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William Cowper

1731 - 1800 Translator of "How happy are the new-born race" in Hymn and Tune Book of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Round Note Ed.) William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"; b. Berkampstead, Hertfordshire, England, 1731; d. East Dereham, Norfolk, England, 1800) is regarded as one of the best early Romantic poets. To biographers he is also known as "mad Cowper." His literary talents produced some of the finest English hymn texts, but his chronic depression accounts for the somber tone of many of those texts. Educated to become an attorney, Cowper was called to the bar in 1754 but never practiced law. In 1763 he had the opportunity to become a clerk for the House of Lords, but the dread of the required public examination triggered his tendency to depression, and he attempted suicide. His subsequent hospitalization and friendship with Morley and Mary Unwin provided emotional stability, but the periods of severe depression returned. His depression was deepened by a religious bent, which often stressed the wrath of God, and at times Cowper felt that God had predestined him to damnation. For the last two decades of his life Cowper lived in Olney, where John Newton became his pastor. There he assisted Newton in his pastoral duties, and the two collaborated on the important hymn collection Olney Hymns (1779), to which Cowper contributed sixty-eight hymn texts. Bert Polman ============ Cowper, William, the poet. The leading events in the life of Cowper are: born in his father's rectory, Berkhampstead, Nov. 26, 1731; educated at Westminster; called to the Bar, 1754; madness, 1763; residence at Huntingdon, 1765; removal to Olney, 1768; to Weston, 1786; to East Dereham, 1795; death there, April 25, 1800. The simple life of Cowper, marked chiefly by its innocent recreations and tender friendships, was in reality a tragedy. His mother, whom he commemorated in the exquisite "Lines on her picture," a vivid delineation of his childhood, written in his 60th year, died when he was six years old. At his first school he was profoundly wretched, but happier at Westminster; excelling at cricket and football, and numbering Warren Hastings, Colman, and the future model of his versification. Churchill, among his contemporaries or friends. Destined for the Bar, he was articled to a solicitor, along with Thurlow. During this period he fell in love with his cousin, Theodora Cowper, sister to Lady Hesketh, and wrote love poems to her. The marriage was forbidden by her father, but she never forgot him, and in after years secretly aided his necessities. Fits of melancholy, from which he had suffered in school days, began to increase, as he entered on life, much straitened in means after his father's death. But on the whole, it is the playful, humorous side of him that is most prominent in the nine years after his call to the Bar; spent in the society of Colman, Bonnell Thornton, and Lloyd, and in writing satires for The Connoisseur and St. James's Chronicle and halfpenny ballads. Then came the awful calamity, which destroyed all hopes of distinction, and made him a sedentary invalid, dependent on his friends. He had been nominated to the Clerkship of the Journals of the House of Lords, but the dread of appearing before them to show his fitness for the appointment overthrew his reason. He attempted his life with "laudanum, knife and cord,"—-in the third attempt nearly succeeding. The dark delusion of his life now first showed itself—a belief in his reprobation by God. But for the present, under the wise and Christian treatment of Dr. Cotton (q. v.) at St. Albans, it passed away; and the eight years that followed, of which the two first were spent at Huntingdon (where he formed his lifelong friendship with Mrs. Unwin), and the remainder at Olney in active piety among the poor, and enthusiastic devotions under the guidance of John Newton (q. v.), were full of the realisation of God's favour, and the happiest, most lucid period of his life. But the tension of long religious exercises, the nervous excitement of leading at prayer meetings, and the extreme despondence (far more than the Calvinism) of Newton, could scarcely have been a healthy atmosphere for a shy, sensitive spirit, that needed most of all the joyous sunlight of Christianity. A year after his brother's death, madness returned. Under the conviction that it was the command of God, he attempted suicide; and he then settled down into a belief in stark contradiction to his Calvinistic creed, "that the Lord, after having renewed him in holiness, had doomed him to everlasting perdition" (Southey). In its darkest form his affliction lasted sixteen months, during which he chiefly resided in J. Newton's house, patiently tended by him and by his devoted nurse, Mrs. Unwin. Gradually he became interested in carpentering, gardening, glazing, and the tendance of some tame hares and other playmates. At the close of 1780, Mrs. Unwin suggested to him some serious poetical work; and the occupation proved so congenial, that his first volume was published in 1782. To a gay episode in 1783 (his fascination by the wit of Lady Austen) his greatest poem, The Task, and also John Gilpin were owing. His other principal work was his Homer, published in 1791. The dark cloud had greatly lifted from his life when Lady Hesketh's care accomplished his removal to Weston (1786): but the loss of his dear friend William Unwin lowered it again for some months. The five years' illness of Mrs. Unwin, during which his nurse of old became his tenderly-watched patient, deepened the darkness more and more. And her death (1796) brought “fixed despair," of which his last poem, The Castaway, is the terrible memorial. Perhaps no more beautiful sentence has been written of him, than the testimony of one, who saw him after death, that with the "composure and calmness" of the face there “mingled, as it were, a holy surprise." Cowper's poetry marks the dawn of the return from the conventionality of Pope to natural expression, and the study of quiet nature. His ambition was higher than this, to be the Bard of Christianity. His great poems show no trace of his monomania, and are full of healthy piety. His fame as a poet is less than as a letter-writer: the charm of his letters is unsurpassed. Though the most considerable poet, who has written hymns, he has contributed little to the development of their structure, adopting the traditional modes of his time and Newton's severe canons. The spiritual ideas of the hymns are identical with Newton's: their highest note is peace and thankful contemplation, rather than joy: more than half of them are full of trustful or reassuring faith: ten of them are either submissive (44), self-reproachful (17, 42, 43), full of sad yearning (1, 34), questioning (9), or dark spiritual conflict (38-40). The specialty of Cowper's handling is a greater plaintiveness, tenderness, and refinement. A study of these hymns as they stood originally under the classified heads of the Olney Hymns, 1779, which in some cases probably indicate the aim of Cowper as well as the ultimate arrangement of the book by Newton, shows that one or two hymns were more the history of his conversion, than transcripts of present feelings; and the study of Newton's hymns in the same volume, full of heavy indictment against the sins of his own regenerate life, brings out the peculiar danger of his friendship to the poet: it tends also to modify considerably the conclusions of Southey as to the signs of incipient madness in Cowper's maddest hymns. Cowper's best hymns are given in The Book of Praise by Lord Selborne. Two may be selected from them; the exquisitely tender "Hark! my soul, it is the Lord" (q. v.), and "Oh, for a closer walk with God" (q. v.). Anyone who knows Mrs. Browning's noble lines on Cowper's grave will find even a deeper beauty in the latter, which is a purely English hymn of perfect structure and streamlike cadence, by connecting its sadness and its aspiration not only with the “discord on the music" and the "darkness on the glory," but the rapture of his heavenly waking beneath the "pathetic eyes” of Christ. Authorities. Lives, by Hayley; Grimshaw; Southey; Professor Goldwin Smith; Mr. Benham (attached to Globe Edition); Life of Newton, by Rev. Josiah Bull; and the Olney Hymns. The numbers of the hymns quoted refer to the Olney Hymns. [Rev. H. Leigh Bennett, M.A.] --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907) ================ Cowper, W. , p. 265, i. Other hymns are:— 1. Holy Lord God, I love Thy truth. Hatred of Sin. 2. I was a grovelling creature once. Hope and Confidence. 3. No strength of nature can suffice. Obedience through love. 4. The Lord receives His highest praise. Faith. 5. The saints should never be dismayed. Providence. All these hymns appeared in the Olney Hymns, 1779. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907) ===================== Cowper, W., p. 265, i. Prof. John E. B. Mayor, of Cambridge, contributed some letters by Cowper, hitherto unpublished, together with notes thereon, to Notes and Queries, July 2 to Sept. 24, 1904. These letters are dated from Huntingdon, where he spent two years after leaving St. Alban's (see p. 265, i.), and Olney. The first is dated "Huntingdon, June 24, 1765," and the last "From Olney, July 14, 1772." They together with extracts from other letters by J. Newton (dated respectively Aug. 8, 1772, Nov. 4, 1772), two quotations without date, followed by the last in the N. & Q. series, Aug. 1773, are of intense interest to all students of Cowper, and especially to those who have given attention to the religious side of the poet's life, with its faint lights and deep and awful shadows. From the hymnological standpoint the additional information which we gather is not important, except concerning the hymns "0 for a closer walk with God," "God moves in a mysterious way," "Tis my happiness below," and "Hear what God, the Lord, hath spoken." Concerning the last three, their position in the manuscripts, and the date of the last from J. Newton in the above order, "Aug. 1773," is conclusive proof against the common belief that "God moves in a mysterious way" was written as the outpouring of Cowper's soul in gratitude for the frustration of his attempted suicide in October 1773. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)

Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon

1648 - 1717 Person Name: Madame Guyon Author of "How happy are the new-born race" in Hymn and Tune Book of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Round Note Ed.) Guyon, Madame. (1648-1717.) Jeanne Marie Bouyieres de la Mothe was the leader of the Quietist movement in France. The foundation of her Quietism was laid in her study of St. Francis de Sales, Madame de Chantal, and Thomas ä Kempis, in the conventual establishments of her native place, Montargis (Dep. Loiret), where she was educated as a child. There also she first learned the sentiment of espousal with Christ, to which later years gave a very marked development. She was married at sixteen to M. Guyon, a wealthy man of weak health, twenty-two years her senior, and her life, until his death, in 1676, was, partly from disparity of years, partly from the tyranny of her mother-in-law, partly from her own quick temper, an unhappy one. Her public career as an evangelist of Quietism began soon after her widowhood. Her first labours were spent in the diocese of Geneva, at Annecy, Gex, and Thonon, and in Grenoble. In 1686 she came to Paris, where she was at first imprisoned for her opinions in the Convent of St. Marie in the Faubourg St. Antoine, but released after eight months at the instance of Madame de Maintenon. She then rose to the zenith of her fame. Her life at all times greatly fascinated those around her; and the court, Madame de Maintenon, Fénelon (who ardently sympathised with her doctrine of pure and disinterested love of God), and Madame de Maintenon's College of Ladies at Cyr, came under the spell of her enthusiasm. But the affinity of her doctrines with those of Molinos, who was condemned in 1685, soon told against her. Her opinions were condemned by a commission, of which Bossuet was president. She then incurred Bossuet's displeasure by breaking the promises she had made to him to maintain a quiet attitude, and not return to Paris. She was imprisoned at Vincennes, Dec. 1695, and in the following year removed to Vaugirard, under a promise to avoid all receptions and correspondence, except by special permission. In 1698 she was immured in the Bastille, and not released until 1702. The Quietist controversy had meanwhile ruined the saintly Fénelon in the favour of Louis XIV., and obtained the condemnation by the Pope (1699) of his book (Maxima des Saints) written in defence of the doctrine of disinterested love. The remainder of Madame Guyon's life was spent in retirement with her daughter, the Marquise de Vaux, at Blois. She was visited there by numbers of persons of all ranks, some of them from foreign countries; and she had a considerable correspondence. She heard Mass daily, and died in full communion with the Roman Church. Madame Guyon's works fill 40 volumes. The principal ones are:— (1) Les Torrents (1683), a description of God's dealings with souls, founded on her own spiritual history. (2) Le Cantique des Cantiques interpreté selon le sens mystique. Le Moyen Court defaire oraison (1684). Her (3) Autobiography. (4) Poésies et Cantiques Spirituels (pub. 1722). The Cantiques Spirituels comprise nearly 900 pieces. The dates of composition are mainly to be gathered from internal evidence; some appear to have been written in the country; many were certainly written in her imprisonments at the Convent of St. Marie and Vincennes; many also apparently in her last sickness at Blois. They were composed to ballad tunes, and with an effortless facility, five or six hymns being often written in a day, while confined to her bed. She believed them to originate from the Divine impulse, more than from herself. The Cantiques are at once illustrated and interpreted by her Autobiography (which is one of the most remarkable books in the delineation of spiritual enthusiasm) and by her Commentary on the Song of Solomon, which applies its passionate love to the union of Christ with the soul. The leading ideas are, (1) the absorption of the soul, utterly emptied of self, into the Infinite Being of God: which is expressed at other times as the entire occupation of the soul, reduced to nothingness ("le néant, le rien"), and deprived of all independent will, by the Personality of God. The perfect state of the soul is one of complete passiveness; its energy is the energy of God directing and wielding the human powers; prayer becomes not the expression of desire, but rapt contemplation, wordless intercourse, and reception of the Divine Voice to the soul. (2) Pure and disinterested love of God, as Himself the Perfect Love, uninfluenced by any consideration of His favour and blessing either here or in eternity. If it be His will to cast the soul into hell itself, even this is to be accepted without fear or deprecation, if the Love of God remains as the joy of His creature. (3) The Love of God is consistent with terrible, often unintelligible or apparently capricious infliction of suffering and desertion on the soul He loves. A selection of 37 pieces from these poems was translated by the poet Cowper, in 1782 (published by his friend William Bull, in 1801). Bull had introduced the poems to him, and requested him to translate some of them. Whether Bull or Cowper selected the pieces for translation is uncertain, Their leading theme is that of Love unshaken, submissive, not asking for release, though under the extremity of desertion and suffering inflicted by God's Hand, which is heavy with anger and seems threatening destruction. Mixed with these awful seasons there are others, in which the manifestation of the Divine Love floods the soul with transport. The points of affinity with Cowper's thought are obvious; and Bull may have hoped that the spectacle of her unmoved belief in the hidden love of God might help to drive away the terrible delusion of his reprobation. The nervous style is very different from the flabby lines of the French: and Cowper designedly modified the amative metaphors, which, especially when they represent the dealings of Christ with her as His spouse, in language suggested by the caprice of Cupid or that of conjugal infidelity, are very painful and unconsciously irreverent. (See his letters to W. Unwin, 1782-3.) The most characteristic pieces are those beginning, "Twas my purpose on a day," "I suffer fruitless anguish," "Long plunged in sorrow," and "Source of Love, my brighter Sun." The translations from Madame Guyon's hymns which are in common use are mainly in American hymnbooks. They include :— 1. Ah! régnez sur toute la terre. Triumph of heavenly love desired. From her Cantique des Cantiques, vol. ii. No. 236. Translated by W. Cowper in his posthumous Poems Translated from the French of Madame de la Mothe Guion, fee., 1801, p. 14, in 3 stanzas of 4 lines, as, "Ah! reign, wherever man is found." It is in Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymnbook, 1866. 2. Amour que mon âme eat contente. The soul that loves God finds Him everywhere. From vol. ii., Cantique 108. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, p. 33, in 9 stanzas of 4 lines, as "0 Thou, by long experience tried." This has been abbreviated and altered to "My Lord, how full of sweet content," in Hatfield's Church Hymn Book, N. Y., 1872, and others, and as "0 Lord, how full of sweet content," in the Andover Sabbath Hymn Book, 1858; the Songs for the Sanctuary, 1865, &c. It is also in use in its original form. Cowper's translation is more nervous than the original, but not always close thereto. 3. Divin objet, auquel nul objet n'est pareil. The Nativity. From her works, vol. iv., Poëmes Héroїques, 1. W. Cowper's translation of the poem (1801, p. 1) begins "Tis folly all—-let me no more be told." The cento in common use begins on p. 4 with "Infinite God, Thou great unrivall'd One," and is composed of 14 lines, not consecutive in all cases, and with extraneous additions. 4. Esprit Saint, viena dedans nos cœurs. Charity. From vol. ii., Cant. 96, beginning with stanza iii. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, p. 26, as "Spirit of charity dispense.” This is in American common use. 5. Je n'aime plus d'un amour mien. Life in the love of God. From vol. iv., sect. 2, cant. 80. An anonymous translation of a part of this as "I love my God, but with no love of mine," appeared in the Andover Sabbath Hymn Book, 1858; the Church Praise Book, N. Y., 1881, &c, in 2 stanzas of 6 lines. Of this translation st. i. is apparently an expansion of the four first lines of this short hymn; stanza ii. may be only an expansion of the two remaining lines, or may have added to it some verse of a hymn not identified. Guyon, vol. iii., cant. 136, is somewhat similar, especially at its close, but is on a much larger scale. 6. L'amour me tient asservie. Divine love. From vol. ii., cant. 155. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, p. 38, in 8 stanzas of 4 lines, as “Love is the Lord whom I obey." It is generally used in an abbreviated form. 7. La fontaine dans sa source. Living Water. From vol. iv., cant. 81. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, p. 28, in 2 stanzas of 4 lines, as “The fountain in its source." In 1812 it was given in Collyer's Selections, No. 322, with an additional stanza by Collyer. This is the form of the text in common use in Great Britain and America. 8. Mon cœur depuis longtems plongé. The Joy of the Cross. From vol. iii., cant. 97. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, pp. 81-84, in 12 stanzas of 6 lines, as "Long plung'd in sorrow, I resign." The following centos therefrom are in common use:— 1. "Long plunged in sorrow, I resign." 2. "O Lord, in sorrow I resign." 3. "Self-love no grace in sorrow sees." Of these centos 1 is in Spurgeon's Our Own Hymn Book, 1866; and 2 and 3 in American collections. 9. Nous portons un doux témoignage. God's Chosen. Vol. ii., cant. 78. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, p. 35, as "How happy are the newborn race." This is usually altered to "O happy they, God's chosen race," as in Mercer, 1854, and others. 10. Souffrons, puisqu’l le faut, souffrons toute la vie. The love of God the end of Life. From vol ii., cant. 165. Translated by W. Cowper, 1801, p. 50, in 4 stanzas of 4 lines, as “Since life in sorrow must be spent." In the Songs for the Sanctuary, 1865, and other American collections it is altered to "If life in sorrow must be spent." In addition to these there are also translations of hymns in common use, the originals of which are attributed to Madame Guyon. These we have not identified in her poetical works:— 11. By suffering only can we know. Resignation. This is part of a poem written at nineteen. In a letter written from Blois in 1717, Madame Guyon thus alludes to it: "I remember that when I was quite young, only nineteen years of age, I composed a little song in which I expressed my willingness to suffer for God. ... A part of the verses to which I refer is as follows: ‘By suffering only can we know.’ ”The translation in the American Hymns for the Church of Christ, 1853, is anonymous. 12. I would love Thee, God and Father. This we cannot identify. It appeared in the Andover Sabbath Hymnbook, 1858, No. 649, in 5 stanzas of 4 lines. It is in Songs for the Sanctuary, 1865, Hatfield's Church Hymn Book, 1872, and others. 13. 'Tis not by skill of human art. Love. Not identified. The translation appeared in the Hymns for the Church of Christ, 1853, No. 606. [Rev. H. Leigh Bennett, M.A.] -- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907) ===================== Guyon, Madame, p. 475, i. Other translations in common use are:— 1. From No. 3 on p. 476, i., the cento in Martineau's Hymns, 1840, No. 160, "Almighty Former of creation's plan" is taken. 2. Source of love, and Light of day. This in Martineau's Hymns, 1840, No. 425, is from W. Cowper's translation of Cantique 125, in 1801, p. 40. 3. To me remains nor place, nor time. This cento In Dale's English Hymn Book, 1874; "My country, Lord, art Thou alone," in Spurgeon's Our Own Hymn Book, 1866; and "All scenes alike engaging prove," are from No. 2 on p. 476, i. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)

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