1 Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
2 Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Lord who changes not, abide with me.
3 I need your presence every passing hour.
What but your grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who like yourself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
4 I fear no foe with you at hand to bless,
though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, your victory?
I triumph still, if you abide with me.
5 Hold now your Word before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Psalter Hymnal, 1987
|First Line:||Abide with me: fast falls the eventide|
|Author:||Henry Francis Lyte (1847)|
|Liturgical Use:||Prayer Songs|
"The summer was passing away, and the month of September (that month in which he was once more to quit his native land) arrived, and each day seemed to have a special value as being one day nearer his departure. His family were surprised and almost alarmed at his announcing his intention of preaching once more to his people. His weakness, and the possible danger attending the effort, were urged to prevent it, but in vain. ‘It was better,' as he used often playfully to say, when in comparative health, 'to wear out than to rust out.' He felt that he should be enabled to fulfil his wish, and feared not for the result. His expectation was well founded. He did preach, and amid the breathless attention of his hearers gave them the sermon on the Holy Communion, which is inserted last in this volume [i.e. the Remains], He afterwards assisted at the administration of the Holy Eucharist, and though necessarily much exhausted by the exertion and excitement of this effort, yet his friends had no reason to believe it had been hurtful to him. In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, 'Abide with me,' with an air of his own composing, adapted to the words."A note to the sermon referred to in this extract says, "Preached at Lower Brixham, Sept. 4, 1847." He died at Nice on the 20th of the November following The text of this hymn, which is usually regarded as the original, is that contained in his Remains, published in 1850. There are, however, several readings of the text. These readings are given in:— 1. A facsimile of the original manuscript in the autograph of the author, published by the Vicar of Lower Brixham, on behalf of the restoration of the church. 2. A leaflet on which it was first printed at Berryhead in September, 1847. 3. Remains, &c, 1850. 4. Miscellaneous Poems, 1868. The variations of text are:--
st. i. 1. 2. No. 1. The darkness thickens, Lord, &c. Nos. 2 and 3. The darkness deepens, Lord, &c. st. iv. 1. 4. No. 1. Come, Friend of sinners, and then abide, &c. No. 2. Come, Friend of sinners, and thus abide. No. 3. Come, Friend of Sinners, and thus 'bide. st. vili. 1. 1. No. 1. Hold then thy cross, &c. No. 2. Hold then thy cross, &c. No. 3. Hold there thy cross, &c. No. 4. Hold Thou thy cross, &c.In addition to these the hymn has also been published by J. Wright and Co., Thomas Street, Bristol, 1863, with Lyte's original music; and it has been translated into many languages, including Latin renderings in the Guardian (Nov. 1879 and Dec. 1881), Church Times, Memorials of T. G. Godfrey-Faussett (1878), Hymnologia Christiana Latina, &c. The important position which this hymn has attained in many lands and tongues will justify an extract from Mr. Ellerton's note to the same in Church Hymns (folio edition 1881). In that collection it is given with the "General Hymns." Mr. Ellerton says:—
"It is sometimes [nearly always] classed among evening hymns, apparently on the ground of the first two lines, and their similarity in sound to two lines in Keble's ‘Sun of my soul.' This is a curious instance of the misapprehension of the true meaning of a hymn by those among whom it is popular; for a very little consideration will suffice to show that there is not throughout the hymn the slightest allusion to the close of the natural day: the words of St. Luke xxiv. 29 are obviously used in a sense wholly metaphorical. It is far better adapted to be sung at funerals, as it was beside the grave of Professor Maurice; but it is almost too intense and personal for ordinary congregational use."The use of this hymn is very extensive in all English-speaking countries. It is found in almost every collection published in Great Britain, during the past thirty years. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907) ============= Abide with me, fast falls the eventide. A cento from this hymn, beginning "Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day," is in Laudes Domini, N. Y., 1884. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
According to an edition of the British Weekly, in the late summer of 1847, after preaching his final sermon, knowing his time on earth was drawing to a close, Henry Francis Lyte “walked in the valley garden in front of the home, then down to the rocks, where he sat and composed. It was a lovely sunny day and the sun was setting over distant Dartmoor in a blaze of glory. On the left lay Brixham harbor like a pool of molten gold, with its picturesque trawling vessels lying peacefully at anchor. After the sun had set, Lyte returned to his study. His family thought he was resting, but he was putting the finishing touches to his immortal hymn” (Bailey, The Gospel in Hymns, 171). Later that fall, Lyte passed away, but his hymn has indeed endured through the years as a beloved hymn of peace and prayer in the face of change. Theodore L. Cuyler once relayed a story in which a dying woman recited this hymn as she lay in bed during her last hours. He writes, “As I came away from that room, which had been as the vestibule of heaven, I understood how the ‘light of eventide’ could be only a flashing forth of the overwhelming glory that plays for ever around the throne of God” (Sankey, My Life and Sacred Songs, 57). What a beautiful image when we see the light of day ebbing – this light is only a shadow of the light of life that shines forth from Christ.
This text, written by Henry F. Lyte near the end of his life, was inspired by Luke 24:29, in which the travelers to Emmaus tell Jesus, “stay with us, for it is nearly evening.” Many hymnals have in the past mistakenly placed this hymn in a section of hymns meant to be sung in the evening. However, though the text refers to the darkening hour, “evening” is a metaphor for the close of one’s life, not a reference to the ending of the day. Most modern hymnals omit three of the original eight stanzas.
Some sources claim that William H. Monk wrote his tune, EVENTIDE, in just ten minutes at a committee meeting for the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Lyte’s text had no tune, so Monk sat down at the piano and wrote one. Others claim that he wrote the tune during a time of great sorrow, while watching the sun set.
Paul Westermeyer considers EVENTIDE to be Monk’s most characteristic tune - that is, ‘never vulgar, never extravagant, often distractingly dull,’ and bordering on the sentimental. It can have this tendency, especially when taken too slow. Even though it’s a tune for generally solemn occasions, be sure it doesn’t drag. Use light accompaniment to help keep the tempo moving.
This hymn of comfort is often sung at funerals or memorial services, during healing services, Easter vigil services (especially stanza four), or on New Year’s Eve. It’s an acknowledgement that though our lives are always changing, sometimes in joy and sometimes in sorrow, God remains steadfast. It is thus a perfect hymn of response to an assurance of this steadfastness, and would also be a good song with which to end a service.
Susan Geschke's handbell arrangement of EVENTIDE can add lightness and freshness.
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org