Charles Oakley, lawyer and clergyman, wrote this unique hymn in the mid-nineteenth century, expressing the Advent message of the coming of Christ to all four corners of the compass. It became popular, and then irresistible, when in 1915 Martin Shaw published for it his leaping tune ‘Little Cornard’. Tune and words became inseparable. But by the middle of the twentieth century the text’s patronizing attitude to people of other lands made it difficult to use. For example, how could ‘Shores of the utmost west’ be called ‘unvisited, unblest’? A skilful rewriting in the 1970s is often preferred for today’s use, retaining the call of the first four lines, with answer of the final couplet that is so clearly reflected in the tune.
Martin Shaw was immensely influential in the world of theatre and education as well as serving as organist of a number of London churches and writing and editing much church music. He named the tune after the village in Suffolk where he spent his honeymoon.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2002