “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven; to his feet thy tribute bring.
    Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like thee his praise should sing?” I.e. “Who has more cause than you, my soul, to sing his praise?”

    I've just checked and Ancient & Modern has 'me' instead of 'thee', so I think this is more an example of A&M's tendency to alter hymns for no reason.

    Either way, it might just be a peculiarity of my head, but to me 'who like thee' doesn't obviously suggest 'who more so than thee'.
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