st. 1 = Luke 24:29, Ps. 27:9
st. 2 = James 1:17, Ps. 102:26-27
st. 3 = Rom. 16:20
st. 4 = Ps. 27:1, 1 Cor. 15:55
st. 5 = 2 Pet. 1:19
Henry Francis Lyte (b. Ednam, near Kelso, Rosburghshire, Scotland, 1793; d. Nice, France, 1847) wrote this text in the late summer of 1847; he died in November of that year (various other stories about Lyte's writing of this text do not appear to be reliable). First printed in a leaflet in 1847, the text was published posthumously in Lyte's Remains (1850). Most hymnals, including the Psalter Hymnal, customarily omit three of the original eight stanzas. The Psalter Hymnal also contains other alterations; for example, stanza 4 originally read, "Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness."
The text was inspired by Luke 24:29, in which the two travelers to Emmaus ask Jesus to "stay with us, for it is nearly evening." But "Abide with Me" is not a hymn for the evening of a day; instead evening is a metaphor for the close of life, a transition from life's "little day" (st. 2) to "Heaven's morning" (st. 5), which Lyte himself was quickly I approaching. The text is a prayer for God's abiding care when friends fail (st. 1), when everything seems to change and decay (st. 2), when the devil attacks (st. 3), when death approaches (st. 4), and when we pass from this life to heaven's glory (st. 5).
Lyte was orphaned at an early age. He decided to pursue a medical career, although he also had an early interest in poetry. At Trinity College, Dublin, Scotland, he was awarded a prize for his poems on three different occasions. While at Trinity, he decided to become a minister and in 1815 was ordained in the Church of England. He served a number of parishes, including Lower Brixham, a small fishing village in Devonshire (1823-1847). Lyte wrote a considerable body of poetry, hymns, and psalm paraphrases, which were published in Tales on the Lord's Prayer in Verse (1826), Poems, Chiefly Religious. (1833, 1845, slightly enlarged posthumously as Miscellaneous Poems, 1868), and The Spirit of the Psalms (1834, 1836). Because of ill health Lyte made winter visits to the French Riviera from 1844 until his death there in 1847.
Funerals and memorial services; healing services; Easter evening (given st. 4); New Year's Eve services; many other occasions.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
According to some sources, William H. Monk (PHH 332) wrote EVENTIDE for Lyte's text in ten minutes. As the story goes, Monk was attending a hymnal committee meeting for the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern of which he was music editor. Realizing that this text had no tune, Monk sat down at the piano and composed EVENTIDE. The hymn was then published in that edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The tune has always been associated with this text.
EVENTIDE is a modest tune, much loved in the Christian church. Though often used for solemn occasions, the tune must not be sung too slowly. Try singing one of the middle stanzas without accompaniment. Organists should keep a firm and steady tempo.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook