Friday, April 13, 2012

Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander

Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, who wrote the lyrics to some 400 hymns - some of the best-loved of the hymns in the Anglican tradition, in fact - was a woman.  Just didn't know this, that's all!  It's that first name, I guess....

From Cyberhymnal:

Born: Ear­ly Ap­ril 1818, Red­cross, Coun­ty Wick­low, Ire­land.
Died: Oc­to­ber 12, 1895, Lon­don­der­ry, North­ern Ire­land.
Buried: Ci­ty Cem­e­te­ry, Lon­don­der­ry, North­ern Ire­land.

Alex­and­er’s hus­band was Will­iam Alex­an­der, bi­shop of Der­ry and Ra­phoe, and lat­er the An­gli­can pri­mate for Ire­land. Ce­cil and her sis­ter found­ed a school for the deaf, and she set up the Girls’ Friend­ly So­ci­e­ty in Lon­don­der­ry. Ce­cil Al­ex­and­er wrote about 400 hymns in her life­time. Her works in­clude:

  • Verses from the Ho­ly Scrip­tures, 1846
  • Hymns for Lit­tle Child­ren, 1848
  • Narrative Hymns for Vill­age Schools, 1853
  • Po­ems on Sub­jects in the Old Test­a­ment, 1854 & 1857
  • Hymns De­scrip­tive and De­vo­tion­al, 1858
  • The Le­gend of the Gold­en Pray­er, 1859
  1. All Things Bright and Beau­ti­ful
  2. Angels Stand Around Thy Throne, The
  3. Dear Lord, This Thy Serv­ant’s Day
  4. Do No Sin­ful Act­ion
  5. Christ Has Ascend­ed Up Again
  6. Eternal Gates Lift Up Their Heads, The
  7. Every Morn­ing the Red Sun
  8. For All Thy Saints, a No­ble Throng
  9. Forgive Them, O My Fa­ther
  10. Forsaken Once, and Thrice De­nied
  11. From Out the Cloud of Am­ber Light
  12. He Is Com­ing, He Is Com­ing
  13. He Is Risen
  14. His Are the Thou­sand Spark­ling Rills
  15. How Good Is the Almighty God
  16. In Nazareth in Olden Times
  17. In the Rich Man’s Garden
  18. It Was Early in the Morn­ing
  19. Jesus Calls Us
  20. O Love Most Patient, Give Me Grace
  21. Once in Royal Da­vid’s City
  22. Roseate Hues of Early Dawn, The
  23. Saints of God Are Ho­ly Men, The
  24. Saw You Never, in the Twilight?
  25. So Be It, Lord; the Pray­ers are Prayed
  26. Souls in Death and Darkness Lying
  27. Spirit of God, That Moved of Old
  28. St. Patrick’s Breastplate
  29. Still Bright and Blue Doth Jordan Flow
  30. There Is a Green Hill Far Away
  31. There Is One Way
  32. Up in Heaven
  33. We Are But Little Children Weak
  34. We Are Little Christ­ian Children
  35. We Were Washed in Ho­ly Water
  36. When Christ Came Down on Earth of Old
  37. When of Old the Jewish Mothers
  38. When Wound­ed Sore the Strick­en Heart
  39. Within the Church­yard, Side by Side


The Religious Pícaro said...

Wow, she was prolific - and *good*. Some of my favorites are there.

When hymn writers work, do they generally write the words with a specific tune in mind, or simply as poetry? I know that hymns are sung to different tunes, but wonder if the authors start out with one they are providing the words for.

bls said...

Don't know! I'd guess that, since hymn meters are regular and well-known - LM, CM, etc. - a writer could simply use a particular meter and put words to it.

I do know that there are certain office hymns that use a particular rhythm - 11 11 11 5 - that's rarely found today. That was called "Sapphic and Adonic" meter, and was very popular at one time. (It's a very dramatic rhythm; "Ah, holy Jesus" uses this meter.)

I'm really curious, though, now that you ask! I'll bet somebody has written up their process someplace - and you can be sure I'll be scouring Google books looking for it! (And I'll be looking more at meter, too, which I've been wanting to do for some years now....)



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