PSALM 136

Let us with a gladsome mind

adapted as
Praise, O praise our God and King

with MONKLAND
(FAHRE FORT)

Text: Origins. This paraphrase of Psalm 136 is by John Milton (1608–1674), first published in his Poems (London: Ruth Raworth, 1645 | Fig. 1). This first printing contained 24 couplets with a two-line refrain, “For his mercies ay endure, / Ever faithful, ever sure.” It followed a paraphrase of Psalm 114, which was labeled, “This and the following psalm were done by the author at fifteen years old.”

 

Fig. 1. Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin (London: Ruth Raworth, 1645).

 

Milton revised his text for the 1673 edition of his Poems. In couplets 3 through 7, he corrected the grammar to read “who” rather than “that,” otherwise the text is substantially the same. He also adjusted some spellings.

 

Fig. 2. Poems &c. Upon Several Occasions (London: Tho. Dring, 1673).

 

Text: Analysis. The text as a whole is a relatively faithful rendering of Psalm 136. His opening line, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” is a unique interpretation of the first verse, as is his line “who doth the wrathful tyrants quell,” which takes the place of verse 3. In the twelfth couplet, “Erythraean” is another name for the Red Sea. In the fourteenth couplet, “tawny” refers to the Pharaoh’s skin color (orange-brown or yellow-brown). J.R. Watson has noted:

Milton uses a common Renaissance motif, which would have been instantly perceived by his readers, contrasting the Christian God with the classical deities. The hornèd moon represents Diana, and the golden-tressèd sun is Apollo. In Milton’s appropriation of the psalm, the classical deities are controlled by the God who is greater than them all.[1]

Milton’s textual meter is inconsistent and is typically modified by hymnal editors. The editors of the Church Hymnal of Ireland felt some of the couplets were “doggerel and quite unsuitable for singing.”[2]

Text: Adaptations. Milton’s refrain is often changed to read “For his mercies shall endure,” a change dating as early as Thomas Call’s Tunes & Hymns as they are used at the Magdalen Chapel (1762 | 2nd ed. shown at Fig. 3). Call made a number of influential changes, especially the regularization of the six selected couplets to 7.7.7.7. He removed the classical allusions to Diana and Apollo by changing the sun from “golden tressed” to “glorious” and by removing the “horned” adjective from the moon.

 

Fig. 3. Thomas Call, Hymns Anthems and Tunes with the Ode used at the Magdalen Chapel (ca. 1766).

 

Some of Call’s alterations were carried over into Benjamin Williams’ Book of Psalms (Salisbury: Collins & Johnson, 1781 | Fig. 4), especially the couplets on the sun and moon. Williams made some of his own adjustments to the text, including the opening line’s “joyful mind,” his second couplet, “Let us sound his name abroad,” in place of “blaze,” and his own version of the “solid earth” couplet, keeping Milton’s “solid” but changing his “watry plain.”

 

Fig 4. The Book of Psalms (Salisbury: Collins & Johnson, 1781).

 

Milton’s paraphrase was repeated and further altered by James Montgomery (1771–1854), poet and editor, in his Christian Psalmist (Glasgow: Chalmers & Collins, 1825 | Fig. 5). Montgomery used Call’s version of the refrain, but otherwise gathered a different set of stanzas and initiated the practice of bookending the hymn with the opening couplet. Montgomery’s version has been repeated in other collections, including Charles Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymn Book (1866), or more recently in the Church Hymnary, 4th ed. (2005).

 

Fig. 5. The Christian Psalmist (Glasgow: Chalmers & Collins, 1825).

 

Milton’s hymn was revised extensively as “Praise, O praise our God and King” by Henry W. Baker (1821–1877) for the first edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (London: Novello, 1861 | Fig. 6). Sometimes Baker’s text is used as a replacement for Milton’s, and sometimes it appears as an alternative in the same hymnal. Baker’s text was fashioned as a harvest hymn, focusing on verse 25 of the psalm (“He who gives food to all flesh,” ESV), but he also included the sun and moon from verses 8 and 9. Baker’s notion of “richer food” might be a reflection of John 6:27, where Jesus told the crowds, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (ESV).

 

Fig. 6. Hymns Ancient & Modern (London: Novello, 1861).

 

Other adaptations of Milton include “Let us gladly with one mind,” by Michael Saward for Hymns for Today’s Church (1982), and “Let us with a joyful mind,” by Thomas H. Troeger for The New Century Hymnal (1995).

Tunes. Milton’s text was first set to music by Thomas Call in his Tunes & Hymns as they are used at the Magdalen Chapel (London, 1762 | Fig. 3 above). Call’s tune rises from 1 to 5 in the first phrase, then descends back to 1 in the second. In his collection, he referred to the tune as ANTHEM 2. Call’s tune has not endured.

The tune most commonly associated with Milton’s text is MONKLAND. This tune is sometimes said to have been derived from a German tune, FAHRE FORT, first published in Johann A. Freylinghausen’s Geist-reiches Gesang-buch (Halle: Wäysen-Haus, 1704 | 2nd ed. shown at Fig. 7) with melody and figured bass. The first note of the melody is middle C; the bass line is shown in standard bass clef. The tune is named after its related text, “Fahre fort, fahre fort, Zion fahre fort im licht,” by Johann Eusebius Schmidt (1670–1745). In many English collections it is named HOLY LORD. Freylinghausen’s tune rises an octave in stepwise fashion then descends from the upper 3 back down to the high 1. It has an irregular meter of 6.7.8.7.8.9.6. (or 3.7.8.7.8.9.3. excluding the repeated texts).

 

Fig. 7. Geist-reiches Gesang-buch (Halle: Wäysen-Haus, 1705).

 

The English tune MONKLAND was written by John Antes (1740–1811). The oldest surviving examples of the tune are in two manuscripts—one containing 39 tunes, the other containing 50—held in the archives of the Moravian Church House, Muswell Hill, London. The tune is in both MSS with no significant differences between them. In the latter collection (Fig. 8, image pending), probably completed after the Moravian hymn collection of 1789 and before Antes moved to Bristol in 1808, the tune is No. 11, set to the text “What good news the angels bring” by William Hammond (1719–1783).

Antes’ tune rises a full octave in the first phrase, mostly by step, then descends from a high 3 down to 5. The alleged connection between Antes and Freylinghausen is based on the resemblance of the opening phrases, but from there the tunes diverge and have little else in common. Antes’ tune was intended for simple quatrains of 7.7.7.7., versus the German tune’s longer string of seven phrases. Antes’ tune should be regarded as an entirely new composition, not an adaptation of FAHRE FORT, which is still printed in its original form in German and English hymnals.

Antes’ tune was first published in Hymn Tunes of the Church of the Brethren (1824), compiled and edited by John Lees (1773–1839), a Moravian in the settlement at Fairfield, Manchester, England.

 

Fig. 9. Hymn Tunes of the Church of the Brethren (1824). Melody in the tenor part.

 

In Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861), MONKLAND was arranged by John Wilkes (1823–1882), organist at the parish church in Monkland, Herefordshire, where Henry Baker was vicar, and set to Baker’s adaptation “Praise, O praise our God and King” (Fig. 6 above). The ongoing connection between MONKLAND and Milton stems from this pairing. Hymnologist John Wilson described Wilkes’ influence on this tune:

His ‘arranging’ of [MONKLAND, when compared to 1824] had been mainly a toning-down of the composer’s exuberant response to the message of the angels. Three passing-tones were removed from the melody, and so was that exciting fling at the start of the last line. The bass and essential harmony were hardly touched, but we may regret the loss of the sharp F in the bass of bar three. Many a tune has been more drastically ‘arranged’ without the arranger being named, and if Wilkes is mentioned here he might be better described as ‘editor.’[3]

In the Church of Ireland, Baker’s text has always been sung to VIENNA, a German tune from Vollständige Sammlung (Stuttgart, 1799), edited by Justin Heinrich Knecht (1752–1817). Other collections have used INNOCENTS, which was first printed in The Parish Choir (London: Society for Promoting Church Music, 1850), where it was originally named AN ANCIENT LITANY.

by CHRIS FENNER
for Hymnology Archive
2 October 2019


Footnotes:

  1. J.R. Watson, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), p. 88.

  2. Edward Darling & Donald Davison, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” Companion to Church Hymnal (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005), p. 81.

  3. John Wilson, “The tune MONKLAND and John Antes,” HSGBI Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 12 (Oct. 1987), p. 263.

Related Resources:

Johannes Zahn, Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder, vol. 3 (Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1890), no. 4791: Archive.org

John Julian, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London: J. Murray, 1892), p. 673.

Percy Dearmer & Archibald Jacob, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” Songs of Praise Discussed (Oxford: University Press, 1933), p. 7.

J.R. Watson & Kenneth Trickett, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), p. 52.

Bernard S. Massey, “John Wilkes and MONKLAND,” HSGBI Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 10 (April 1987), pp. 210-213.

John Wilson, “The tune MONKLAND and John Antes,” HSGBI Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 12 (Oct. 1987), pp. 260-264.

“John Wilkes again,” HSGBI Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 1 (Jan. 1988), p. 6.

J.R. Watson, “Praise, O praise our God and King,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), p. 229.

Carl P. Daw & Raymond Glover, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” The Hymnal 1982 Companion, vol. 3B (NY: Church Hymnal Corp., 1994), no. 389.

Bert Polman, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” Psalter Hymnal Handbook (Grand Rapids: CRC, 1998), pp. 272-273.

Robert L. Anderson, “Let us with a joyful mind,” New Century Hymnal Companion (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1998), p. 219.

J.R. Watson, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: University Press, 2002), pp. 87-89.

Edward Darling & Donald Davison, “Let us with a gladsome mind,” “Praise, O praise our God and king,” Companion to Church Hymnal (Dublin: Columba Press, 2005), pp. 81-83.

Carl P. Daw Jr., “Let us with a gladsome mind,” Glory to God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016), pp. 33-34.

“Let us with a gladsome mind,” Hymnary.org:
https://hymnary.org/text/let_us_with_a_gladsome_mind

“Praise, O praise our God and King,” Hymnary.org:
https://hymnary.org/text/praise_o_praise_our_god_and_king

FAHRE FORT (HOLY LORD), Hymnary.org:
https://hymnary.org/tune/holy_lord_schmidt

“Let us with a gladsome mind,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
http://www.hymnology.co.uk/l/let-us-with-a-gladsome-mind

“Praise O praise our God and King,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
http://www.hymnology.co.uk/p/praise,-o-praise-our-god-and-king