Forward! be Our Watchword

Forward be our watchword, Hearts and voices joined

Author: Henry Alford (1865)
Published in 336 hymnals

Printable scores: PDF, MusicXML
Audio files: MIDI, Recording

Representative Text

1 Forward! be our watchword,
Steps and voices joined;
Seek the things before us,
Not a look behind:
Burns the fiery pillar
At our army’s head;
Who shall dream of shrinking,
By our Captain led?
Forward through the desert,
Through the toil and fight;
Jordan flows before us,
Zion beams with light!

2 Forward! flock of Jesus,
Salt of all the earth,
Till each yearning purpose
Springs to glorious birth:
Sick, they ask for healing;
Blind, they grope for day;
Pour upon the nations
Wisdom’s loving ray.
Forward, out of error,
Leave behind the night;
Forward through the darkness,
Forward into light!

3 Glories upon glories
Hath our God prepared,
By the souls that love Him
One day to be shared!
Eye hath not beheld them,
Ear hath never heard;
Nor of these hath uttered
Thought or speech a word:
Forward, marching eastward
Where the heaven is bright.
Till the veil be lifted,
Till our faith be sight!

4 Far o'er yon horizon
Rise the city towers,
Where our God abideth;
That fair home is ours:
Flash the streets with jasper,
Shine the gates with gold;
Flows the gladdening river
Shedding joys untold.
Thither, onward thither,
In the Spirit's might:
Pilgrims to your country,
Forward into light!


Source: The A.M.E. Zion Hymnal: official hymnal of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church #430

Author: Henry Alford

Alford, Henry, D.D., son of  the Rev. Henry Alford, Rector of Aston Sandford, b. at 25 Alfred Place, Bedford Row, London, Oct. 7, 1810, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in honours, in 1832. In 1833 he was ordained to the Curacy of Ampton. Subsequently he held the Vicarage of Wymeswold, 1835-1853,--the Incumbency of Quebec Chapel, London, 1853-1857; and the Deanery of Canterbury, 1857 to his death, which took. place  at  Canterbury, Jan. 12, 1871.  In addition he held several important appointments, including that of a Fellow of Trinity, and the Hulsean Lectureship, 1841-2. His literary labours extended to every department of literature, but his noblest undertaking was his edition of the Greek Testament, the result… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Forward be our watchword, Hearts and voices joined
Title: Forward! be Our Watchword
Author: Henry Alford (1865)
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain


Forward! be our watchword. H. Alford. [Processional.] Was written for and first sung in public at the tenth Festival of Parochial Choirs of the Canterbury Diocesan Union, on the 6th June, 1871, and published with music, also by the Dean, in the Festival Book of that year. Both words and music were subsequently included in the author's Life by his widow, in 1872 in 8 stanzas of 12 lines. It has since appeared in many hymnals both in Great Britain and America, including The Hymnary, 1872; Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1875, Thring's Collection, 1882, .&c. In the American Laudes Domini, N. Y., 1884, it is divided into two parts, the second beginning, "Far o'er yon horizon."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


Forward! be our watchword, p. 384, i. In Mrs. Alford's Life of Dean Alford, 3rd ed., 1874, pp. 447-8, Mrs. Alford says:—

"On Whitsun Tuesday, June 14th [1870], the tenth [? ninth] Festival of the Parochial Choirs of the Canterbury Diocesan Choral Union was celebrated by a service in the Cathedral, performed by 900 voices. . . . After it was over he made arrangements with the Society for the performance at their next Festival (Whitsun Tuesday, 1871) of a Processional Hymn, for which he furnished the words and music. It was his last composition of this kind."

In the Life of J. G. Wood, the Precentor at that time of the Choral Union, 1890, pp. 47-51, we have a fuller account of the origin of the hymn, to this effect:—

The Dean composed a hymn at Mr. Wood's request. On receiving it he pointed out to the Dean " that the hymn, while excellent in its way, was not at all adapted to be sung upon the march. Would he kindly go into the Cathedral, walk slowly along the course which the procession would take, and compose another hymn as he did so." This the Dean did, and "Forward! be our watchword" was the result. The Dean also supplied the treble and bass, and Miss Lindsay (Mrs. J. Worthington Bliss) the alto and tenor of the tune which was sung at the Festival.

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)



Instances (1 - 6 of 6)
Page Scan

Redemption Hymnal #437


Small Church Music #2135

TextPage Scan

The A.M.E. Zion Hymnal #430

The Baptist Hymnal #420


The Cyber Hymnal #1598


The Song Book of the Salvation Army #682

Include 330 pre-1979 instances
Suggestions or corrections? Contact us