1. Behold the sun, that seem’d but now
Beginneth to decline below
The globe whereon we tread;
And he, whom yet we look upon
With comfort and delight,
Will quite depart from hence anon,
And leave us to the night.
2. Thus time, unheeded, steals away
The life which nature gave;
Thus are our bodies every day
Declining to the grave;
Thus from us all our pleasures fly
Whereon we set our heart;
And when the night of death draws nigh,
Thus will they all depart.
3. Lord! though the sun forsake our sight,
And mortal hopes are vain,
Let still Thine everlasting light
Within our souls remain;
And in the nights of our distress
Vouchsafe those rays divine
Which from the Sun of Righteousness
For ever brightly shine.
Wither, George, or Wyther—spelled in both ways by himself, the first usually, the second occasionally, e.g. in Prince Henrie's Obsequies (1612), and erroneously Withers, was born on June 11th, 1588, at Bentworth, near Alton, Hampshire. He was the only son of George Wither, of Bentworth. His early education was at the Grammar School of Colemore or Colemere, under its celebrated master; John Greaves. After thorough training and discipline here he was entered in 1604 at Magdalen College, Oxford. His tutor was John Warner, subsequently D.D. and Bishop of Rochester. He had only been three years at the University when malicious and ignorant persons persuaded his father that more learning was not required. And so, as he modestly tells us in his… Go to person page >
Behold the sun that seemed but now. G. Wither. [Afternoon.] First printed in his Hallelujah, or Britain's Second Remembrancer, Lond., 1641, where it is No. 14 of his first part "Hymns Occasional." It is headed "At Sunsetting," and prefaced by the following note, “The singing or meditating to such purposes as are intimated in this Hymn, when we see the sun declining may perhaps expel unprofitable musings, and arm against the terrors of approaching darkness."
It is in 3 stanzas of 8 lines, and its use is by no means equal to its merits. It was included in Farr's reprint of the Hallelujah, 1857; and thence, passing through Lord Selborne's Book of Praise, 1862, was given in Thring's Collection, No. 20, with two slight alterations, Thring reading stanza i., lines 4, "The" for "This"; and in stanza ii., lines 5, "our" for "those." It is also in the Westminster Abbey Hymn Book , 1883. [William T. Brooke]
-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)