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ody, but not, we think, with good effect. The 383d, by Mrs. Steele, is in a form very different from what we have been accustomed to, and does not strike us as improved. “Nearly one-half of the 371st is omitted. The 512th is changed from Long to Common Meter, and the word wanderer is treated as a dissyllable throughout, to the manifest detriment of poetic euphony, whatever musical reasons there may be for it. In the 438th one-third of every verse is omitted. The 523d is not only altered, but two out of six stanzas are omitted, and two others most unpoetically transposed. By a curious coincidence, the genius of Toplady is here again the victim. The 566th is not only much altered from Watts, but a kind of paraphrase or imitation of the same hymn is given elsewhere, (729,) and credited to “ Bathurst.” In the 840th the last verse is onnitted, and the two preceding are transposed. The 1095th is made up of two verses of 873, (by Doddridge,) with one more added anonymously. In the 956th, nearly one halt the hymn is omitted, and the second verse transferred to the end. The 935th, (credited to Watts,) 992d, (of which the original is given at 887,) 1250th, and 1273d, (all anonymous,) belong all, if we mistake not, to the celebrated Scotch paraphrases, and are “founded on ” hymns of Watts, whose golden web has been thoroughly raveled and re-woven, with occasionally a large admixture of brass, into a very plain and useful material of its kind; but it is not always poetry.
These paraphrases are much admired by the Scottish people, whose religious lyrics had previously consisted chiefly of a very quaint version of the Psalms. Some of them were prepared by men of poetical taste, who have, perhaps, in a few instances, improved upon the originals. But in general they are better adapted to illustrate the predominance of logic over imagination in the minds of their artificers, than to serve any useful purpose among us.
But besides objectionable alterations of standard hymns, the Sabbath Hymn Book contains, as we think, many hymns which scarcely deserve a place there. We are conscious that it is an invidious and hazardons undertaking to criticise what has been approved not only in high quarters, but sometimes by a kind of universal suffrage. Yet if our definition of a good hymn is correct, (and we think it is sustained by the editors of the Sabbath Hymn Book and the Church Psalmody, in their respective prefaces,) we are warranted in protesting against a multitude of productions which are current among us.
And first, we believe all are agreed that hymns simply didactic or argumentative, and unrelieved by the warmth of emotion or the play of imagination, are better omitted. We have already referred to one such, (550)—we add another specimen, (1225):
The people of the Lord
Are on their way to heaven :
The prize will there be given, &c. This is very true, but not very poetically stated. The same idea substantially is expressed by Watts, as follows, (889) :
“ Then let my soul march boldly on,
Press forward to the heavenly gate ;
And glittering robes for conquerors wait.” Here every line glows with emotion, and tangible images and figures of beauty take the place of mere abstractions.
Again, when we cannot get the best versions of the Psalms of David, we must be content with the second best; but after reading or singing such lines as the following,
“ Who knows the wonders of thy ways ?
Who shall fulfill thy boundless praise ?* we do not care to have the same thought repeated to us in such a form as this:
"Who can his mighty deeds express,
(181.) Again, where hymns are unexceptionable in form, they may be so deficient in poetical merit as not only to be unsuitable for use, but to do serious injury, to the taste and character of the religious public. We have no desire to set up our own judgment as a standard for others, but we think an analysis of
* This beautiful Psalm of Watts is not to be found in the Sabbath Hymn Book.
some popular hymns would make it difficult for any one to defend them. Let it be remembered that a good hymn is not a mere expression of Christian emotion, in lines such as any good man of any education can string together—it is the utterance of a poet, standing on a higher level than ourselves, and is meant to raise us for the time being to his own elevation. It cannot do this if it is crude, illogical, random, singsong, or mere prose cut into lengths. To illustrate our meaning more fully, we will endeavor to analyze, as briefly as possible, two hymns, which are to be found not only in the Sabbath Hymn Book, but in many other collections, and are frequently used and commended by a large class of Christians. Both are by foreign authors, one of whom, at least, is no longer living. The first is No. 651 of this book, where it is somewhat improved:
“O Lord, I would delight in thee,
And on thy care depend :
My best, my only friend !" This verse, though not highly poetical, is consecutive and logical in thought, affectionate in expression, and smooth in versification, and might fairly claim a place in a hymn-book, if followed by a few more of similar character. But, unfortunately, the author's inspiration seems only to have extended two lines further, and the remainder of the hymn exhibits, as we think, merely a succession of efforts (aided by plagiarisms) to say something, where there was nothing more to say.
“ When all created streams are dried,
Thy fullness is the same." These are fine lines—the best in the hymn. But were they not more than suggested by this verse of Watts ?
“From thee, when creature streams run low,
And mortal comforts die,
And raise our pleasures high."
“May I with this be satisfied !"
Whether this means “ with this fact,” or “with this fullness, it is sadly out of place, and a poor letting down from the noble confidence expressed just before.
“And glory in thy name !" This is good, (though not original,) but out of place. The subject is not that of "glorying in the Lord,” but of trusting him in time of doubt and trial.
“No good in creatures can be found,
But may be found in thee !" A remarkable concession to the Giver of every good gift! Had the author written :
“Which does not come from thee,” it would, at least, have been sound doctrine, though very inferior to what had already been so much better said.
“I must have all things, and abound,
While God is God to me."
This is substantially the same thought, very prosaically expressed.
“O that I had a stronger faith
To look within the veil ;
Whose word can never fail." The first line is extremely prosaic, though made out of a good line of Watts. The whole is little more than these fragments of Watts, put together :
“O for a strong, a lasting faith.”
“ And look within the veil.”
“The waters never fail.” The utter incongruity of images between the second and third lines, is of course natural enough.
“He who has made my heaven secure,
Will here all good provide."
This is not only unpoetical, but has a tone of self-interest, far below the somewhat similar argument of the Apostle :
"He that spared not his own Son," &c., (not " he who will take us safe to heaven.")
"While Christ is rich, can I be poor ?"
Another repetition of the same thought, already repeated in a previous verse, but having no immediate connection with the context.
"What can I want beside ?"
Here, again, we have a line of Watts, excellent in its place, but not in this place. Beside what? The answer in Watts is plain and definite-"the Lord." But here it is nothing but an inference.
"O, Lord, I cast my care on thee;"
a good conclusion, but, as usual, not poetically expressed. "I triumph and adore."
Casting care, triumph, and adoration-what a combination of incongruous mental operations!-we cannot say images, for there is not an image in the whole hymn, except in the lines taken from Watts.
"Henceforth my great concern shall be
Again we say, an excellent conclusion, but where is its connection with what went before? The same lines might with equal propriety conclude almost any other devotional hymn. Our next specimen is No. 788 of the Sabbath Hymn Book.*
"O that I could forever dwell
With Mary, at my Saviour's feet!"
A natural, though somewhat hyperbolical exclamation, for we know that Mary was not always there.
"And view the form I love so well."
We may speak figuratively of loving a form familiar to us, meaning, of course, the spirit which animates it; but it is
• We quote both these hymns in their original form, not as improved by the editors of the Sabbath Hymn Book.