Monday, August 20, 2012

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

After several days of "subtle," hints about this hymn, this one goes out to my Father, David.

Title: Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Tune: Melita

Numeric Outline:

Composer: John B. Dykes ( 1823-1876)

Author: William Whiting (1825-1878)

     This hymn is packed full of history for both the United States of America, and for England. The hymn "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," is often called "The Hymn for her Majesty's Royal Navy," or as we here in the U.S.A. like to call it, "The Naval Hymn." This hymn was one of President Franklin Roosevelt's favorites, thus it was played at his funeral in 1945, but also because he had served as Secretary of the Navy. Another famous performance is when the Navy Band played the hymn while the body of President John F. Kennedy was being carried up the steps of Capitol Hill so he could "Lie in State." Before he became president, J.F.K. was a member of the Navy, serving as a PT boat commander in WWII. Though this hymn is used mainly by both England and the U.S.A. as military hymns, the text was originally written for a student of William Whiting who was headed to America across the sea.
     William Whiting was born in Kensington, England on November 1st, 1825,  and was educated in nearby Chapham and Winchester Schools. Because he was considered to be gifted musically, Whiting eventually became the Master of the Winchester Chorister's School where he wrote a number of different poems. He wrote two complete volumes of Poems that were published in Rural Thoughts (1851), and in another collection Edgar Thorpe, or The Warfare of Life (1867). Though these collections contained many different poems, the only hymn in which Whiting has any notoriety is "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." The Tune "Melita," is actually a reference to the biblical nation of Malta, where the apostle Paul arrived after his ship sank according the book of Acts (chapter 28). The Island of Malta still exists today and is part of the British Common Wealth of Nations. Though not probably not related at all, but important to my father that it be mentions, the name Melita is a popular brand of coffee filters.
     Composer John Bacchus Dykes was born on March 10th, 1823 in the town of Hull England . John Dykes was the fifth child to William Hey Dykes, and Elizabeth Dykes (he was the third son). By the age of 10, he was so musically gifted that he had become the Assistant Organist at St. Johns Church in Drypool, Hull, where his grandfather, Rev. Thomas Dykes, was Vicar. Throughout his life he learned the violin and piano, and went on to study them at Wakefield and St. Catherine's College in Cambridge, where he earned his BA in Classics in 1847. While he was in Cambridge, he co founded the Cambridge University Musical Society, and would eventually become ordained as Curate of Malton in 1847 as well. After several years in Malton, Dykes moved on and became Cannon of Durham Cathedral and eventually the Precentor from 1849-1862. Eventually Dykes moved on and became Vicar of St. Oswald's in Durham in 1862, and remained in this calling until his death in 1876. Though Dykes is very well known for the tune "Melita," sung almost exclusively to the text of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," he had composed nearly 300 different hymn tunes spread across several different hymnals. During the main part of his life, Dykes experienced great success with his hymns, but in recent times, he has lost some momentum. In the Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised (published in 1950), Dykes had nearly 31 tunes published, but in the new standard version of the same hymnal (Published in 1983), Dykes only has 15 tunes published.

The Text:

(1) Eternal Father, strong to save, 
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,  
Who bidst the mighty ocean deep 
Its own appointed limits keep; 
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 
For those in peril on the sea!  

(2) O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard 
And hushed their raging at Thy word, 
Who walked'st on the foaming deep, 
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep; 
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 
For those in peril on the sea! 

(3) Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood 
Upon the chaos dark and rude, 
And bid its angry tumult cease, 
And give, for wild confusion, peace; 
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, 
For those in peril on the sea!  

(4) O Trinity of love and power! 
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;  
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,  
Protect them wheresoe'er they go; 
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee 
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea. 

My Take on the Hymn:

     I find this hymn to be one of praise and one of asking for help. The first part of each verse seems to praise the works that God has done, especially when Jesus calmed the stormy seas in front of his disciples (Mark 4: 36-41), while the second half of the verse seems to ask for God to be with them as they cry for His help. This hymn is a reminder that God is master of all and if we only thank Him and praise His name, we will be saved from all the troubles us. The story of Jesus rebuking the waves contains much more than just the face value of the text. This verse is a metaphor for every day life, where we will come upon vicious storms and waves that seem as if they will over take us and carry us away. Even though the disciples were scared for their lives, they had Jesus with them in the boat. The metaphor translated can be seen as follows: the boat, our heart, the waves, life around us. If we trust in Jesus, the waves that are coming to turn our hearts over will cease to exist, because Christ can command them to stop, and we will be saved. Every day we should remember the Christ is a part of our life, and, with out him, we would not be nearly as blessed and as protected as we are through Him!

The Hymn:

1 comment:

  1. How did the Tune and the Words come together?
    Tim Edwards