For members of many churches this is the hymn that signals the beginning of Lent, the period of fasting and prayer that leads up to and prepares for Easter. Particularly at the beginning of Lent we remember the example of Jesus who was forty days in the wilderness after his Baptism, working out what his calling was to mean. The hymn, written initially by Smyttan and adapted by Pott (both clergy of the Church of England), follows these thoughts closely.
This sombre tune appeared in a Nuremberg publication of 1676 with only the initials MH, which have been variously interpreted as Martin Herbst or the otherwise unknown Martin Heinlein. It is either called ‘Heinlein’ or ‘Aus der Tiefe’ (‘Out of the deep’) from the hymn to which it was originally set.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2002