Saturday, 28 March 2015

Story Behind "Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear" John Keble, 1792-1866

ONE of the literary landmarks of the early nineteenth century, in sacred poetry at least, was The Christian Year, the work of the Rev. John Keble. A high churchman of the Church of England, he was one of the founders of the Tractarian Movement, which aimed at producing a higher spiritual condition within the church. At one time he was professor of poetry in Oxford University.

From his Christian Year was taken our hymn, "Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear," which was part of a long hymn entitled "Evening."

In "Famous Hymns of the World," Allan Sutherland tells this story of Keble's hymn: "In a wild night a gallant ship went to her doom. A few women and children were placed in a boat, without oars or sails, and drifted away at the mercy of the waves. Earlier in the evening, before the darkness had quite settled down, brave men on the shore had seen the peril of the vessel and had put out in
the face of the tempest, hoping to save human life, but even the ship could not be found. After fruitless search, they were about returning to the shore, when out on the water, and above the wail of the storm, they heard a woman's clear voice singing:

Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear,
It is not night, if Thou be near.

The work of rescue was quickly accomplished. But for the singing, in all probability, this boatload of lives would have drifted beyond human help or been dashed to pieces before morning."


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