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Ordinary Time 2017

08 October 2010
Bowie, Walter Russell - birth of, 1882

On this date, October 8, 1882 priest, author, editor, educator, hymn writer, and lecturer in the Episcopal Church, Walter Russell Bowie was born.

Bowie would be baptized at St. Paul's Church, Richmond. Watch this space; we'll tell you when. Check back this spring. Like in May.

His birth led to his baptism which led to his ordination to the priesthood.

Later, Bowie would be the rector of St. Paul's from 1911-1923.

CORRECTION: In my haste to find a version of this text that I could copy and paste here, I found this modern "update" that violates the rhyme scheme and the sense of the text (as pointed out in the comments below). My apologies. See this post for the printed versions in the Episcopal Hymnals 1940 and 1982.

Lord Christ, when first You came to earth,
Upon a cross they bound You,
And mocked Your saving kingship then
By thorn with which they crowned You;
And still our wrongs may weave You now
New thorns to pierce that steady brow,
And robe of sorrow round You.

O wondrous love, which found no room
In life, where sin denied You,
And, doomed to death, must bring to doom
The power which crucified You,
Till not a stone was left on stone,
And all a nation's pride, o'erthrown,
Went down to dust beside You.

New advent of the love of Christ,
Shall we again refuse You,
Till in the night of hate and war
We perish as we lose You?
From old unfaith our souls release
To seek the kingdom of Your peace
By which alone we choose You.

O wounded hands of Jesus, build
In us Your new creation;
Our pride is dust, our vaunt is stilled,
We wait Your revelation.
O Love that triumphs over loss,
We bring our hearts before Your cross;
Come, finish Your salvation.

Words by Bowie, Hymn 598 in the Hymnal 1982

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Comments:
If you compare with the 1940 hymnal, you'll find that this has been rather heavily edited, and to my ears the revisions seem to significantly damage the effect.

All the "thee"s have been changed to "you"s, which is normally a pretty superficial and uncontroversial change - but in this case it means changing the final rhyme of nine lines. "You" makes for a really ugly vowel, and tends to create an unwanted stress accent that works against the meter of the tune.

The original first line ("Lord Christ, when first thou cam'st to men") has also been changed to "came to earth", which ruins the rhyme scheme and confuses the meaning of the text (the pronoun "they" in the next line now has no referent).

Minor issues? In the grand scheme of things, yes. But this text is a piece of carefully constructed, good-quality poetry. It deserves better treatment.
 
Well said. I was aware of the change in the 1982 Hymnal, but hadn't really studied the original version closely. I'll post it on the blog in the coming days.
 
Incidentally, I'm seeing now that Herbert Howells seems to have written a tune for this hymn: Newnham. I don't know it.

He must have been fond of Bowie having also set "O Holy city seen of John" (Sancta Civitas)
 
Turns out the mistake is mine, not the hymnal's. "Men" is changed to "earth," but "thee" remains. I'll post a correction.
 

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