This is a fine hymn by John Mason Neale, based on an ancient Greek church hymn. The opening question is particularly powerful: “Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground, how the powers of darkness compass thee around?” Yes, the devil strikes in the very church and her worship as much as he can, just as he struck in the holy garden in the beginning.
Good words, but too often cheesy goofy music by John Bacchus Dykes. You may know the tune:
Spooky, spooky, spooky; spooky, spooky, spoooooook.
Spooky, spooky, spoooookeeeey; spooky, spooky, spoooook.
Yep, that’s it. From Haunted House to Merry-go-Round. Yukk.
We can chalk it up as a rule: Any hymn that switches from minor to major in the middle is a BAAAAD piece of music. Dykes does the same cheesy slop with his tune for “I heard the voice of Jesus say” Spooky, spooky….Joyjoyjoyjoyjoy….
You can do this if your name is Anton Bruckner. You can begin your 3rd Symphony with a dramatic minor melody and then end the fourth movement with the same melody in a triumphant major. That’s IF you are Anton Bruckner. Otherwise, don’t try this at home. Dykes, sorry dude, but you’re not Bruckner.
What we want for “Christian, dost thou see them” is the tune Gute Baeume Bringen. It is an excellent, fast, rough tune that fits the words perfectly.
The perfect tune for Bonar’s wonderful “I heard the voice of Jesus say” is Thomas Tallis’s Third Mode Melody. It’s important, though, to take the tune NOT from the Cantus Christi hymnal or from the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal (which changes the words) but from the Episcopal Hymnal 1940 or the Lutheran Service Book & Hymnal 1958. The reason is that the rhythm is irregular and mostly 5/4 time, and that gentle rocking greatly enhances the text.
A note: Tallis wrote Third Mode Melody to be sung fast and “roughly barked” to a common metre version of Psalm 2. Try it out on this:
1 Why did the Gentiles tumults raise?
What rage was in their brain?
Why do the people still contrive
a thing that is but vain?
2 The kings and rulers of the earth
conspire and are all bent
Against the Lord, and Christ his Son,
whom he among us sent.
3 Shall we be bound to them? Say they,
let all their bonds be broke;
And of their doctrine and their law
let us reject the yoke.
4 But he that in the heav’n doth dwell,
their doings will deride;
And make them all as mocking-stocks
throughout the world do wide.