King of glory, King of peace – Text: George Herbert (1593-1633) / Music: Joseph David Jones (1827-1870)

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“The model of a man, a gentleman and a clergyman.” So wrote Samuel Coleridge of George Herbert, who ranks among the finest poets of the 17th century. Herbert was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, and was considered “the jewel of the university” by James I, at whose court he was a favourite. On the death of the king, Herbert moved to Kent and took holy orders in 1626. He was also an accomplished musician who loved to sing and accompany himself on the lute.

The importance of George Herbert rests mainly on the collection of his poems known as The Temple, published in 1633; King of glory, King of peace is from that collection. Although his poems were not intended for use in public worship, Herbert’s devout approach, his clarity of presentation, and his lyric treatment of religious themes make one want to sing them. For these reasons they will never lose their appeal among those who search for a hymn that is also a truly great poem.

King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
and that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast,
thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
thou didst hear me.

Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll thee;
e’en eternity’s too short
to extol thee.

One thing have I desired – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

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It was not at all common in the 20th century for an individual churchman to also be a great patron of the arts, but an extraordinary exception to this was certainly to be found in Walter Hussey (1909-1985). During a forty-year career as vicar of St Matthew’s Church, Northampton and then Dean of Chichester Cathedral, he was personally responsible for commissioning many paintings, sculptures and musical works from prominent artists, writers and composers including W. H. Auden, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Marc Chagall and others in the visual and literary arts and Gerald Finzi, Benjamin Britten, and Leonard Bernstein among musicians. Perhaps the two most famous musical works that resulted from this personal vision were Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.

After Hussey moved to Chichester, St Matthew’s continued his tradition of commissioning works for its annual Patronal Festival. Howells composed One thing have I desired, a setting of verses from Psalm 27 – also the text of the ancient proper Communion chant for Pentecost 3 – to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the church in 1968. Once more, Howells proves himself to be a master of mood, skilfully manipulating texture, harmony, and dynamics to express the quiet joy that the psalmist anticipates in dwelling in God’s presence, protected in the ‘time of trouble’.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require
even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit his temple.
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his tabernacle
yea, in the secret place of his dwelling shall he hide me,
and set me up upon a rock of stone.
And now shall he lift up mine head
above mine enemies round about me.
Therefore will I offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness
I will sing, and speak praises unto the Lord. (Psalm 27:4-7)

Gerald Harder