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THERE are now nearly half a million hymns, nomi.
1 nally Christian, in the two hundred languages or dialects in which Christianity is preached.
The “Dictionary of Hymnology," compiled by the Rev. John Julian, M.A., contains over sixteen hundred closely-printed double-column pages, giving an account of some five thousand authors and translators of thirty thousand hymns, - not ten per cent of the immense mass.
There are said to be no fewer than 269 hymnals in the Church of England. But “Hymns Ancient and Modern” is rapidly ousting all others. In 1894 it was in use in over ten thousand churches. The “Hymnal Companion” had 1,478 supporters, run close by “Church Hymns ” of the S. P. C. K. with 1,426, but only 379 used any other than these three collections. Of 1,058 London churches, “Hymns Ancient and Modern” were in use in 695. Of Methodist, Roman Catholic, Nonconformist, and Presbyterian hymnals there is no end. Yet, numerous as they are, the demand of the public for hymns continues unabated. How many hymn-books have been published this century no one can possibly say. But of “Hymns Ancient and Mod. ern " no fewer than thirty-five millions have been circulated in the last thirty-five years, giving an average sale of close upon a million a year, or nearly three thousand per day, year in and year out, Sunday and week-day, ever since it was first published in 1860. It is impossible to estimate the number of hymn-books sold outside the Church of England at a less figure. We have, there. fore, to face the amazing fact that of collections of sacred poetry the British public's normal regular con. sumption is two millions a year. It is thus possible that this collection, which is unique in its way, may have its share of popular support. It is at least of manageable dimensions. Most modern hymn-books suffer from corpulence. One thousand hymns seem to be regarded as the normal limit, a minimum which many compilers exceed.
In putting together the present list of about one hundred and fifty hymns, one feels somewhat like a captain of a cricket team selecting the first eleven for his county. Every one knows what resentment such a process necessarily creates among those who are relegated to the second eleven, and how all their friends deplore the blindness and injustice which led to their exclusion. Still, it cannot be helped ; and although there are many hymns I should like to have seen in this selection, the limits are inexorable, and I have chosen my “first eleven” for better or for worse.
This Hymnal has been completed by the voluntary co-operation of a multitude of willing workers to whom I appealed, in the first place, for their own experience; in the second, for the well-authenticated record of how this or that hymn has helped those“ whose lives sublime, shed undimmed splendour over unmeasured time ;” in the third place, for brief notes of instances in which hymns have altered human lives; and fourthly, for references to incidents such as that of the victorpsalm at Dunbar, where a hymn has figured conspicu. ously in some notable episode of human history.
This Hymnal has no claim to literary merit other than that which attaches to hymns which have a wellattested value as having been the channel through which mortal man has heard the voice of God, or which have enabled him to commune with his Maker. Some day I hope, if I may be spared, to edit a commentary on the Bible on similar principles
Miss Hankey, the author of the very popular “ Tell me the Old, Old Story," while writing with approval of the method of compiling this collection, adds a word of caution:
“Still waters run deep.” We must not expect all who are helped by hymns to publish their special preferences and experiences, and among our own fellow-countrymen especially, every man's heart is his castle. Yet there are yearnings shared by all. To express and interpret these yearnings, to deepen and guide them, is the work of the hymn-writer.
The object of this collection, of course, is to ascer. tain what writers have succeeded best. It is a very difficult task, even when the compiler is assisted by correspondence from the uttermost ends of the earth.
Still, the task, though arduous, has been pleasant. Who can estimate the incalculable force for goodness and kindness and honest living that these hynins represent! Each of them is as seed-corn bearing harvests by which the nations live. That is true of all hymns, for in them dwells the real catholicity of the Christian Church. Well said Henry Ward Beecher:
There is almost no heresy in the hymn-book. In hymns and psalms we have a universal ritual. It is the theology of the heart that unites men. Our very childhood is embalmed in sacred tunes and hymns. Our early lives and the lives of our parents hang in the atmosphere of sacred song. The art of singing together is one that is forever winding invisible threads about persons.
In hymns, as in iron-clads and many other inventions, France has led the way. Clement Marot was the first to popularise the Psalms as the Song Book of the people. « His version became the book of song in the castle as well as in the cottage, for recreation, and for at work; the lady at the hall, the weaver at the loom, the peasant at the plough, the first lesson taught to children, the last words whispered to or uttered by the dying man." I was reminded of the astonishing effect produced by the French innovation by the influence which the Salvation Army songs often exercise on a population which hears them for the first time. It was a sight to see and not to forget, - a string of cabmen at a north-country station sitting on a fence, sing
ing the hymns of the Salvation Army in the intervals between the trains.
The same thing was observed in Germany and in Scotland. Luther's doctrine would have fallen comparatively flat had not his psalms and hymns given wings to his teaching. They were carried all over the country by wandering students and pedlers, and became so popular that they even found their way into the Roman Catholic Church, so that a Romanist declared : “The whole people is singing itself into the Lutheran doctrine."
And no wonder; for Luther was one of the first to mark the great truth that the tune is more important than the words. With him the tune was first, the words second. Luther fashioned the words to the tune. “The rhythm of the song was always in his ear as he worked on it; he carefully fitted the syllables to the notes. In certain places it is seen that he did violence to the language to fit it to the exigencies of the music.” But the German reformer had a good notion of what a tune should be. He said :
The words of hymns should have a swing and a good strong metre, so that the congregation might catch up the tune to join in with it. Let us bid good-bye to the music of Gregory, and take the common songs of our own people, as they sing them at harvests, at village festivals, at weddings, and at funerals, for use in our churches. Man can as well praise God in one
he other, and it is a pity that such pretty songs as these should be kept any longer from the service of their Maker.
Mr. Reginald Brett went too far when he declared that the music and congregational singing were the causes of emotion, and not the words of any hymn; but there is no doubt that Mr. Balfour was right when he said :
One of the great merits of hymns lies in the associations which attach to them, from which it follows that they cannot really be considered apart from the tunes to which they are habitually set. In my opinion, the editor of a hymn-book who deliberately divorces old words from their accustomed setting is an iconoclast of the worst order. · I hope that in affixing as far as possible the old familiar tunes to this collection, I may escape the major excommunication.
It is a fashion in some quarters to sneer at the poetical value of hymns. A glance, however, through the pages of this collection, will suffice to show that, while some hymns may fall far below the standard of first-class poetry, many, if not the majority, will fairly rank with the best verse that our race has produced. Modern hymnologists are no longer of the opinion of the worthy men who compiled a hymn-book for one of the straiter sects of orthodox dissenters, in which it is gravely set forth that “poetry itself is objectionable as bearing the spirit and imagination of man.” On this I am glad to have Mrs. Meynell's mature and dispassionate judgment against the disparaging observations of Mr. William Morris and Mr. Coventry Patmore. Mrs. Meynell says :
Hymns have, and doubtless always will have, a power over men's minds; and I don't wonder at it, for I think — against the usual literary opinion – that many popular hymns are very beautiful, and that their authors made literature without knowing it. Personally I have none of those early associations with hymns. I never heard any in my childhood. Consequently, I think I have been touched by the real beauty of hymns, and not by the mere accident of association.
There only remains one word to say as to the extremely broad view which I have taken of my duties as an editor. Never before in any popular hymnal have hymns to the Virgin jostled the Confession of the Jewish faith, revolutionary songs elbowed the ancient anthems of the Church, while psalms and hymns and spiritual songs of all countries and of all creeds and of none stand side by side on an equal footing, each exhibiting as its sole credential that it has helped the human heart to love, to dare, and to aspire, and