The Lord God is a sun and shield. Psalm 84:11
Words: John Keble, 1820. First published in The Christian Year, 1827. The words come from a poem that starts
’Tis gone, that bright and orbèd glaze.
Historical Note: Oakeley composed Abends specifically for these words. Despite Oakeley’s distaste for Hursley, we like it.
I was, many years ago, impelled to set Keble’s words to music for Henry Baker, in consequence of the inadequacy if not vulgarity of the tune which had got into general use. I refer toHursley,which, however, is now less often sung than formerly.
Hursley,strange to say, had been in use in Germany—where, as a rule, chorales (Anglicè hymn tunes) are so dignified and admirable—since circiter 1792, and is attributed to Paul Ritter.
One of my reasons for disliking it so much is the resemblance it bears to a drinking song, Se vuol ballare, in Nozze di Figaro. As Mozart produced that opera in 1786, he is responsible for the opening strain, which suits his Bacchanalian words very well. But to hearSun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear,sung to a lively tune, unsuitable to sacred words, had the effect of driving me out of church.
Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear,
It is not night if Thou be near;
O may no earthborn cloud arise
To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes.
When the soft dews of kindly sleep
My wearied eyelids gently steep,
Be my last thought, how sweet to rest
Forever on my Savior’s breast.
Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without Thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without Thee I dare not die.
If some poor wandering child of Thine
Has spurned today the voice divine,
Now, Lord, the gracious work begin;
Let him no more lie down in sin.
Watch by the sick, enrich the poor
With blessings from Thy boundless store;
Be every mourner’s sleep tonight,
Like infants’ slumbers, pure and right.
Come near and bless us when we wake,
Ere through the world our way we take,
Till in the ocean of Thy love
We lose ourselves in Heaven above.