Abide with Me – Christian Hymn / Lyrics
Lyricist: Henry F. Lyte Lyrics Date: 1847 Key: E flat Theme: Evening, Death and Eternal Life Composer: William H. Monk Music Date: 1861 Tune Title: EVENTIDE Meter: 10.10.10.10 Scripture: Luke 24:29
It is commonly reported that Henry Lyte wrote this hymn in 1847, when he was dying of tuberculosis. He reportedly finished it the Sunday he preached his farewell sermon to the parish he had served for many years, before leaving for Italy in hopes of restoring his health. However, there is evidence that he wrote this hymn in 1820, after visiting a dying friend, who, on his death bed, kept murmuring the passage from Luke 24:29, where the disciples who were traveling to Emmaus asked Jesus to “abide with us, for it is evening and day is almost spent.” Perhaps, feeling his own frailty on that Sunday in 1847, he remembered the hymn he had previously written, and brought it out at that time, lending credence to the first scenario.
Originally with a tune that was also written by Lyte, this hymn was not widely used at that time. It was first published in England in a book “Lyte’s Remains, 1850, and in America in Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Collection, 1855. It was discovered by William Monk and included by him in Hymns, Ancient and Modern, 1861.
Lyte desired to leave behind a hymn that would endure. One of his earlier poems stated it: “Some simple strain, some spirit-moving lay, Some sparklet of the soul that still might live When I was passed to clay… And grant me … my last breath to spend In song that may not die!”
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