The huge repertoire of hymns of the Greek Orthodox Church has been raided effectively for a few fine hymns in English, although often the original is not translated but provides a beginning for the new hymn. So it is here. Synesius wrote a large cycle of hymns on Christian doctrine and at the end a small personal prayer. This provided A W Chatfield, a mid-nineteenth-century vicar, with the seed for this penitential hymn, with its litany-like repetition of the first line.
The tune is by John Stainer, who was organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, from 1872 to 1888. He wrote it for these words in 1874 for inclusion in the 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2002