Scripture Verse

Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105


John B. Dykes (1823–1876)

Words: John H. New­man, 1833 (vers­es 1–3); Ed­ward H. Bick­er­steth, Jr., Hym­nal Com­pan­ion verse 4.

Music: Lux Be­nig­na John B. Dykes, 1861 (🔊 pdf nwc; male voic­es: 🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:

This hymn was sung at the fun­er­al of Am­eri­can pre­si­dent Cal­vin Cool­idge, Jan­ua­ry 7, 1933, at the Ed­wards Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church, North­amp­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

National Portrait Gallery

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Origin of the Hymn

While tra­vel­ing in It­aly as a young priest, New­man fell ill and stayed at Cas­tel San Gio­van­ni al­most three weeks. Fin­al­ly, he was well enough con­tin­ue his jou­rney to Pa­ler­mo:

Before start­ing from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bit­ter­ly. My ser­vant, who had act­ed as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could on­ly an­swer, I have a work to do in Eng­land. I was ach­ing to get home, yet for want of a ves­sel I was kept at Pa­ler­mo for three weeks.

I be­gan to vis­it the church­es, and they calmed my im­pa­tience, though I did not at­tend any ser­vic­es. At last I got off in an or­ange boat, bound for Mar­seilles. We were be­calmed for whole week in the Straits of Bo­ni­fa­cio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, Kind­ly Light, which have since be­come so well known.

John Newman

This pray­er-hymn, cast in high po­et­ic form, was penned by John Hen­ry New­man, af­ter­ward a car­dinal in the Ro­man Ca­tho­lic Church, while on ship­board on Sun­day, June 16, 1833.

It is said that the ship had been com­pelled to pro­ceed slow­ly be­cause of the dense fog that en­compassed it. Dr. New­man was re­turn­ing to Mar­seilles, France, from a vi­sit he had made to Ita­ly. While in Si­ci­ly he was tak­en se­ri­ous­ly ill and on his re­co­ve­ry he wait­ed for his ship in Pa­ler­mo for three weeks.

Probably both of these facts en­tered some­what into the im­age­ry of the hymn, as is evi­denced by such phras­es as th’ en­circ­ling gloom and The night is dark, and I am far from home.

The thought and sen­ti­ment of the hymn, how­ev­er, were wrought out of the men­tal dark­ness in which New­man was then groping. Some time be­fore, he wrote this note: Now in my room in Or­iel Col­lege, slow­ly ad­vanc­ing, etc., and led on by God’s hand blind­ly, not know­ing whi­ther he is tak­ing me. This dark­ness, beclouding his faith, had become still deep­er dur­ing the sum­mer of his It­al­ian jour­ney, dur­ing which he wrote Lead, Kind­ly Light.

But the ex­pres­sion of his su­preme trust in God, which shines through these lines, so uni­vers­ally po­pu­lar, has helped ma­ny a soul that has yearned for guid­ance amid th’ en­circ­ling gloom.

Price, p. 34


Newman on board ship

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.

I was not ev­er thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the gar­ish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Re­mem­ber not past years!

So long Thy pow­er hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and tor­rent,
Till the night is gone,
And with the morn those an­gel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the nar­row rug­ged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Sav­ior, lead me home in child­like faith,
Home to my God.
To rest for­ev­er af­ter earth­ly strife
In the calm light of ev­er­last­ing life.