Lyte’s Original

Lyte's Original in Hymn Format

The tune – Lyte’s Original

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this tune which I think is so attractive and has such an interesting history that I felt it just had to be adopted for a psalm or canticle. It is in 10. 10. 10. 10. Here is a Four part version.

Lyte's Original in E Four Parts

The reason why it has ‘got lost’ is that it is the original tune which the Revd. Henry Francis Lyte composed for his hymn Abide with me. That must be one of the most celebrated and familiar hymns in the English language. W. H. Monk’s tune Eventide is so indelibly associated with that hymn, that one cannot now imagine singing it to anything else.  It would be easy to say that this tune is not as good a match for the much loved words as Eventide.  Nevertheless it is a delightful tune in its own right.  It grows on one. It may even better represent what Lyte was trying to express.  As a tune for Abide with me, it gives a subtle sense of confidence to the words which the more usual tune does not do.   If it cannot be used for the familiar hymn, it at least deserves to be linked to words that will be treasured.

The Revd. H. F. Lyte wrote a number of hymns and Christian poems that have been recast as hymns.  He does not normally seem to have written music. Many people may be familiar with the story of how, as Perpetual Curate of Brixham he wrote the familiar words in 1847 when he was in the last stages of dying of consumption.  One of the few C19 hymnals that includes this tune says of it,

“It is related, that in the Autumn of 1847, just before taking his final journey to Nice, the Rev. Mr. Lyte made an effort to preach to his congregation once more; that he addressed to them his solemn and affecting parting words, and administered to them the Lord’s Supper, and on retiring to rest presented to a dear relative this Hymn, with the music (this third tune) he had adapted to it. The Tune is given here only on account of its historical interest.” (The Evangelical Hymnal with Tunes, pub New York 1880)

That is so unfair a comment that one suspects the compiler had not even tried playing it.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, this tune has never had a name.  Despite this title’s being reminiscent of some long forgotten patent medicine, I am calling it Lyte’s Original.  I have added it to Soundcloud. To hear it, click on the word Soundcloud in the top right hand corner.

The Words – Agape

All the psalms in the collection already have settings.  Some have more than one. I had thought of writing another second version of a psalm. However, I realised that there is a canticle 1 John 4.7-11,12b, set for Saturday evenings in Ordinary (Green) time, which I had not yet put into metre and which has a character which I think fits this tune. Its affective message means it is suitable for all seasons. In CWDP it is Canticle 68 and has the title A Song of God’s Love. In the Greek, ‘love’ throughout these verses is agape interwoven repeatedly in a subtle play on various grammatical forms of the word as different parts of speech. So I am giving the Canticle the title Agape. My version does not omit the first half of v12.

An issues with this metre is that tunes in it are not as interchangeable as in some others. With most pentameter hymns, each line has a slight caesura but it varies where it comes. In most verses  of Abide with me it is after the fourth syllable in the first, second and fourth line and after the sixth syllable in the third line.

Anyway, here are the words. The intention beneath the ‘thus’ at the end is to say ‘go thou and do likewise’.

1. Love is of God; let’s love so that love grows.
Whoever loves is born of God, him knows.
Whoever does not love our God above,
Does not know him. For why? Our God is love.

2. This is the way God’s love to us is shown.
God sent his Son, who is his love made known,
Into our world his life and blood to give ⏑
So that through him, belovéd, we might live.

3. And this is love, not that we loved him first,
But God loved us always, despite our worst.
He sent his Son our sins to expiate.
That’s how he’s shown his love for us is great.

4. So we should love each other with that love.
No one has seen God who’s in heav’n above;
But if we love he makes his home with us.
In us his love will be made perfect – thus.

Let me know what you think.


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