I've said in the past that I hate hymns but I didn't really mean it. The hymns I got bored with singing over and over again through my years in the church- beginning in childhood- have furnished me with mottos and mantras that still serve me. Most mornings, for instance, after I've got through the initial reluctance to get up I find John Keble's line, "New every morning is the love" running through my head- only I usually transpose "love"into "light" or "life".
Love, light, life- I reckon they all mean much the same thing.
Keble was one of the great men of the Victorian church- and the only one of the founders of the Oxford Movement who didn't eventually go over to the Catholics. His book of devotional verse, The Christian Year, was a 19th century best-seller. To my surprise- researching this post- I find that he lifted "new every morning" from the Old Testament- from the woebegone Book of Lamentations of all things. At least, I suppose it's woebegone, but I'm not sure I've ever read it. Perhaps it's all wonderfully affirmative.
for me hymns are reminders (I sang in the church choir off and on for a VERY long time.) Grandma F's favorite was "In The Garden" and my Dad's mom's favorite was "Old Rugged Cross". I guess if I had a favorite to sing it was 'Be Still My Soul' (to the tune of Finlandia).
I know the Old Rugged Cross. The others are new to me- though I know "Finlandia".
My favourites? I've got several- John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Hymn is one, Amazing Grace is another, also Love Divine, All Love's Excelling which goes to a swinging waltz tune.
Yet another is G.K. Chesterton's Oh God of Earth and Altar- but only if it's set to the fok song tune that Vaughan Williams called "kings Lynn"
The Chesterton is more than a little political...
From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen, From all the easy speeches, That comfort cruel men, From sale and profanation Of honour and the sword, From sleep and from damnation Deliver us, O Lord.
I've found Welsh hymns interesting. Some are the same hymns, but in Welsh and sung to the same tune. Some are not the same words translated, but are sung to a familiar tune. And some are their own thing, Welsh words, Welsh tune that I've never sung in an English church or school assembly.
But my favourite hymn is "Calon Lan". It's almost a secular hymn and God and Jesus only get a quick mention in the very last verse.
(I'll translate into non-rhyming English...)
I don't ask for a luxurious life, The world's gold or fine pearls. I ask for a happy heart, An honest heart, a pure heart.
Chorus A pure heart full of goodness, Is fairer than the beautiful lily: Only a pure heart can sing, Through the day and through the night.