1 Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
2 O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
3 And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989
|First Line:||Come down, O Love divine|
|Title:||Come Down, O Love Divine|
|Italian Title:||Discendi, Amor santo|
|Author:||Bianco da Siena|
|Translator:||Richard Frederick Littledale|
|Liturgical Use:||Songs of Illumination|
Bianco da Siena was an Italian monk who wrote poems called laudi spirituali in the fourteenth century. A collection of his poems was published in 1851 at Lucca. One of these, “Discendi, amor santo,” is the basis for this English translation by Richard F. Littledale in The People's Hymnal in 1867. Littledale translated four of the original eight stanzas, but most hymnals omit his third (beginning “Let holy charity”) for a consistent three-stanza text.
This hymn is addressed to the Holy Spirit. Though the third Person of the Trinity is not specifically named until the very last line of the hymn, it is clear through the terms “O Love divine” and “O Comforter” that He is the one to whom this prayer is addressed.
Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the tune DOWN AMPNEY for this text in the English Hymnal in 1906. It was named after his birthplace, and has been praised as one of the most beautiful hymn tunes ever written. DOWN AMPNEY works well when sung in harmony. Try a brisk tempo, especially for congregational singing, to avoid losing momentum on the longer notes.
This hymn is useful as a song of illumination, as a choral anthem or congregational hymn. “Come Down, O Love Divine” is a choral setting of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s harmonization, with an a capella stanza. “Five Hymn Accompaniments for Brass Quartet and Organ, Set 2” contains a setting of DOWN AMPNEY. “Come Down, O Love Divine” is also suitable for Pentecost or another service focusing on the Holy Spirit or the Trinity. An ostinato accompaniment repeats throughout the handbell arrangement “Come, Creator Spirit,” which combines DOWN AMPNEY with the plainchant tune VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS to create a meditative mood. A quiet setting of "Come Down, O Love Divine” for organ is one of “Three Hymns of Praise, Set 5.”
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org