A hymn for Remembrance Sunday

Nov 10, 2019 by

by Margaret Ashworth, The Conservative Woman:

Today, services of remembrance will be held at war memorials in towns and villages all over the country, each with its list of names of those who died to keep Britain free from tyranny.

At many of these services the hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past will be sung. It was written in 1708 by the English clergyman Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who wrote about 750 hymns and is sometimes called the Godfather of English Hymnody. One of his works was the carol Joy to the World, which I wrote about here. In the piece I outlined his life.

Watts based his hymn on Psalm 90:

1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. (King James Version)

He called it Our God Our Help in Ages Past and there were nine verses. In 1738, John Wesley, changed the first line of the text from ‘Our God’ to ‘O God’. Both versions are in use. Usually only six verses are sung. Here they are:

Read here

Watch also:

VOCES8 performs ‘Lux Aeterna’ to ‘Nimrod’ by Sir Edward Elgar live at the Gresham Centre in London.

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam
dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever,
for Thou art kind.
Eternal rest
give to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

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