Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crown Him With Many Stanzas

For about an hour, this afternoon, our plan was to sing Crown Him With Many Crowns.  A bulletin was prepared accordingly.  Then Mother Anonymous came home and informed us, from the pinnacle of musical prowess upon which she sits in this particular rectory, that we were in fact going to sing All Hail the Pow'r of Jesus' Name.  Honestly, we always confuse those songs.

But during our one hour in charge of the Sunday service, we had a moment's curiosity about Crown Him.  The LBW lists two authors, Matthew Bidges and Godfrey Thring.  Both men lived in the later 19th century, although Bridges was some twenty years older.  But did they collaborate?  Or did they, like the oft-cited monkeys at typewriters, somehow compose the same song at the same time?

Neither.  It seems (according to the amateur site linked above, which probably relies on The Gospel in Hymns or the Hymnal 1940 Companion), Bridges was an Anglican who entered the Roman church.  He wrote the hymn in its original form, six verses, and it achieved enough popularity that Thring, an Anglican who actually remained Anglican (somebody had to), felt that the faithful might be misled theologically by singing a Papist anthem.  Accordingly, he wrote his own version of the hymn, in six somewhat -- but only somewhat -- different verses.

Here are both version, for those who can't get enough of such things:

Bridges (1851):
Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! how the heavenly anthems drowns
All music but its own:
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.

Crown Him the Virgin’s Son!
The God Incarnate born,—
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now His brow adorn!
Fruit of the mystic Rose
As of that Rose the Stem:
The Root, whence mercy ever flows,—
The Babe of Bethlehem!

Crown Him the Lord of peace!
Whose power a scepter sways,
From pole to pole,—that wars may cease,
Absorbed in prayer and praise:
His reign shall know no end,
And round His pierced feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend
Their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side,—
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified:
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye
At mysteries so bright!

Crown Him the Lord of years!
The Potentate of time,—
Creator of the rolling spheres,
Ineffably sublime!
Glassed in a sea of light,
Where everlasting waves
Reflect His throne,—the Infinite!
Who lives,—and loves—and saves.

Crown Him the Lord of heaven!
One with the Father known,—
And the blest Spirit, through Him given
From yonder triune throne!
All hail! Redeemer,—Hail!
For Thou hast died for me;
Thy praise shall never, never fail
Throughout eternity!

Thring (1874):

Crown Him with crowns of gold,
All nations great and small,
Crown Him, ye martyred saints of old,
The Lamb once slain for all;
The Lamb once slain for them
Who bring their praises now,
As jewels for the diadem
That girds His sacred brow.

Crown Him the Son of God
Before the worlds began,
And ye, who tread where He hath trod,
Crown Him the Son of man;
Who every grief hath known
That wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own,
That all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of light,
Who o’er a darkened world
In robes of glory infinite
His fiery flag unfurled.
And bore it raised on high,
In heaven-in earth-beneath,
To all the sign of victory
O’er Satan, sin, and death.

Crown Him the Lord of life
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save;
His glories now we sing
Who died, and rose on high.
Who died, eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him of lords the Lord,
Who over all doth reign
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word,
For ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light,
Where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night,
Their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of heaven,
Enthroned in worlds above;
Crown Him the King, to whom is given
The wondrous name of Love,
Crown Him with many crowns,
As thrones before Him fall.
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns,
For He is King of all.

For our money, Bridges was the better poet, but only by a hair.  His images are a bit more solid, and his vocabulary a bit more wealthy.  On the other hand, he omits the Resurrection, a significant hole which Thring fills in quite beautifully.

What amuses us is that the "Papist theology" in the original version is, unless we are missing something, not especially Papist.  Anglicans (except perhaps Bp Spong) certainly don't deny the virginity of Mary.  We suspect that the most objectionable image is the idea of that Christ's "power a scepter sways."  It just sounds so, well, Erastian.  But was this ever a serious problem for the Established Church in its glory days?

In any case, note the the Lutheran Book of Worship uses the Bridges version, with these significant alterations:  (a) Stanza 6 is omitted; (b) stanza 3 is moved to the next-to-last place; (c) Thring's stanza 4 follows Bridges's stanza 4 ["Lord of life"].  And, most significantly,  (d) Bridges' stanzas 5 and 6 are combined into one.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship omits the stanza about Lord of Peace, but is otherwise the same.  The Service Book and Hymnal also used five stanzas, including the hybrid final one.  But it omitted the one about Virgin's Son.  

For the life of us, we can't see how the various hymnal editors, when faced with such an abundance of such similar material, make these decisions.  But when our dream is realized, and some musically-inclined former English major sits down to compile a reference hymnal, worship leaders can make their own decisions, selecting from all twelves stanzas, according to the images they choose to highlight in a particular service.  Or -- heck, why not? -- sing 'em all.


mark said...

Nice work! Glad to see a former English major with a smattering of theological training is on the job :-))

mark said...