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secure their highest results, and especially that ministers of the gospel should understand what Sacred Songs are adapted to social worship, and what tunes will impart to them the greatest power and efficiency. Both of these subjects should form a part of christian instruction, and especially of theological training. A brief course of Lectures on Lyric Poetry, is hardly less necessary than a course on Sermonizing and Pastoral Theology; and a preacher of the gospel should real and study the best Psalms and Hymns, as an every-day-business, as he does his Bible, till he is acquainted with their sentiments, familiar with their structure and imagery, and deeply imbued with their spirit. The advantages of such a course are obvious and numberless ;-some of them so plain .hat they need not be specified, and when taken collectively, and in all their intellectual and moral relations, too many to be embraced in this rapid sketch. It is not saying too much to affirm, that such a discipline would enlarge a minister's. knowledge, improve his taste, increase his piety, refine his imagination, invigorate his eloquence, and give him readiness, appropriateness and power, in the public exercises of his profession. His volume of sacred poetry should be a Text-Book by the side of the Bible, and he should be equally familiar with both. If this were the case, the sermon and singing would more generally harmonize in their object and impressions, than they now do; the minister would have to expend less time in consulting numerous indexes in order to know what to select; and in the very act of reading the Psalm or Hymn, he would make an impression which would instruct the hearers, and give the key-note of sentiment and expression to the choir. How deficient the ministry may be in these respects, is matter of opinion of which every person will judge for himself.
The character of Psalmody must always be affected by a great variety of circumstances which need not be adverted to in this place; but nothing has a greater influence to elevate or depress, to advance or retard its progress, than the Lyric Poetry which is employed in the service of God. The following defects may easily be detected in many of the Psalms and Hymns now in use. Some are composed on subjects unsuited to song—others are destitute of a lyrical spiritanother class lack simplicity of design and execution-and not a few are of an unreasonable length for a single exerciso of singing. To remedy these and other defects, and to secure, if possible, certain excellencies which are attained as yet only in part, are among the objects of this publication.
That Lyric Poetry has a character of its own-that it moves in a sphere peculiar to itself—and that its subjects are limited, there is no room for doubt. On these points all critics agree. This poetry is made to be sung; and, when combined with appropriate music, we have a vehicle, at once natural and refined, for the expression of strong emotion. A Psalm or Hymn should be devotional, rather than didactic, because the warm inspirations of the heart, and not the cool deductions of the intellect, are its province. Ascriptions of thanksgiving and praise to God, the breathings of filial desire and confidence, the cheering influence of hope, the tremblings of self-distrust and religious fear, "peace and joy in the Holy Ghost," and all the strong feelings which are called forth in a world of conflict and expectation, belong to this department of poetry. Any thing and every thing which pertains to devotion and christian experience, may furnish a subject for spiritual song,
And yet, notwithstanding these well-defined limits, which nature itself has fixed to Lyric Poetry, there are hundreds of Hymns, in our language, which can never be sung to any good effect, because their subject matter is foreign to this kind of writing. They can, from their very nature, neither inspire religious emotion, nor become the channels of that emotion already inspired. They contribute to extinguish, rather than to kindle up, the holy flame. They are good sermons, but poor songs. This fault in the choice of subjects, is much more rarely to be met with in secular than spiritual odes; and the same may be said in relation to the music by which they are accompanied. The reasons of this may not, perhaps, be easily detected. It cannot be for a moment admitted, that revealed religion is unfruitful in themes. If namay
be sung, why not nature's God? If creation can inspire the lyric bard, why not redemption, with its brighter glories, and its more enduring interests? If earth has its yaptures, why should heaven be poor, and powerless, and without a song? If great and good men who have lived and acted and died, have, by their virtues or heroism, called forth the finest and sweetest tones of the Lyre, why shoulil the praises of the only Great and Good, who lives in his own im. mortality, and whose wondrɔus acts are recorded for the admiration of all worlds, sleep in silence and be forgotten ? k may be worthy of remark in this place, that few poets of the first order have ever tried their pinions in this upper sky; but when they have, and selected an appropriate theme, they have showed that the waters of Zion can impart a purer in. spiration than the fabled Castalian spring.
If the province of Lyric Poetry is to inspire and express emotion, then no Psalm nor Hymn can answer the true purpose of christian worship unless it breathes the appropriate spirit. Its execution, as well as its subject, must be lyric. It may be rhyme, and not poetry. It may be poetry, and yet not be adapted to singing. Heroics can never,
advantage, be set to music. A Hymn, whether it respects God, our fellow-beings, or ourselves, should be the effusion of the heart, and that heart under proper influences--melted and dissolved by just such emotions as suit the condition described, or the occasion for which the song is intended. The language should be simple; the images striking, but not gaudy; the figures unincumbered; the sentences uninvolved and short; the structure free from all ambiguity; the whole style and manner chaste, and not loaded with ornament or epithet; and the stanzas, and even lines, express, as far as practicable, a complete idea. In one word, it must be poetry, and lyric poetry, or it will chill the native inspirations of song, and defeat the great end of this part of worship.
A Hymn should possess unity of design, and simplicity in execution. One great object should be aimed at, and every thought and expression should be rendered subservient to this. The piece should be one, tending to a single end, and terminating in one grand impression. One of the first poets of the present age, and one who has written many excellent Hymns too, has described this property so well, that we cannot forbear transcribing his language, as more appropriate than any thing that we can say. “ The reader," he says,
should know when the strain is complete, and be satisfied, as at the close of an air in music; while defects and superfuities should be felt by him as annoyances, in whatever part they might occur. The practice of many good men, in framing Hymns, has been quite the contrary. They have begun apparently with the only idea in their mind at the lime; another, with little relationship to the former, has been
forced upon them by a refractory rhyme; a third became necessary to eke out a verse, a fourth to begin one; and so on, will having compiled a sufficient number of stanzas of so many unes, and lines of so many syllables, the operation has been suspended.”
As every Sacred Song should have a subject of its own, and form a regular production, having a beginning, a middle and an end, so it should be adapted, in its length, to the purpose of singing. Important as this thought is, it has been greatly overlooked by the writers of Hymns, and the compilers of Books for the use of the sanctuary: The very best authors are not free from this fault. In one.volume now before us of no mean pretensions, hymns may be found of eight, ten and twelve stanzas; and one occurs of eight stanzas of eight lines each, Long Metre-making sixty-four lines; and this Hymn, the author tells us in the preface, “is considerably abridged from the original.” Various expedients have been resorted to both by authors and compilers, in order to remedy this evil. Here and there a stanza is included in brackets, and pauses are introduced into the middle, or other parts of the production--thus marring the beauty of the page, and often destroying the connection, and always im pairing the unity of the piece. The better way, no doubt, is to reduce every Psalm or Hymn, designed for public worship, to a convenient length for this purpose, by rejecting those stanzas which are redundant, which are deficient in lyric spirit, and which destroy the unity of design. There are few long Hymns, in our language, which will not be sufficiently shortened by the application of the above rule. Some of a popular character, and, as it regards portions of them, of standard merit, may be reduced to two or three stanzas; but this is not objectionable, as we often need short Hymns of a striking character, for evening-meetings, and at the close of sermons. And it should not be forgotten, that much more is lost than gained, by singing what is neither poetical nor appropriate. Indeed it is far better to dispense with some good stanzas, and thus bring the piece at once to a suitable length for singing, than to continue these in books intended for public use, when no choir can perform them with ease and effect. The practice so extensively in use of omitting certain stanzas, as it must be done for the most part on the spur of the occasion, confuses the choir, while it often
breaks the connection of thought and the unity of the sube ject. The author, or editor, is much more competent to de this than the leader of public worship.
From four to six stanzas of the grave and ordinary metres, may be considered a suitable length for a song of social praise. In metres of a brisker movement, the addition of one or two stanzas more, may not be improper. The same indulgence may be conceded to some Hymns of a peculiar character, and to those which are to be used only on special occasions. But it is a great practical principle which every minister, and every leader of a choir, should understand, THAT SINGING IN ORDER TO BE EFFECTIVE, MUST NOT BE TOO LONG.
Having given an exposition of the leading principles on which this work has been constructed, it may be proper to speak a little more explicitly of the materials from which it has been formed.
It is intended that this volume shall contain a complete collection of Psalms and Hymns for the Sanctuary, the Lec ture-room, and all other places of social worship. In the arrangement of the Psalms, Dr. Watts is the leading author. Many other versifications of high merit have been selected from Doddridge, Steele, Kenn, Newton, Montgomery, Con. der and others, which have been arranged, in their proper places, with those of Watts, so that it is believed that this part of the volume presents a greater number and a richer variety of Psalms adapted to singing, than any Book yet published in our language. Few alterations have been made in arrangement or expression, and the thought of the poet, for the most part, has been sacredly guarded. Most of the changes, which have been adopted, are those which were necessary in order to conform the work to the principles already stated. Whole Psalms of an inferior and prosaic character have been omitted; the same may be said of stanzas which are redundant, interrupt the unity of design, or lack the spirit of holy song; but it is believed, that those Psalms and stanzas, though they incumber many Books now in use, are rarely ever sung. In making this compilation, it has not been the design to throw away a single stanza of superior merit, or one which could contribute to the grand purpose of singing, except when the production was of immoderate length : but when this was the case, to dispense with some good stanzus has been prefered to the common practice of using brackets