AR HYD Y NOS
One there is above all others
God that madest earth and heaven
For the fruits of His creation
Tune. This is a case of a famous tune, AR HYD Y NOS, having inspired several texts in the last two centuries. The original Welsh song, meaning “the livelong night,” was first published in Edward Jones’ Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (London, 1784 | Fig. 1) as a song for solo voice and harp, with one verse each of Welsh and English words and five variations on the accompaniment (played instrumentally, this would be called ‘theme and variations’).
Fig. 1. Edward Jones’ Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (London, 1784).
Text 1. AR HYD Y NOS became an inspiration for hymn writers as early as 1817, when Marianne Nunn (1778–1847) adapted John Newton’s text “One there is above all others” to fit this tune, and published her version in her brother John Nunn’s Psalms & Hymns (London, 1817 | 4th ed. shown at Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. John Nunn, Psalms and Hymns Extracted from Approved Authors, 4th ed. (London: J. Nunn, 1819).
Nunn’s text was repeated in Joshua Leavitt’s Christian Lyre (NY, 1830 | Fig. 3), where it was altered to begin “There’s a friend above all others.” Leavitt’s collection is possibly the earliest appearance of the tune in an American hymnal.
Fig. 3. Joshua Leavitt, Christian Lyre (NY, 1830).
Text 2: Reginald Heber (1783–1826) was inspired by this tune to write his hymn “God that madest earth and heaven.” The story behind the hymn was relayed by D.R. Thomas, vicar of Meifod, in an article for Collections Historical and Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire, “Southey and Heber in Powysland,” vol. 14 (1881), pp. 1-11 (PDF), relating to Heber and his close friend and fellow poet, Robert Southey (1774–1843):
They were the fellow-guests of the Right Hon. C.W. Williams-Wynn, for so long a period the representative of this county in the House of Commons, and, at that time, a member of the Cabinet. … The interesting old hall at Llangedwyn, with its beautiful surroundings, in the valley of the Tanat, was Mr. Wynn’s country residence; and here it was that Robert Southey and Reginald Heber, while they formed a mutual friendship, enjoyed his genial hospitality, and made their first acquaintance with Powysland. … In an “Ode on Bishop Heber’s portrait,” Southey thus alludes to the occasion:
Ten years have held their course since last I looked upon that living countenance, when on Llangedwyn’s terraces we paced together to and fro; partaking there its hospitality, we with its honoured master spent well pleased the social hours.
Here, before passing on to the descriptions which the poet gives of the scenes they visited together, it may not be amiss to put on record two little episodes, of a literary character, for which I am indebted to the “honoured master’s” son [Charles Williams-Wynn, 1822–1896], each of which has an interest of its own. It was during this visit that Heber, after hearing the old Welsh air of “Ar hyd y nos” played upon the harp, and while the tune was still ringing in his ears, composed to its music his well-known Evening Hymn, “God that madest earth and heaven.”
A response to this article appeared in Bye-Gones, 18 May 1881, pp. 236-237 (PDF), disputing some other details, but giving the date of this visit—and thus the composition of the hymn—as April 1820. One hymnological source claims, “The words were set to [AR HYD Y NOS] in the choir book arranged by Heber’s sister before 1822 for use at Hodnet Church, Shropshire.” This choir book is unknown, although biographer George Smith claimed in 1895 that “Heber’s MS hymn-book with music is in the possession of the present rector of Hodnet” (Bishop Heber, London: John Murray, 1895, p. 92: Archive.org), with this hymn listed in the contents. The rector at the time was Richard Hugh Cholmondeley (1828–1910).
Heber preached his farewell sermon at Hodnet on 20 April 1823 before moving to Calcutta, India. The hymn was eventually published, without music, in The Manchester Courier, 31 March 1827 (PDF), then in his posthumous Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (London: John Murray, 1827 | Fig. 4), given as a hymn for Evening (“Another,” following the evening hymn by Bishop Ken, “Glory to thee, my God, this night”), in only one stanza. That same year, Thomas Attwood composed a musical setting for Heber’s text, published as “A Vesper Hymn” in The Harmonicon, vol. 5, part 2 (1827), pp. 153-155 (HathiTrust).
As brief as it is, Heber’s hymn has been expanded by other authors. In 1835, Richard Whately (1787–1863), bishop of Dublin and member of the Royal Irish Academy, published another stanza, a loose paraphrase of an antiphon (liturgical response) for the Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon):
Salve nos, Domine, vigilantes; custodi nos dormientes; ut vigilemus in Christo, et requiescamus in pace.
(Save us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may be with Christ, and in peace may take our rest.)
This was printed as a second stanza for Heber’s hymn in Sacred Poetry Adapted to the Understanding of Children and Youth (Dublin, 1835 | Fig. 5), without music, but with the tune designated as “Ar hyd y nos.”
Two additional stanzas were produced by William Mercer (1811–1873) for the re-arranged edition of his Church Psalter and Hymn Book (London: James Nisbet, 1864 | Fig. 6), where it was set to UPSAL, an adaptation of Johann Crüger’s SCHMÜCKE DICH (1649).
Curiously, Heber’s hymn, although written for (or inspired by) AR HYD Y NOS, was almost never printed with the Welsh tune in the 19th century. In Lowell Mason’s collections, starting with The Choir (1832), Heber’s text was set to Mason’s tune EVENING HYMN. In Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861), it was set to NUTFIELD by William Henry Monk (1823–1889).
Edward Hopkins (1818–1901) composed a new tune, TEMPLE, for his Temple Church Choral Service Book (1867 | 2nd ed. shown at Fig. 7), which became probably the most popular setting of the 19th century, but it fell out of use quickly in the 20th. Notice how Hopkins’ printing used both Whately’s text and Mercer’s. The name of the collection and the name of the tune are from the Temple Church in London where Hopkins served as organist for many years.
Heber’s hymn did appear with AR HYD Y NOS in the second edition of J. Freeman Young’s Hymns for Children (1860 | Hymnary.org), but this marked a rare (and possibly sole) appearance before 1900. In the Companion to Congregational Praise (London: Independent Press, 1953), p. 271, hymnologist Erik Routley remarked:
A tradition has it that Heber wrote the first verse of this hymn after hearing the tune in a Welsh house where he was staying. Hymn-books, however, did not dare to print the hymn with this tune until E.H. [The English Hymnal, 1906] in doing so made one of its boldest strokes.
Since 1906, many hymnal collections have used or imitated this pairing and the harmonization by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) from The English Hymnal (Oxford: University Press, 1906 | Fig. 8).
“God that madest earth and heaven,” Companion to Psalms & Hymns (1988), p. 366.
John Julian, “God that [who] madest earth and heaven,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), p. 440: Google Books
Erik Routley & K.L. Parry, “God that madest earth and heaven,” Companion to Congregational Praise (London: Independent Press, 1953), p. 271.
Marilyn K. Stulken, “God who made the earth and heaven,” Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), pp. 348-349.
J.R. Watson & Kenneth Trickett, “God that madest earth and heaven,” Companion to Hymns & Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), p. 366.
Paul Westermeyer, “God, who made the earth and heaven,” Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), pp. 401-402.
Paul Westermeyer, “AR HYD Y NOS,” Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2010), pp. 378.
Carl P. Daw Jr. “AR HYD Y NOS,” Glory to God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016), pp. 643-644.
“God that madest earth and heaven,” Hymnary.org:
J.R. Watson, “God that madest earth and heaven,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology: