Music for the First Sunday in Lent, March 6 2022

Jesus, Lover of My Soul – Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788) / Music: Joseph Parry (1841-1903)


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This Sunday’s offertory hymn in church, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, first appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems1740, in five stanzas of eight lines. Except for stanza three, which is omitted in most hymnals, the text follows Charles Wesley’s (1707-1788) original. Wesley’s poem speaks for the person who has reached the extremity of their own resources. It is based on the author’s conviction that one must hand over the direction of one’s life to God, who is the only one to supply what we in our helplessness cannot achieve. As a poem, Wesley’s writing here is somewhat problematic; the symbols he uses change, are forgotten, or are even contradicted in later verses. However, as a hymn it has proved itself over the years, having been published in some 3,000 hymnals to date.


Joseph Parry (1841-1903) wrote the tune Aberystwyth when he was a professor at University College in Aberystwyth, setting it to these words at the conclusion of his cantata Ceridwen. Admittedly, the hymn makes an abrupt ending to a Druidical story, but the tune has gone around the world and become the first choice for Wesley’s words in many hymnals. By far the most popular composer in Wales, Parry wrote several choral works, including oratorios, cantatas, and operas, along with a little instrumental music and about 400 hymn tunes. His music is treasured by all who value the beauty of a skillful melody, whether or not it reflects the Welsh spirit.


Jesu, Lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, ah, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in thee I find:
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of thee,
Spring thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

Gerald Harder