1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
He whose Word cannot be broken
formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
thou may'st smile at all thy foes.
2 See, the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
never fails from age to age.
3 Round each habitation hov'ring,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a cov'ring,
showing that the Lord is near.
Thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which God gives them when on their way.
4 Savior, since of Zion's city
I through grace a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name.
Fading are the world's best pleasures,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion's children know.
Source: Hymns to the Living God #336
|First Line:||Glorious things of thee are spoken|
|Title:||Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken|
|Author:||John Newton (1779)|
The title of Book I of the Olney Hymns, published in 1779 by John Newton and William Cowper, is “On Select Texts of Scripture,” containing hymns written on specific Scripture passages, arranged in biblical order. “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” written by Newton, is number 60 in this book. It is written on Isaiah 33:20-21, but there are plenty of clear references to other Scriptures, which Newton cited in footnotes, such as Psalm 87 (the first two lines of the hymn are nearly a direct quote of Ps. 87:3) and Isaiah 4:5-6 (which is closely paraphrased in the third stanza). This hymn has been called one of Newton's finest hymns, and it is certainly one of his most popular, along with “Amazing Grace” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”
Three or four stanzas are sung, always including the first and second. Of the remaining three, the original fourth (beginning “Blest inhabitants of Zion”) is usually omitted, and then either the third (“Round each habitation”) or the fifth (“Savior, if of Zion's city”).
The most common tune for this text is Franz Joseph Haydn's famous melody AUSTRIA (which is also called AUSTRIAN HYMN, GERMAN HYMN, HAYDN, or VIENNA). This association was a very strong one until after World War II. While it is still very common to sing Newton's text to Haydn's music, some hymnals have used other tunes, such as RUSTINGTON or ABBOT'S LEIGH.
AUSTRIA has had nationalist associations from its inception. Haydn was commissioned to write a national anthem for Austria after visiting England and bringing back a report of the great impact “God Save the King” had on the British public. His tune was the national anthem for Austria from its composition and first performance for the emperor's birthday in 1797 until the Austrian Republic was established in 1918 following World War I. It was used as a hymn tune in English-speaking countries from the first decade of the nineteenth century. The German national song “Deutschland über alles” (written in the mid-nineteenth century by Hoffmann von Fallersleben), paired to this tune, was used by the Nazis in World War II, and added some very painful associations to this music. The question of whether to banish this popular tune completely or retain it because of it pre-1940s history is well-answered by Paul Westermeyer: “Though it is … a tune that needs to be in hymnals for future generations, there are many circumstances where, because of its associations, this tune still should not and cannot be sung” (Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 700).
One tune with an interesting and related story is ABBOT'S LEIGH, which was written for Newton's text specifically as an alternate to AUSTRIA. During World War II, Cyril Taylor was in the village of Abbot's Leigh, near Bristol, England, working for the religious broadcasting department of the BBC. He wrote this tune on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1941, and it was introduced and popularized in Britain by its use in BBC radio broadcasts. It was published in Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1950.
RUSTINGTON was written by C. Hubert H. Parry and named after the English village in which he spent the last years of his life. It first appeared in the Westminster Abbey Hymn Book of 1897 with Benjamin Webb's hymn “Praise the rock of our salvation.”
This hymn is suitable for any service on the theme of the Church, such as a church anniversary or an ordination service, among others. For an alternate accompaniment for congregational singing, try the settings found in “Hymn Harmonizations by Hayes” (AUSTRIAN HYMN), “Festival Hymns for Organ, Brass, and Timpani—Set 5” (RUSTINGTON), or a festive version of “ABBOT'S LEIGH.” For a prelude or postlude based on the hymn's most common tune, AUSTRIAN HYMN, the collection “For Love of Country” contains a piano setting, and an easy organ fanfare can be found in “Nine Hymn Preludes.”
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org