The earliest English hymn

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Haruo, Mar 19, 2003.

  1. Haruo

    Haruo
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    In a thread at the Mudcat Café (http://www.mudcat.org/) entitled "Your Favourite Hymn", someone named IanC has just posted what he says is the earliest English hymn text, called "Caedmon's Hymn" (ca. 670-680 AD):
    There's a modern English paraphrase (to Finlandia) linked to at the Mudcat, as well as links to several less singable translations. Comments?

    Haruo
     
  2. Aaron

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  3. Pete

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    I thought it was Isaac Watts' Behold The Glories Of The Lamb? Though Caedmon's Hymn predates him by 1000 years or so. Is it just after Isaac the practice took off?

    Pete
     
  4. Haruo

    Haruo
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    Basically that's right. There had always been hymns in English (and, I think, in any language where any number of Christians worshipped for more than a few weeks, to tell the truth) but of course for several centuries the Roman Catholic tendency to insist on Latin in church meant that what hymns there were were restricted to private devotions or the worship of sectarians (including the ones numbered among Baptist antecedents); but beginning with the Anglican schism, which resulted in an English-language mass, there were some new hymns written. The Puritans again had a bit of a damping effect owing to their general rule that church song be restricted to metrical rewrites of Biblical texts (i.e. psalms and canticles), but in some of the less doctrinaire, more independent separatist groups (including some of the Baptists) hymns continued to be produced in small numbers. But Isaac Watts was the first to produce such a large number of hymns, many of them of high quality both poetically and doctrinally, that the churches in large numbers went over to them. And of course a generation after Watts (though while he was still alive) came Charles Wesley, whose thousands of hymns combined with Watts' hundreds to pretty much put the kibosh on the metrical-psalms-only faction.

    The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts are available (without music) online at CCEL.org (click) (and many of them are also in The Cyber Hymnal and other online hymnals with music.

    A few of the pre-Watts English hymns that are still sung are "Let All the World in Every Corner Sing" by George Herbert and Thomas Ken's "All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night" (whose last stanza became the best known English doxology: "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow...").

    Thanks for asking.

    Haruo
    hymnology trivia buff, in case you hadn't noticed ;)
     
  5. Pete

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    G'day Haruo [​IMG]

    Thanks mate, I have been known to raid CCEL and Cyber Hymnal sites [​IMG]

    You could rephrase hymnology trivia buff a bit though mate, nothing trivial about hymns [​IMG]

    Pete
     

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