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Title: A Practical Discourse on Some Principles of Hymn-Singing
Author: Bridges, Robert Seymour, 1844-1930
Language: English
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Practical Discourse on some
Principles of Hymn-Singing
By Robert Bridges

_Price, One Shilling, net_

Practical Discourse on some
Principles of Hymn-Singing
By Robert Bridges

Reprinted from the Journal of
Theological Studies, October, 1899

Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 50 & 51 Broad Street
London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.

The Author's thanks are due to the Editors of the Journal of Theological
Studies, and to the Publishers, Messrs. Macmillan, for permission to


What St. Augustin says of the emotion which he felt on hearing the music
in the Portian basilica at Milan in the year 386 has always seemed to me
a good illustration of the relativity of musical expression; I mean how
much more its ethical significance depends on the musical experience of
the hearer, than on any special accomplishment or intrinsic development
of the art. Knowing of what kind that music must have been and how few
resources of expression it can have had,--being rudimental in form,
without suggestion of harmony, and in its performance unskilful, its
probably nasal voice-production unmodified by any accompaniment,--one
marvels at his description,

  'What tears I shed at Thy hymns and canticles, how acutely was my soul
  stirred by the voices and sweet music of Thy Church! As those voices
  entered my ears, truth distilled in my heart, and thence divine
  affection welled up in a flood, in tears o'erflowing, and happy was I
  in those tears[1].'

St. Augustin appears to have witnessed the beginnings of the great music
of the Western Church. It was the year of his baptism when, he tells us,
singing was introduced at Milan to cheer the Catholics who had shut
themselves up in the basilica with their bishop, to defend him from the
imperial violence:

  'It was then instituted that psalms and hymns should be sung, after the
  manner of the Eastern Churches, lest the folk in the weariness of their
  grief should altogether lose heart: and from that day to this the
  custom has been retained; many, nay, nearly all Thy flocks, in all
  regions of the world, following the example[2].'

What great emotional power St. Augustin attributed to ecclesiastical
music, and of what importance he thought it, may be seen in the tenth
book of the _Confessions_: he is there examining himself under the heads
of the senses, and after the sense of smell, his chapter on the sense of
hearing is as follows:

  'The lust of the ears entangled and enslaved me more firmly, but Thou
  hast loosened and set me free. But even now I confess that I do yield a
  very little to the beauty of those sounds which are animated by Thy
  eloquence, when sung with a sweet and practised voice; not, indeed, so
  far that I am limed and cannot fly off at pleasure[3]: and yield though
  I do, yet these sweet sounds, joined with the divine words which are
  their life, cannot be admitted to my heart save to a place of some
  dignity, and I hesitate to give them one as lofty as their claim[4].

  'For sometimes I seem to myself to be allowing them undue honour, when
  I feel that our minds are really moved to a warmer devotion and more
  ardent piety by the holy words themselves when they are so sung than
  when they are not so sung; and when I recognize that all the various
  moods of our spirit have their proper tones in speech and song, by
  which they are, through I know not what secret familiarity, excited.
  But the mere sensuous delight, to which it is not fitting to resign the
  mind to be enervated thereby, often deceives me, whenever (that is) the
  delight of the senses does not so accompany the reason as to be
  cheerfully in submission thereto, but, having been admitted only for
  reason's sake, then even attempts to go before and to lead. Thus I sin
  without knowing, but afterwards I know.

  'Then awhile, from too immoderate caution against this deception, I err
  on the side of too great severity; and sometimes go so far as to wish
  that all the melody of the sweet chants which are used in the Davidian
  psalter were utterly banished from my ears, and from the ears of the
  Church; and that way seems to me safer which I remember often to have
  heard told of Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria, that he would have
  the lector of the psalm intone it with but a slight modulation of
  voice, so as to be more like one reading than one singing. And yet,
  when I remember my tears, which I shed at the hearing of the song of
  Thy Church in the first days of my recovered faith, and that now I
  still feel the same emotion, and am moved not by the singing but by
  what is sung, when it is sung with a liquid voice and in the most
  fitting "modulation," then (I say) I acknowledge again the great
  utility of the institution.

  'Thus I fluctuate between the peril of sensuous pleasure and the proof
  of wholesomeness, and am more inclined (though I would not offer an
  irrevocable judgement) to approve of the use of singing in the Church,
  that, by the pleasure of the ear, weaker minds may rise to the emotion
  of piety. Yet when it happens to me to be more moved by the music than
  by the words that are sung I confess that I have sinned (poenaliter
  peccare), and it is then that I would rather not hear the singer[5].'

What would St. Augustin have said could he have heard Mozart's Requiem,
or been present at some Roman Catholic cathedral where an
eighteenth-century mass was performed, a woman hired from the Opera-House
whooping the _Benedictus_ from the western gallery?

It is possible that such music would not have had any ethical
significance to him, bad or good. Augustin lived before what we reckon
the very beginnings of modern music, with nothing to entice and delight
his ears in the choir but the simplest ecclesiastical chant and hymn-tune
sung in unison. We are accustomed to an almost over-elaborated art,
which, having won powers of expression in all directions, has so
squandered them that they are of little value: and we may confidently say
that the emotional power of our church music is not so great as that
described by him 1,500 years ago. In fact if we feel at all out of
sympathy with Augustin's words, it is because he seems to over-estimate
the danger of the emotion[6].

There is something very strange and surprising in this state of things,
this contrast between the primitive Church with its few simple melodies
that ravished the educated hearer, and our own full-blown institution
with its hymn-book of some 600 tunes, which when it is opened fills the
sensitive worshipper with dismay, so that there are persons who would
rather not go inside a church than subject themselves to the trial.

What is the matter? What is it that is wrong with our hymnody? Even where
there is not such rooted disgust as I have implied, there is a growing
conviction that some reform is needed in words or music, or both.

Assuming that the chief blame lies with the music (as, I think, might
easily be proved), I propose to discuss the question of the music of our
hymnody, and I shall proceed on the basis of St. Augustin's principles: I
am sure that they would be endorsed by any pious church-goer who had
considered the subject, and they may be fairly formulated thus, _The
music must express the words or sense: it should not attract too much
attention to itself: it should be dignified: and its reason and use is to
heighten religious emotion._

One point calls for distinction: Augustin speaks of his emotion on
_hearing_ the hymns and canticles; he writes as if he had had no more
thought of taking part in the music himself, than we have of joining in
the anthem at a cathedral; and this might lead to a misunderstanding; for
there is no doubt that these hymns were sung by the people: the story is
that the very soldiers who were sent to blockade the basilica, happening
to be themselves catholics, joined their voices in the stanzas which St.
Ambrose had specially composed to disconcert the Arian enemy.

The ecstasy of listening to music, and the enthusiasm of a crowd who are
all singing or shouting the same hymn or song are emotions of quite
different nature and value. Now, neglecting the rare conditions under
which these emotions may be combined, we shall, as we are speaking of
hymns, be concerned chiefly with the latter kind, for all will agree that
hymns are that part of the Church music in which it is most desirable
that the congregation should join: and I believe that there would be less
difference in practice if it were at all easy to obtain good
congregational singing, or even anything that is worthy of the name. It
seems perhaps a pity that nature should have arranged that where the
people are musical (as Augustin appears to have been) they would rather
listen, and where they are unmusical they would all rather sing.

Speaking therefore of congregational hymn-singing, and conceding, as I
think we must, that the essential use of such music is to heighten
emotion, then, this emotional quality being the _sine qua non_ (the music
being of no use without it), it follows that it is the primary
consideration. If we are to have music at all, it must be such as will
raise or heighten emotion; and to define this we must ask, _Whose
emotion?_ and _What kind of emotion?_

Let us take this latter question first, and inquire what emotions it is
usual, proper, or possible to express by congregational singing of hymns.
William Law, in his _Serious Call_, has an interesting, I may say
amusing, chapter on the duty of all to sing, whether they have any turn
or inclination for it or no. All should sing, he says, even though they
dislike doing so; and I think that what he affirms of private devotion
applies with greater force to public worship. It should satisfy the most
ardent advocate of congregational singing, and it goes certainly to the
root of the matter.

  'It is so right and beneficial to devotion, has so much effect upon our
  hearts, that it may be insisted on as a common rule for all persons;
  ... for singing is as much the proper use of a psalm as devout
  supplication is the proper use of a form of prayer: and a psalm only
  read is very much like a prayer that is only looked over.... If you
  were to tell a person that has such a song, that he need not sing it,
  that it was sufficient to peruse it, he would wonder what you meant,
  ... as if you were to tell him that he should only look at his food, to
  see whether it was good, but need not eat it.... You will perhaps say
  that singing is a particular talent, that belongs only to particular
  people, and that you have neither voice nor ear for music.

  'If you had said that singing is a general talent, and that people
  differ in that as they do in all other things, you had said something
  much truer.

  'For how vastly people differ in the talent of thinking, which is not
  only common to all men, but seems to be the very essence of human
  nature: ... yet no one desires to be excused from thought because he
  has not this talent in any fine degree....

  'If a person were to forbear praying because he had an odd tone in his
  voice, he would have as good an excuse as he that forbears from singing
  psalms because he has but little management of his voice....

  'These songs make a sense (of) delight in God they awaken holy
  devotion: they teach how to ask: they kindle a holy flame....

  'Singing is the natural effect of JOY in the heart, ... and it is also
  the natural means of raising EMOTIONS OF JOY in the mind: such JOY AND
  THANKFULNESS to God as is the highest perfection of a divine and holy

Now though I cannot feel the force of all Law's arguments nor easily
bring myself to believe that a person who dislikes singing, and has no
ear for music, will readily find any comfortable assistance to his
private devotion from making efforts to hit off the notes of the scale;
yet I feel that Law's position is in the main sound, and that he has
correctly specified the emotion most proper to that kind of uncultured
singing which he describes: and though congregational psalm-singing
necessarily involves a greater musical capacity than that assumed in
Law's extreme case, and may therefore have a wider field, yet we may
begin by laying down that JOY, PRAISE, and THANKSGIVING give us the first
main head of what is proper to be expressed, and we may extend this head
by adding ADORATION and perhaps the involved emotions of AWE and PEACE
and even the attitude of CONTEMPLATION.

In such a subject as the classification of emotions as they may be
expressed by music of one kind or another, it is plainly impossible to
make any definite tabulation with which all would agree. The very names
of the emotions will, to different minds, call up different associations
of feeling. If any agreement could be arrived at, it would be at the
expense of distinction; and all that I can expect is to have my
distinctions understood, and in the main agreed with. And as I am most
ready to grant to the reader his right to a different opinion on any
detail, I beg of him the same toleration, and that he will rather try to
follow my meaning than dwell on discrepancies which may be due to a fault
of expression, or to a difference of meaning which he and I may attach to
the same word.

With this apology in preamble, I will attempt to make some classification
of emotions as they seem to me to be the possible basis for musical
expression in congregational singing.

We have already one class: I would add a second, to include all the hymns
which exhibit the simple attitude of PRAYER.

A third class I would put under the head of FAITH. Examples of this class
will no doubt often cross with those of the first class, but they will
specify themselves as CELEBRATIONS of events of various COMMEMORATION,
introducing a distinct form, namely NARRATION, which is a very proper and
effective form for general praise.

Also this section will include all the hymns of BROTHERHOOD and
FELLOWSHIP, and of SPIRITUAL CONFLICT, with the correlative _invitatory_
and _exhortatory_ songs, as modified by what will be said later.

Also, lastly, under this same head of Faith, the DOCTRINAL hymns, and
professions of creed whether sectarian or otherwise, which, if the
definition be taken widely, make a large and popular class, well
exemplified by the German hymns of the Reformation, or by those of our
Wesleyan revival; strong with the united feeling of a small body,
asserting itself in the face of opposition: concerning which we will not
speak further, except to recall the fact that this kind of enthusiasm was
not absent from the causes which first introduced hymns into the Western

I believe that this is a pretty full list of all the attitudes of mind
that can be properly expressed by congregational singing; and if we turn
to other emotions which are made the subject of church hymns, we shall, I
think, see that they are all of them liable to suffer damage by being
entrusted to the rough handling of general vociferation.

Such will be all hymns of DIVINE AFFECTION and YEARNING; all LAMENTS and
CONSOLATIONS; all descriptions of spiritual conditions which imply
personal experience and feeling, as ABASEMENT, HUMILIATION, CONTRITION,

Here I feel that many readers will be inclined to dissent from what I
say, and as I shall not again recur to Law, I should like, in order to
show my meaning, to call up his extreme example of an unmusical person
singing in private devotion. If one pictures such a case as he supposes,
is it not clear, whether one imagines oneself the actor or the unwilling
auditor, that while such an exhibition of joy might perhaps pass, yet a
similar incompetent attempt to express any of the last-named emotions
would be only ridiculous? But between this single worshipper and the
congregation the incompetence seems to me only a question of degree;
while in the far more considerable respect of the sincerity of the
feeling in the hearts of those expressing it, Law's singer has every
advantage; indeed no objection on this score can be raised to him. But
now suppose for a moment that he has _not_ the emotion at heart
corresponding to his attempt at song, and I think the differentiation of
motives for congregational singing will seem justifiable.

All these last-named emotions,--which I have taken from congregational
hymn-books,--and I suppose there may be more of them,--call for delicacy
of treatment. A Lamentation, for instance, which might seem at first
sight as if it would gain force by volume, will, if it is realistic or
clumsy, become unmanly, almost so as to be ridiculous, and certainly
depressing to the spirit rather than purifying. In fact while many of the
subjects require beautiful expression, they are also more properly used
when offered as inspiring ideals; and to assume them to be of common
attainment or experience is to degrade them from their supreme sanctity.
But in thus ruling them unfit for general singing one must distinguish
large miscellaneous congregations from small united bodies, in which a
more intimate emotion may be natural: and as there is no exact line of
distinction here, so there is no objection to the occasional and partial
intrusion of some of these more intimate subjects into congregational

To this first question then, as to what emotions are fit to be expressed
by congregational music, the answer appears to be that the more general
the singing, the more general and simple should be the emotion and that
the universally fitting themes are those of simple praise, prayer, or
faith: and we might inquire whether one fault of our modern hymn-books
may not be their attempt to supply congregational music to unfitting

To the next question, _Whose emotion_ is this congregational music to
excite or heighten? the answer is plain: It is the average man, or one
rather below the average, the uneducated, as St. Augustin says the
weaker, mind and that in England is, at least artistically, a narrow mind
and a vulgar being. And it may of course be alleged that the music in our
hymn-books which is intolerable to the more sensitive minds was not put
there for them, but would justify itself in its supposed fitness for the
lower classes. 'What use,' the pastor would say to one who, on the ground
of tradition advocated the employment of the old plain-song and the
Ambrosian melodies, 'What use to seek to attract such people as those in
my cure with the ancient outlandish and stiff melodies that pleased folk
a thousand years ago, and which I cannot pretend to like myself?' Or if
his friend is a modern musician, who is urging him to have nothing in his
church but what would satisfy the highest artistic sense of the day, his
answer is the same: he will tell you that it would be casting pearls
before swine; and that unless the music is 'tuney' and 'catchy' the
people will not take to it. And we cannot hastily dismiss these practical
objections. The very Ambrosian music which is now so strange to modern
ears was doubtless, when St. Ambrose introduced it, much akin to the
secular music of the day, if it was not directly borrowed from it: and
the history of hymn-music is a history of the adaptations of profane
successes in the art to the uses of the Church. Nor do I see that it can
ever be otherwise, for the highest music demands a supernatural material;
so that it would seem an equal folly for musicians to neglect the unique
opportunity which religion offers them, and for religion to refuse the
best productions of human art. And we must also remember that the art of
the time, whether it be bad or good, has a much more living relation to
the generation which is producing it, and exerts a more powerful
influence upon it, than the art of any time that is past and gone. It is
the same in all aspects of life: it is the book of the day, the hero or
statesman of the hour, the newest hope, the latest flash of scientific
light, which attracts the people. And it must be, on the face of it, true
that any artist who becomes widely popular must have hit off, 'I know not
by what secret familiarity,' the exact fashion or caprice of the current
taste of his own generation.

And this is so true that it must be admitted that it is not always the
uneducated man only whose taste is hit off. In the obituary notices of
such men as Gladstone and Tennyson the gossip will inform us, rightly or
wrongly, that their 'favourite hymn[7]' was, not one of the great
masterpieces of the world,--which, alas, it is only too likely that in
their long lives they never heard,--but some tune of the day: as if in
the minds of men whose lives appealed strongly to their age there must be
something delicately responsive to the exact ripple of the common taste
and fashion of their generation.

All this makes a strong case: and it would seem, since our hymn-music is
to stir the emotions of the vulgar, that it must itself be both vulgar
and modern; and that, in the interest of the weaker mind, we must
renounce all ancient tradition and the maxims of art, in order to be in
touch with the music-halls.

This is impossibly absurd; and unless there is some flaw in our argument,
the fault must lie in the premisses; we have omitted some necessary

The qualification which we neglected is this, that _the music must be
dignified_, and suitable to the meaning; and we should only have wasted
words in ignoring what we knew all along, if we had not, by so doing,
brought this qualification into its vital prominence, and at the same
time exposed the position of those who neglect it, and the real reason of
the mean condition of our church music.

The use of undignified music for sacred purposes may perhaps be justified
in exceptional cases, which must be left to the judgement of those who
consider all things lawful that they may save some. But if from the
mission service this licence should creep into the special service, and
then invade every act of public worship, it must be met with an edict of
unscrupulous exclusion. Not that it can be truly described as thus having
crept in in our time. It is always creeping, it has flourished in special
habitats for four or five hundred years, and before then there is the
history of Palestrina's great reform of like abuses. If in our time in
England we differ in any respect for the worse, it is rather in the
universal prevalence of a mild form of the degradation, which is perhaps
more degrading than the occasional exceptional abuses of a more flagrant
kind, which cannot hide their scandal but bring their own condemnation.

There is indeed no extreme from which this abuse has shrunk; perhaps the
worst form of it is the setting of sacred hymns to popular airs, which
are associated in the minds of the singers with secular, or even comic
and amatory words[8]: of which it is impossible to give examples, because
the extreme instances are blasphemies unfit to be quoted; and it is only
these which could convey an adequate idea of the licence[9] The essence
of the practice appears to be the production of a familiar excitement,
with the intention of diverting it into a religious channel.

But, even in the absence of secular or profane association,
congregational singing, when provoked by undignified music, such as may
be found in plenty in our modern hymn-books, may be maintained without
the presence of religious feeling, out of mere high spirits, or as we
say, 'in fun,' and may easily give rise to mockery. I have witnessed
examples enough in proof of this, but if I gave them it might be thought
that I wished to amuse profane readers[10]. And though such extreme
disasters may be exceptional outbursts, yet they are always but just
beneath the surface, and are the inevitable outcome of the use of
unworthy means. The cause of such a choice of means must be either an
artistic incapacity to distinguish, or a want of faith in the power of
religious emotion when unaided by profane adjuncts. What would St.
Augustin have ruled here, or thought of the confusion of ideas, which,
being satisfied with any expression, mistakes one emotion for another?

The practical question now arises. We know the need; how is it to be
supplied? We require music which will reach the emotions of uneducated
people, and in which they will delight to join, and in which it shall be
easy to join: and it must be dignified and not secular. If we condemn and
reject the music which the professional church-musicians have supplied
with some popular success to meet the need, what is there to take its
place? Of what music is our hymn-book to be constructed, which shall be
at once dignified, sacred, and popular?

The answer is very simple: it is this, _Dignified Melody_. Good melody is
never out of fashion; and as it is by all confession the seal of high
musical genius, so it is that form of music which is universally
intelligible and in the best sense popular; and we have a rich legacy of
it. What we want is that our hymn-books should contain a collection of
the best ecclesiastical and sacred hymn-melodies, and _nothing but
these_, instead of having but a modicum of these, for the most part
mauled and illset, among a crowd of contributions of an altogether
inferior kind; the whole collection being often such that if an
ill-natured critic were to assert that the compilers had degraded and
limited the old music in order to set off their own, it would be
difficult to meet him with a logical refutation.

The shortest and most practical way of treating this subject will be to
give some account of the sources from which the music of such a hymn-book
as I propose would be drawn. I will take these in their chronological
order. First in order of time are the Plain-song melodies.

I have already stated the ordinary objection to these tunes, that they
are stiff and out of date. Now it may be likely enough that they will
never be so universally popular in our country as the fine melodies
invented on the modern harmonic system, yet the idea that they are not
popular in character, and that modern people will not sing them, is a
mistake; there is plenty of evidence on this point. Nor must we judge
them by the incompetent, and I confess somewhat revolting aspect in which
they were offered to us by the Anglo-gregorianists of thirty years ago, a
presentment which has gone far to ruin their reputation; they are better
understood now, and may be heard here and there sung as they should be.
They are of great artistic merit and beauty; and instead of considering
them _a priori_ as uncongenial on the ground of antiquity, we should
rather be thinking of them that they were invented at a time when unison
singing was cultivated in the highest perfection, so much so that a large
number of these tunes are, on account of their elaborate and advanced
rhythm, not only far above the most intelligent taste of the minds with
which we have to deal, but are also so difficult of execution that there
are few trained choirs in the country that could render them well. To the
simpler tunes, however, these objections do not apply: in fact there are
only two objections that can be urged against them, and both of these
will be found on examination to be advantages.

The first objection is that they are not in the modern scale. Now as this
objection is only felt by persons who have cramped their musical
intelligence by an insufficient technical education, and cannot believe
that music is music unless they are modulating in and out of some key by
means of a sharp seventh;--and as the nature of the ecclesiastical modes
is too long a subject, and too abstruse for a paper of this sort, even if
I were competent to discuss it;--I shall therefore content myself by
stating that the ecclesiastical modes have, for melodic purposes (which
is all that we are considering), advantages over the modern scale, by
which they are so surpassed in harmonic opportunities. Even such a
thoroughgoing admirer of the modern system as Sir Hubert Parry writes on
this subject, that it 'is now quite obvious that for melodic purposes
such modes as the Doric and Phrygian were infinitely (_sic_) preferable
to the Ionic,' i.e. to our modern major keys[11]. And it will be evident
to every one how much music has of late years sought its charm in modal
forms, under the guise of national character.

The second objection is their free rhythm. They are not written in barred
time, and cannot without injury be reduced to it.

As this question affects also other classes of hymns, I will here say all
that I have to say, or have space to say, about the rhythm of hymn-tunes;
confining my remarks generally to the proper dignified rhythms.

In all modern musical grammars it is stated that there are virtually only
two kinds of time. The time-beat goes either by twos or some multiple of
two, or by threes or some multiple of three, and the accent recurs at
regular intervals of time, and is marked by dividing off the music into
bars of equal length. Nothing is more important for a beginner to learn,
and yet from the point of view of rhythm nothing could be more
inadequate. _Rhythm is infinite._ These regular times are no doubt the
most important fundamental entities of it, and may even lie
undiscoverably at the root of all varieties of rhythm whatsoever, and
further they may be the only possible or permissible rhythms for a modern
composer to use, but yet the absolute dominion which they now enjoy over
all music lies rather in their practical necessity and convenience (since
it is only by attending to them that the elaboration of modern harmonic
music is possible), than in the undesirability (in itself) or unmusical
character of melody which ignores them. In the matter of hymn-melodies an
unbarred rhythm has very decided advantages over a barred rhythm. In the
former the melody has its own way, and dances at liberty with the voice
and sense; in barred time it has its accents squared out beforehand, and
makes steadily for its predetermined beat, plumping down, as one may say,
on the first note of every bar whether it will or no. Sing to any one a
Plain-song melody, _Ad coenam Agni_ for instance, once or twice, and then
Croft's 148th Psalm[12]. Croft will be undeniably fine and impressive,
but he provokes a smile: his tune is like a diagram beside a flower.

Now in this matter of rhythm our hymn-book compilers, since the
seventeenth century, have done us a vast injury. They have reduced all
hymns to the common times. Their procedure was, I suppose, dictated by
some argument such as this: 'The people must have what they can
understand: they only understand the simple two and three time: _ergo_ we
must reduce all the tunes to these measures.' Or again, 'It will be
easier for them to have all the tunes as much alike as possible:
therefore let us make them all alike, and write them all in equal

Both these ideas are absolutely wrong. A hymn-tune, which they hastily
assume to be the commonest and lowest form of music, actually possesses
liberties coveted by other music[13]. It is a short melody, committed to
memory, and frequently repeated: there is no reason why it should submit
to any of the time-conveniences of orchestral music: there is no reason
why its rhythm should not be completely free; nor is there any _a priori_
necessity why any one tune should be exactly like another in rhythm. It
will be learned by the ear (most often in childhood), be known and loved
for its own sake, and blended in the heart with the words which interpret
it: and this advantage was instinctively felt by those of our early
church composers who, already understanding something of the value of
barred music, yet deliberately avoided cramping the rhythms of their
hymn-tunes by too great subservience to it[14]. One of the first duties
therefore which we owe to hymn-melodies is the restoration of their free
and original rhythms, keeping them as varied as possible: the Plain-song
melodies must be left unbarred and be taught as free rhythms, and all
other fine tunes which are worth using should be preserved in their
original rhythm; because free rhythm is better, and its variety is good,
and because the attraction of a hymn-melody lies in its individual
character and expression, and not at all in its time-likeness to other
tunes. This last idea has been a chief cause in the degradation of our

I may conclude then that the best of these simpler Plain-song tunes are
very fit for congregational use. They should be offered as pure melody in
free rhythm and sung in unison: their accompaniment must not be entrusted
to a modern grammarian. It is well also to use most of them in their
English form, the _Old Sarum Use_ as it is called; which happily
preserves to us a national tradition, in the opinion of some experts
older and more correct than any known on the continent; and if the
differences in our English version are not due to purity of tradition,
they will have another and almost greater interest, as venerable records
of the genius of our national taste. These Plain-song tunes have probably
a long future before them; since, apart from their merit, they are
indissolubly associated with the most ancient Latin hymns, some of which
are the very best hymns of the Church.

The next class of tunes[15] is that of the Reformation hymns, English,
French, and German, dating from about 1550 to some way on in the
seventeenth century. The chief English group is known as _Sternhold and
Hopkins' Psalter_, which was mostly of eight-line tunes. This book was
virtually put together in Geneva about 1560, and antiquarians make much
of it. If stripped, however, of its stolen plumes and later additions it
is really an almost worthless affair, the true history of it being as
follows. A French musician named Louis Bourgeois, whom Calvin brought
with him to Geneva in 1541, turned out to be an extraordinary genius in
melody; he remained at Geneva about fifteen years, and in that time
compiled a Psalter of eighty-five tunes, almost all of which are of great
merit, and many of the very highest excellence. The splendour of his
work, which was merely appreciated as useful at the time, was soon
obscured, for immediately on his leaving Geneva, the French Psalter was
completed by inferior hands, whose work, being mixed in with his, lowered
the average of the whole book enormously, and Bourgeois' work was never
distinguished until, quite lately, the period of his office was
investigated and compared with the succeeding editions of his book. Now
the English refugees compiled their 'Sternhold and Hopkins' at Geneva, in
imitation of the French, during the time of Bourgeois' residence, and
took over a number of the French tunes; though they _mauled these most
unmercifully_ to bring them down to the measure of their doggerel psalms,
yet even after this barbarous treatment Bourgeois' spoilt tunes were
still far better than what they made for themselves, and sufficient not
only to float their book into credit, but to kindle the confused
enthusiasm of subsequent English antiquarians, whose blind leadership has
had some half-hearted following. But if these French tunes, and those
which are pieced in imitation of Bourgeois, be extracted from this
English Psalter, then, with one or two exceptions, there will remain
hardly anything of value[16].

To leave the English tunes for a moment and continue the subject, we
shall practically exhaust the French branch of this class by saying that
our duty by them is to use a great number of Bourgeois' tunes, _restoring
their original form_. They are masterpieces which have remained popular
on the continent from the first; thoroughly congenial to our national
taste, and the best that can be imagined for solemn congregational
singing of the kind which we might expect in England. The difficulty is
the same that beset the old original psalter-makers, i.e. to find words
to suit their varied measures. But this must be done[17]. These tunes in
dignity, solemnity, pathos, and melodic solidity leave nothing to desire.

The English eight-line tunes of Sternhold and Hopkins we may then, with
one or two exceptions, dismiss to neglect; but among the four-line
'common' tunes which gradually ousted them, there are about a dozen of
high merit: these being popular still at the present day require no
notice, except to 32 insist that they should be well harmonized in the
manner of their date, and generally have the long initials and finals of
all their lines observed. They are much finer than any one would guess
from their usual dull presentment. Their manner, as loved and praised by
Burns, is excellent, and there is no call to alter it[18].

Contemporary with this group there is a legacy of a dozen and more fine
tunes composed by Tallis and Orlando Gibbons, the neglect or treatment of
which is equally disgraceful to all concerned.

As for the German tunes of the Reformation, attempts to introduce the
German church-chorales into anything like general use in England have
never, so far as I know, been successful, owing, I suppose, to a
difference in the melodic sense of the two nations. But some few of them
are really popular, and more would be if they were properly presented
with suitable words; and it should not be a difficult task to provide
words even more suitable and kind than the original German, which seldom
observes an intelligent, dignified and consistent mood. These chorales
should be sung very slow indeed, and will admit of much accompaniment.
Bach's settings, when not too elaborate or of impossible compass in the
parts, may be well used where the choir is numerically strong. He has
made these chorales peculiarly his own, and, in accepting his
interpretation of them, we are only acquiescing in a universal judgement,
while we make an exception in favour of genius; for as a general rule
(which will of course apply to those chorales which we do not use in
Bach's version), all the music of this Reformation period must be
harmonized strictly in the vocal counterpoint which prevailed at the end
of the sixteenth century; since that is not only its proper musical
interpretation, but it is also the ecclesiastical style _par excellence_,
the field of which may reasonably be extended, but by no means
contracted. It is suitable both for simple and elaborate settings, for
hymns of praise or of the more intimate ideal emotions, and in a resonant
building a choir of six voices can produce complete effects with it. The
broad, sonorous swell of its harmonious intervals floods the air with
peaceful power, very unlike the broken sea of Bach's chromatics, which,
to produce anything like an equal effect of sound, needs to be powerfully

It is necessary to insist strongly on one caution, viz. that grammar is
not style, and settings which avoid modernisms are not for that reason a
fair presentation of the old manner. Nothing is less like a fine work of
art than its incompetent imitation. And this practically exhausts, as far
as I am aware, the material which this period provides.

The next class will be made up of our Restoration hymns, by Jeremy Clark,
Croft, and others who added to the succeeding editions of the metrical
Psalms. If there are not many in this class, yet the few are good; and
Clark must be regarded as the inventor of the modern English hymn-tune,
regarded, that is, as a pure melody in the scale with harmonic
interpretation of instrumental rather than true vocal suggestion. His
tunes are pathetic, melodious, and of truly national and popular
character, the best of them almost unaccountably free from the
indefinable secular taint that such qualities are apt to introduce, and
which the bad following of his example did very quickly introduce in the
hands of less sensitive artists. They are suitable for evening services.

After this time there followed in England, in the wake of Handel, a
degradation of style which is now completely discredited. Diatonic flow,
with tediously orthodox modulation, overburdened with conventional
graces, describe these innumerable and indistinguishable productions. And
just as the old tunes were related to the motets and madrigals, so are
these to the verse-anthems and glees of their time. These weak ditties,
in the admired manner of Lord Mornington, were typically performed by the
genteel pupils of the local musician, who, gathered round him beneath the
laughing cherubs of the organ case, warbled by abundant candlelight to
their respectful audience with a graceful execution that rivalled the
weekday performances of _Celia's Arbour_ and the _Spotted Snakes_. Good
tunes may be written at any time, for style is independent of fashion;
but there are very few exceptions to the complete and unregretted
disappearance of all the tunes of this date.

We have then nothing left for us to do but to review the material which
the revival of music in the last fifty years has given us in the way of

This last group divides naturally into two main heads; first the
restoration of old hymns of all kinds, with their plain, severer manner,
in reaction against the abused graces; and secondly the appearance of a
vast quantity of new hymns.

Concerning the restoration of the old hymns, we cannot be too grateful to
those who pointed the right way, and, according to their knowledge and
the opportunities of the taste of their day, did the best that they
could. But, as our remarks under the heads of Plain-song and Reformation
hymns will show, this knowledge, taste, and opportunity were
insufficient, and all their work requires to be done afresh.

We are therefore left to the examination of the modern hymns. In place of
this somewhat invidious task, I propose to make a few remarks on the
general question of the introduction of modern harmony into
ecclesiastical music, with reference of course to hymns only. It cannot
escape the attention of any one that the modern church music has for one
chief differentiation the profuse employment of pathetic chords, the
effect of which is often disastrous to the feelings.

Comparing a modern hymn-tune in this style with some fine setting of an
old tune in the diatonic ecclesiastical manner, one might attribute the
superiority of the old music entirely to its harmonic system; but I think
this would be wrong.

It is a characteristic of all early art to be _impersonal_[19]. As long
as an art is growing, artists are engaged in rivalry to develop the new
inventions in a scientific manner, and individual personality is not
called out. With the exhaustion of the means in the attainment of
perfection a new stage is reached, in which individual expression is
prominent, and seems to take the place of the scientific impersonal
interest which aimed at nothing but beauty: so that the chief distinction
between early and late art is that the former is impersonal, the latter

Turning now to the subject of ecclesiastical music, and comparing thus
Palestrina with Beethoven or Mozart, is it not at once apparent that
Palestrina has this distinct advantage, namely, that he seems not to
interfere at all with, or add anything to, the sacred words? His early
musical art is impersonal, what the musicians call 'pure music'; and if
he is setting the phrases of the Liturgy or Holy Scriptures, we are not
aware of any adjunct; it seems rather as if the sacred words had suddenly
become musical. Not so with Mozart or Beethoven; we may prefer their
music, but it has interfered with the sacred words, it has, in fact,
added a personality.

It must of course be conceded that this gives a very strong if not
logically an almost unassailable position to those who would confine
sacred music to the ecclesiastical style. But it seems to me ridiculous
to suppose that genius cannot use all good means with reserve and
dignity; and if the modern church music will not stand comparison in
respect of dignity and solemnity with the old, the fault must rather lie
in the manner in which the new means are used, than in the means
themselves; nor would I myself concede that there is no place in church
for music which is tinged with a human personality; I should be rather
inclined to reckon the great musicians among the prophets, and to
sympathize with any one who might prefer the personality of Beethoven (as
revealed in his works) to that of a good many canonized seers. What is
logical is that we should be careful as to what personality we admit, and
see that the modern means are used with reserve.

Now if we examine our modern hymn-tunes, do we find any sign of that
reserve of means which we should expect of genius, or any style which we
could attribute to the personality of a genius? Let any one in doubt try
the following experiment: copy out some 'favourite tune' in the 'admired
manner' of the present day, and show it to some musician who may happen
not to know it, and ask him if it is not by Brahms; then see how he will
receive any further remarks that you may make to him on the subject of

These new tunes are in fact, for the most part, the indistinguishable
products of a school given over to certain mannerisms, and might be
produced _ad libitum_, as indeed they are; just as were the tunes of the
Lord Mornington school before described: and though the composers and
compilers of these modern tunes would be the first to deride the exploded
fashion, their own fashion is more foolish, and promises to be as

I have said very little in this essay on the words of hymns. I will
venture to add one or two judgements here. _First_, that in the
Plain-song period, words and music seem pretty equal and well matched.
_Secondly_, that in the Reformation period, and for some time onwards,
the musicians did far better than the sacred poets, and have left us a
remainder of admirable music, for which it is our duty to find words.
_Thirdly_, that the excuse which some musicians have offered for the
sentimentality of their modern tunes, namely, that the words are so
sentimental, is not without point as a criticism of modern hymn-words,
but is of no value whatever as a defence of their practice. The
interpretative power of music is exceedingly great, and can force almost
any words (as far as their sentiment is concerned) into a good channel.

And if music be introduced at all into public worship it must be most
jealously and scrupulously guarded. It is a confusion of thought to
suppose that because--as St. Augustin would tell us--it is not a vital
matter to religion whether it employ music or not, therefore it can be of
little consequence what sort of music is used: and the attitude of
indifference towards it, which has seemed to me to be almost a point of
correct ecclesiastical manners, must be the expression of a convinced
despair, which, in the present state of things, need not surprise. Devout
persons are naturally afraid of secular ideals, and shrink from the
notion of art intruding into the sanctuary; and, especially if they have
never learned music, they will share St. Augustin's jealousy of it; and
it is the more difficult to remove their objections, when what they are
innocently suffering in the name of art curdles the artist's blood with
horror, and keeps him away from church. The artist too, to whom we might
look for help, is the _rara avis in terris_, and, in regard to his
sympathy with the clergy, would often be thought by them to deserve the
rest of the hexameter; but it is really to his credit that he is loth to
meddle with church music. Its social vexations, its eye to the market,
its truckling to vulgar taste and ready subservience to a dominant
fashion, which can never (except under the rarest combination of
circumstances) be good;--all this is more than enough to hold him off.
Where then is the appeal? _Quis custodiet_?

The unwillingness of the clergy[21] to know anything about music might be
got over if the music could be set on a proper basis; and in the present
lack of authority and avowed principles, it would be well if such of our
cathedral precentors and organists as have the matter at heart would
consult and work together with the purpose of instructing pastors and
people by the exhibition of what is good. This is what we might expect of
our religious musical foundations, which are justifying the standing
condemnation of utilitarian economists so long as the stipendiaries are
content indolently to follow the fortuitous traditions of the books that
lie in the choir, supplemented by the penny-a-sheet music of the common
shops. In the Universities, too, it should be impossible for an
undergraduate not to gain acquaintance with good ecclesiastical music,
and this is not ensured by an occasional rare performance of half a dozen
old masterpieces which are preserved in heartless compliment to
antiquity. It is to such bodies that we must first look for help and
guidance to give our church music artistic importance: for let no one
think that the church can put the artistic question on one side. There is
no escape from art; art is only the best that man can do, and his second,
third, fourth or fifth best are only worse efforts in the same direction,
and in proportion as they fall short of the best the more plainly betray
their artificiality. To refuse the best for the sake of something
inferior of the same kind can never be a policy; it is rather an
uncorrected bad habit, that can only be excused by ignorance; and
ignorance on the question of music is every day becoming less excusable;
and the growing interest and intelligence which all classes are now
showing should force on religion a better appreciation of her most potent
ally. Music being the universal expression of the mysterious and
supernatural, the best that man has ever attained to, is capable of
uniting in common devotion minds that are only separated by creeds, and
it comforts our hope with a brighter promise of unity than any logic
offers. And if we consider and ask ourselves what sort of music we should
wish to hear on entering a church, we should surely, in describing our
ideal, say first of all that it must be something different from what is
heard elsewhere; that it should be a sacred music, devoted to its
purpose, a music whose peace should still passion, whose dignity should
strengthen our faith, whose unquestioned beauty should find a home in our
hearts, to cheer us in life and death; a music worthy of the fair temples
in which we meet, and of the holy words of our liturgy; a music whose
expression of the mystery of things unseen never allowed any trifling
motive to ruffle the sanctity of its reserve. What power for good such a
music would have!

Now such a music our Church has got, and does not use; we are content to
have our hymn-manuals stuffed with the sort of music which, merging the
distinction between sacred and profane, seems designed to make the
worldly man feel at home, rather than to reveal to him something of the
life beyond his knowledge; compositions full of cheap emotional effects
and bad experiments made to be cast aside, the works of the purveyors of
marketable fashion, always pleased with themselves, and always to be
derided by the succeeding generation.

Example is better than precept; and my own venture as a compiler of a
hymn-book has made it possible for me to say much that otherwise I should
not have said. In _The Yattendon Hymnal_, printed by Mr. Horace Hart at
the Clarendon Press, Oxford, and to be had of Mr. Frowde, price 20_s._,
will be found a hundred hymns with their music, chosen for a village
choir. The music in this book will show what sort of a hymnal might be
made on my principles, while the notes at the end of the volume will
illustrate almost every point in this essay which requires illustration,
besides many others. As a complement to this essay and for advertisement
of the Hymnal I here give the prefaces of that book, which are as

[1]_Confess._ ix. 6.

[2]_Ibid._ ix. 7.

[3]This is perhaps rather a quality proper to the sensation.

[4]'Et vix eis praebeo congruentem [locum].' which might only mean 'I
  cannot find the right place for them.'

[5]_Confess._ x. 13.

[6]St. Augustin does not allow that a vague emotion can be religious; it
  must be directed. Few would agree to this.

[7]I assume 'favourite hymn' to mean a sung hymn. The interest of the
  record must lie in its being of a heightened emotion of the same kind
  as that described by St. Augustin in his own case, _What tears I shed_,

[8]It was not an uncommon practice on the Continent (say from 1540 to
  1840), to print books of hymns to be sung to the current secular airs;
  and the names or first lines of these airs were set above the
  hymn-words as the musical direction. M. Douen, in his _Clément Marot et
  le Psautier Huguenot_, vol. i, ch. 22, has given an account of some of
  these books; and any one who wishes to follow this branch of the
  subject may read his chapter. He does not notice the later Italian
  _Laude Spirituali_, which might have supplied incredible monsters to
  his museum.

[9]Besides, the main fault of these books, from which we should have to
  quote, is the _association_ of the music, and this is really an
  accident, the question before us being the _character_ of the music; so
  that we should require musical illustration, for though the common
  distinction between sacred and secular music is in the main just, yet
  the line cannot be drawn at the original intention, or historical
  origin of the music: the true differentiation lies in the character of
  the music, the associated sentiment being liable to change. If we were
  to banish from our hymn-books all the tunes which we know to have a
  secular origin, we should have to part with some of the most sacred and
  solemn compositions; and where would the purist obtain any assurance
  that the tunes which he retained had a better title? In the sixteenth
  century, when so many fine hymn-melodies were written, a musician was
  working in the approved manner if he adapted a secular melody, or at
  least borrowed a well-known opening phrase: and since the melodies of
  that time were composed mainly in conjunct movement, such initial
  similarities were unavoidable; for one may safely say that it very soon
  became impossible, under such restrictions, to invent a good opening
  phrase which had not been used before. The secular airs, too, of that
  time were often as fit for sacred as profane use; and if I had to find
  a worthy melody for a good new hymn, I should seek more hopefully among
  them than in the sacred music of our own century.

[10]I may give the following experience without offence. When I was an
  undergraduate there was a song from a comic opera by Offenbach so much
  in favour as to be _de rigueur_ at festive meetings. Now there was at
  the same time a counterpart of this song popular at evensong in the
  churches: it was sung to 'Hark, hark, my soul.' I believe it is called
  _L'encens des fleurs_. They seemed to me both equally nauseating: it
  was certainly an accident that determined which should be sung at
  worship and which at wine.

[11]_The Art of Music_, by C Hubert H. Parry. London, 1893, 1st edit. p.

[12]And give Croft the advantage of his original rhythm, not the
  mis-statement in _Hymns Ancient and Modern_, No. 414.

[13]It would be very damaging to my desire to convince, if I should seem
  to deny that the mistaken practice of these hymn-book compilers was
  based on the solid ground of secular common-sense. If anything is true
  of rhythm it is this, that the common mind likes common rhythms, such
  as the march or waltz, whereas elaboration of rhythm appeals to a
  trained mind or artistic faculty. I should say that the popularity of
  common rhythms is due to the shortness of human life, and that if men
  were to live to be 300 years old they would weary of the sort of music
  which Robert Browning describes so well--

    'There 's no keeping one's haunches still,
    There 's no such pleasure in life.'

  But hymn-melodies must not be put on that level. It is desirable to
  have in church something different from what goes on outside, and (as I
  say in the text) a hymn-tune need not appeal to the lowest
  understanding on first hearing. The simple free rhythms, too, are
  perfectly natural; they were free-born.

[14]I need only instance Orlando Gibbons' tune called 'Angels.' The
  original is a most ingenious combination of rhythms; and its masterly
  beauty could not be guessed from the inane form into which it is
  degraded in _Hymns Ancient and Modern_, No. 8.

[15]I omit, for want of space, mention of the late Plain-song melodies
  (which would give a good many excellent tunes); and, for want of
  knowledge, the Italian tunes.

[16]Comparing the English with the French Genevan Psalter, I do not think
  my judgement is too severe on our own. It had a few fine tunes original
  to it; best of all the cxxxvii (degraded in _Hymns Ancient and
  Modern_). This is of such exceptional beauty that I believe it must
  have been written by Bourgeois for Whittingham. Next perhaps is lxxvii
  (called 81st in _H. A. M._), the original of which, in Day, 1566, is a
  fine tune, degraded already in Este, 1592, which version _H. A. M._
  follows: it is said to have come from Geneva. Besides these, xxv and
  xliv, which are the only other tunes from this source in _H. A. M._,
  are very favourable examples, and I do not think that they will rescue
  the book. Nor can I believe that these old English D.C.M. tunes were
  ever much used. They are too much alike for many of them to have been
  committed to memory, while all the editions which I happen to have seen
  are full of misprints, and the four-line tunes which drove them out
  were early in the field, and increased rapidly.

[17]When one turns the pages of that most depressing of all books ever
  compiled by the groaning creature, Julian's hymn-dictionary, and sees
  the thousands of carefully tabulated English hymns, by far the greater
  number of them not only pitiable as efforts of human intelligence, but
  absolutely worthless as vocal material for melodic treatment, one
  wishes that all this effort had been directed to supply a real want. E.
  g. the two Wesleys between them wrote thirteen octavo volumes, of some
  400 pages each, full of closely printed hymns. One must wish that
  Charles Wesley at least (who showed in a few instances how well he
  could do) had, instead of reeling off all this stuff, concentrated his
  efforts to produce only what should be worthy of his talents and useful
  to posterity.

[18]If old tunes are modernized out of a fine rhythm, a curious result
  would be likely to come about; viz. that modern tunes might be written
  in the old rhythm for the sake of novelty, while the old were being
  sung in the more modern way for the sake of uniformity.

[19]This fact is of course generally recognized. The explanation in the
  text is one which was elaborately illustrated by the Slade Professor at
  Oxford, in his last course of lectures on painting.

[20]There is one point which I cannot pass over. It has become the
  practice in modern books to put marks of musical expression to the
  words, directing the congregation when to sing loud or soft. This
  implies a habit of congregational performance the description of which
  would make a companion picture to the organ gallery of 1830. It seems
  to me a practice of inconceivable degradation: one asks in trembling if
  it is to be extended to the Psalms. It is just as if the congregation
  were school-children singing to please a musical inspector, and he a
  stupid one.

[21]It must be due to unwillingness that comparatively so few of our
  clergy can take their part in the service when it is musical. Village
  schoolmasters tell me that two hours a week is sufficient in a few
  months to bring all the children up to a standard of time and tune and
  reading at sight that would suffice a minor canon.


Among the old melodies which it is the chief object of this book to
  restore to use, some will be found which will be quite new to the
  public, while others will be familiar though in a somewhat different
  form; and since the sources whence all the tunes are taken are well
  known, and have been already largely drawn upon by the compilers of
  Psalters and Hymnals, any melody which is new in this book may be
  considered as having been hitherto overlooked or rejected, while in the
  alternative case it is to be understood that the original cast of the
  melody has at some former time been altered (frequently to suit the
  English common metre to which it was not at first conformable), and is
  now restored.

The plain-song tunes, of which an account is given in the preface to the
notes, and the few other old tunes which do not fall into either of the
two above-mentioned classes, were included for the sake of their

With respect to the vocal settings in four parts it may be said that, in
the numerous cases in which such settings were not added by the composer
of the melody, the editors have done their best to supply the want in a
suitable manner, and with some attempt towards the particular qualities
of workmanship upon which much of the beauty of the old vocal
counterpoint depends; and this latter aim has also governed the
composition of the six tunes not derived from old sources which have been
included in the work.

This book is offered in no antiquarian spirit. The greater number of
these old tunes are, without question, of an excellence which sets them
above either the enhancement or the ruin of Time, and at present when so
much attention is given to music it is to be desired that such
masterpieces should not be hidden away from the public, or only put forth
in a corrupt and degraded form. The excellence of a nation in music can
have no other basis than the education and practice of the people; and
the quality of the music which is most universally sung must largely
determine the public taste for good or ill.

Since such information as might be looked for in an introduction is given
in the notes at the end of the volume, there is nothing to add here but a
list of the sources and composers in order of date, which should in the
eyes of musicians go far to justify this attempt.


  Sarum use, nine, Nos. 29. 30. 31. 32. 47. 48. 49. 75. 86.
  Ambrosian, two, Nos. 91. 100.
  Later plain-song, two, Nos. 44. 45.
HEINRICH ISAAC, 1490, one tune, Nos. 82 & 83.
From the Strasbourg Psalter, before 1540, two, Nos. 37. 72.
German of same date, one, No. 16.
LOUIS BOURGEOIS, 1550, thirteen, Nos. 3. 19. 20. 27. 58. 64. 67. 70. 74.
    77. 79 & 80. 88. 99 & see 66 & 84.
CHRISTOPHER TYE, 1550, one, No. 15.
From Crespin's Psalters, circ. 1560, three, Nos. 41. 84. 89.
THOMAS TALLIS, 1560, seven, Nos. 2. 14. 54 & 55. 59. 68. 78. 98.
From the French Genevan Psalter, after 1560, one, No. 92.
A setting by CLAUDE GOUDIMEL, 1565, No. 88.
English, 16th cent, four, Nos. 39. 53. 66. 87.
Two settings by GEO. KIRBY, 1592, Nos. 39. 53.
A setting by J. Farmer, 1592, No. 87.
A setting by Rd. ALLISON, 1599, No. 84.
Italian, 16th cent., one, No. 1.
HANS LEONHARD HASSLER, 1600, one, No. 62.
THOS. CAMPION, 1613, one, No. 36.
ORLANDO GIBBONS, 1623, eight, Nos. 23. 24. 25. 28. 35. 38. 56. 94.
HENRY LAWES, 1638, one, No. 73.
JOHANN CRUEGER, 1640, four, Nos. 41. 57. 93. 97.
English & Scotch, 1600-1650, seven, Nos. 10. 40. 50. 51. 60. 63. 71.
German, 17th cent, two, Nos. 69. 90.
JEREMY CLARK, 1700, nine, Nos. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 21. 61. 81. 95.
WILLIAM CROFT, 1710, four, Nos. 34. 43. 52. 76.
English, 18th cent., four, Nos. 12. 26. 33. 65.
J.S.BACH, eight settings, mostly of earlier melodies,  Nos. 13. 57. 62.
    80. 83. 85. 90. 97.
Seven new tunes by H. E. W., Nos. 4. 11. 17. 18. 22. 46. 96.


'The seven tunes by Tallis are all transcripts of his original four-part
compositions. Only two of these tunes are in the common books; one of
them "The Ordinal" is always reset, the other "Canon," which is usually
sung to Bp. Ken's evening hymn, is completely altered, the canon being
put in a different position and the harmony changed. This tune is I
believe correctly edited for the first time in the Y. H. and it is now
thus sung at Wells Cathedral.

'Of the eight tunes by Orlando Gibbons, two only (and these altered both
in rhythm and harmony) appear in the common books. All Gibbons' tunes are
given in the Y. H. with his own bass, the inner parts being supplied.

'There is a complete list of the music in the word-book of the Yattendon
Hymnal, which is published by Mr. Blackwell of Broad Street, Oxford, and
may be bought for 1_s._ 6_d._'


The origin of this book was my attempt, when precentor of a village
choir, to provide better settings of the hymns than those in use.

When I gave up my office, I printed the first twenty-five hymns for the
convenience of the choir, and also for the sake of the tunes by Jeremy
Clark, which I had been at some pains to restore, and for the
preservation of the tunes composed on our behalf by Professor Wooldridge.

My choice of music had so far been limited to tunes, for which suitable
words were to be found in _Hymns Ancient & Modern_; but by the time that
these first tunes were printed, I determined to continue the book free of
this restriction, and, from whatever source, to provide words for tunes
which I had hitherto been unable to use. I then became aware of a real
cause for the absence of most of these tunes from the common hymnals:
_there were no words of any kind to which they could be sung_. Having
already translated some of the old Latin hymns for their proper melodies,
I was thence led on to the more difficult task of supplying the greater
need of these other tunes; the result being that over forty of these
hundred hymns have english words newly written by myself. Almost all of
these new hymns are in some sense translations, for even where an
original hymn could not be followed in its entirety, as an old Latin hymn
generally may be, there was usually a foundation to begin upon, and I
never failed to find the music conditioning, dictating, or inspiring the
remainder. I did not willingly engage in this, nor until I had searched
word-books of all kinds; a fruitless labour, unless for the hope begotten
thereof that my practice in versifying and my love for music may together
have created something of at least relative value.

The unusual method which I was constrained to follow, that is of writing
words to suit existing music, has its advantages. In some cases, as will
be seen in the notes to the hymns, the musician, out of despair or even
contempt for the doggrel offered to him, has composed a fine tune quite
independent of the words to which it was dedicated[22], and such tunes
have been silent ever since they were composed: while even when a melody
has been actually inspired by a particular hymn, the attention of the
composer to the first stanza has not infrequently set up a hirmos, or at
least a musical scheme of feeling, which, not having been in the mind of
the writer of the words, is not carried out in his other stanzas[23]:
indeed, as every one must have observed, the words of hymns have too
often been written with insufficient attention to the conditions which a
repetition of any music to every stanza must impose. To get rid of such
discrepancies between words and music is advantageous to both, and
although this treatment cannot of course be applied to english
hymns,--which it is not allowable to alter, except in cases of glaring
unfitness or absurdity, such as would if uncorrected cause the neglect of
a good hymn[24],--yet, where the hymn has to be translated from a foreign
language, some reconstruction is generally inevitable, and it can follow
no better aim than that of the mutual enforcement of words and music. And
the words owe a courtesy to the music; for if a balance be struck between
the words and music of hymns, it will be found to be heavily in favour of
the musicians, whose fine work has been unscrupulously altered and
reduced to dullness by english compilers, with the object of conforming
it in rhythm to words that are unworthy of any music whatever. The chief
offenders here are the protestant reformers, whose metrical psalms, which
the melodies were tortured to fit, exhibit greater futility than one
would look for even in men who could thus wantonly spoil fine music[25].

The form and size of the book were determined by the type, chosen because
it was the only one that I could find of any beauty; and I wished that my
book should in this respect give an example, and be worthy both of the
music and its sacred use[26]. Moreover a book from which two or three
singers can read is more convenient in the choir than a multiplicity of
small books; and the music being in full score, its intention cannot be
mistaken: for it must be understood that most of these tunes are set in
the manner proper for voices, but unsuitable for the piano or other keyed
instrument; and the book is intended to encourage unaccompanied singing.
A choir that cannot sing unaccompanied cannot sing at all; and this is
not an uncommon condition in our churches, where choirs with varying
success accompany the organ. A proper manner of sustained singing, and
the true artistic pleasure that should govern it, will never be obtained
until these conditions are reversed.

There is one novelty which I am responsible for introducing, namely the
four-part vocal settings of certain early plain-song melodies. The later
plain-song tunes, such as No. 44, are, I suppose[27], as fit for this
treatment as any other tunes of the same date; but in the case of the
earlier melodies, which were composed before the invention of any
complete system of harmony, it is generally agreed that they should be
sung in unison, in fact the more elaborate of them cannot be sung
otherwise. To give four-part settings of any of these early tunes calls
therefore for an explanation, which I will give as briefly as possible.

When these tunes are sung, they are usually accompanied, and this implies
a harmonic treatment. Now the best harmonic treatment which they can have
is the Palestrinal, because that was the earliest complete system, and
therefore the nearest to their time, and also because we may rely on the
truth of its interpretation of the modes for the reason that Palestrina
had never heard any music that was not modal. A modern musician, if he
attempts to go back beyond Palestrina, must draw on his imagination, and
while his aim must be to produce something artistically and technically
less perfect than Palestrina's system, his work, when it is done, will
carry neither authority nor conviction.

If then we take Palestrina's harmonic interpretation of the modes, it
seems to me that there can be no objection to giving vocal parts to the
simpler hymns. If it is preferred to sing them in unison, the modal
settings will be a guide to the accompanist. But it is my opinion that
such settings as I offer will really please, and they may possibly do
something to bring these tunes, which have a unique, unmatchable beauty,
into favour with choirs that dislike the effort and waste of unison
singing. These settings offer no difficulty of execution all; _that is
necessary is that the under voices should know the melody_: and though
this is not generally thought requisite in a modern hymn, it is asking
nothing extra of a choir that would sing the plain-song tunes; for even
if they are sung in unison, they must first be known by heart (otherwise
their rhythmical freedom, which defies notation, and is indispensable to
their beauty, cannot be approached), and when once a choir has got thus
far, the under parts, being phrased with the melody, will easily follow
it. An explanation of the notation of these settings is given in the note
to Hymn 29. Congregational singing of hymns is much to be desired; but,
though difficult to obtain, it is not permissible to provoke it by
undignified music. Its only sound musical basis is good melody: good
melodies should therefore be offered to the people, such as it has been
the object of this book to bring together; and they should have as much
freedom and variety of rhythm as possible. If some of the good melodies
are, owing to their wide compass or other difficulty, unfit for
congregational singing, this is an advantage; because neither are all
hymn-words equally suitable. Most of the words in this book are suitable
for congregational singing; some are not. A hymn-book which is intended
entirely for congregational use must be faulty in one of two ways; either
it will offer for congregational singing hymns whose sacred and intimate
character is profaned by such a treatment, or it will have to omit some
of the most beautiful hymns in the language: but congregations differ
much, not only with regard to the music in which they are capable of
joining, but also as to the sort of words which best express their
religious emotion.

In the following notes the left-hand side of the page is given to the
words, the right to the music of each hymn: in the latter column will be
found full information as to the text of the music, the source whence it
is derived, &c., together with a careful account of every departure that
has been made from the originals. It is hoped that this will not only be
of general interest, but that it may inspire confidence in the text of
the book, and ensure the reception which its authority demands. For the
text of the music, and all the statements in the notes, I am responsible;
excepting those portions of the notes which are therein assigned to their
proper authorities, and in these I am responsible for the correctness of
the quotations and references, in which I have done my best to secure
accuracy. I owe much to the kindness of Mr. W. Barclay Squire at the
British Museum; I have also to thank Mr. Godfrey Arkwright for the loan
of some rare books, and Dr. Chas. Wood of Cambridge for two settings and
occasional reading of music proofs; in which latter task I gratefully
record the help of Mr. J. S. Liddle and Dr. Percy Buck. To Mr. Miles
Birket Foster I owe the three trios by Jeremy Clark, and to the Revs. W.
H. Frere and G. H. Palmer the text of the plain-song melodies, and the
information concerning them which is given in the following notes: it is
due to the generosity with which they put their learning and judgement at
my disposal that I am able to offer these tunes with the same confidence
as the rest of the book. Professor Wooldridge, having co-operated with me
throughout, has allowed his name to appear on the title page.

[22]No. 28 is a good example of this. See also No. 98.

[23]No. 57 is a good example. The line _Du bist mein, und ich bin dein_,
  corresponds in stanza 2 with _Wenn die Welt in Trümmer fallt_, and in
  stanza 4 with _Elend, Noth, Kreuz, Schmach und Tod_. Again in No. 77
  the opening phrase, _Mon Dieu, mon Dieu_, of the twenty-second psalm
  needs music which conditions the other stanzas severely. Again the weak
  apologetic latter half of the German hymn _Herzliebster Jesu_, No. 42,
  is irreconcilably out of the key with the pathetic grief of the
  beginning. Cases in which caesuras and grammatical breaks are
  inconsistent are numberless.

[24]See note to Hymn 90. Other english hymns altered for practical
  purposes in this book are Nos. 19, 35, 51, last verse of 52, 66, 94,
  and 96.

[25]I give illustrations of these words in notes to Hymns 27, 54, 58, 63,
  68, 84, and 98.

[26]The cheapness is not the direct cause of the ugliness of our common
  hymn-books, nor is their ugliness the cause of their cheapness. If many
  copies of a book are sold, they can be sold cheaply; if only a few,
  then the initial expense, which is much the same whether the book be
  beautiful or ugly, must be shared between those few buyers and the
  author. But thus it comes about indirectly for cheapness to be the
  cause of meanness and ugliness, because in a larger market there is
  greater indifference to artistic excellence of all kinds, and from
  habit a preference for what is inferior. In a large edition this book
  could be sold as cheaply as another.

[27]I state here once for all that in musical matters I offer my opinion
  with becoming humility.



Edited by Robert Bridges and Professor H. Ellis Wooldridge. Containing
  100 hymns and 4 voice-parts. Printed at the Oxford University Press,
  1899. May be obtained of Henry Frowde, Oxford Warehouse, Amen Corner,
  London, E.C., or through any bookseller. Price, 4to boards, 1. A few
  copies of the Folio, price 4, are still to be had.


Which contains a full list of the music, and is called,


may be had of B. H. Blackwell, Broad Street, Oxford, or through any
bookseller. Price 1_s._ 6_d._

Oxford: Horace Hart, Printer to the University

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