Wednesday, 2 March 2011

An interesting story.

It always interests me that in so many things there is a really fascinating story behind the headlines. This must go for so much that we come across in life and yet we rarely know the whole story - quite often it dies out in one generation.

I was reading Ronald Blyth this morning and I read the skeleton of this story, which I found quite fascinating, so I looked up various things to present to you.

Samuel Crossman was a young curate in 1660 and took a job as rector in the village of Little Henny on the Suffolk/Essex border. Sadly he did not get on with his parishioners at all and they threw him out (it seems to have been quite a common occurrence in those days). Crossman fancied himself as a bit of a poet and was greatly influenced by the poetry of George Herbert. One of Herbert's poems that Crossman particularly liked was one called "Love Unknown."

After leaving the village Crossman wrote some poetry and had it published in a little booklet called "The Young Man's Meditation." One of the poems he wrote was what has since become a well known hymn:-

My song is love unknown,
my Saviour's love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
But who am I,
that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

This little book faded into obscurity until just after the 1914-1918 war when the English Hymnal was being edited. Then Geoffrey Shaw came across this poem and liked it very much.

He went out to lunch with the composer John Ireland and during the meal he passed this verse over to Ireland, written on a slip of paper. He asked him what he thought to it and whether he thought it could be set to music. There and then, at the table, on a napkin, Ireland sketched out the tune for the verse and handed it back to Shaw.

This has now become a favourite hymn for so many people. I wonder how many know the background to it. I have a feeling that the tune may well be called "Little Henny" but I can't be sure. But isn't it a lovely story?


jeanette from everton terrace said...

Yes it is. Years ago I use to listen to a radio program called "now you know the rest of the story" and I loved it. It was always on the radio on my drive back to school after lunch - sometimes my favorite part of the day :)

Heather said...

Thankyou for finding these fascinating facts for us - it is a lovely story and but for you, I would never have known it.

Hildred said...

There are now so many tunes to this lovely poem, - the latest seems to be LOVE UNKNOWN by John Ireland, written I think about 1925, or perhaps a little sooner. Thank you for the story behind it Pat. The large book I use at the organ has sidebars with wonderful information about the hymns, where they originated, how they are to be played, etc. Even now I think clergy have a hard time pleasing everyone, and I guess it was so in Samuel Crossman's day as well. Perhaps he enjoyed being a poet more than putting up with criticism from his flock! We can only hope...

Rarelesserspotted said...

Class works never die.
Thanks for sharing this story

Elizabeth said...

Fascinating indeed!
I miss Hymns A&M a great deal -- really a great poem a day when I was a child.
Lovely crocii below.
Morocco was amazing , if a little unnerving at would have loved it!

Titus said...

Wonderful story Weaver, and that is one of my favourite hymns.

angryparsnip said...

Like "jeanette" I too remember "now you know the rest of the story" I love back stories and like a mystery it is so interesting to find out the facts.
I don't know this hymn or the poem but what a lovely story.

cheers, parsnip

The Weaver of Grass said...

I shall try to find more stories like this - Ronald Blythe's work is a mine of such information. Thank you for your comments.

Caroline Gill said...

Definitely one of my favourites, Weaver ... and I knew none of this fascinating background until today. Thank you!