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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.
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Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee.
Fain I would to thee be brought,
Gracious Lord, forbid it not;
In the kingdom of thy grace
Give a little child a place.
Fain I would be as thou art;
Give me thy obedient heart.
Thou art pitiful and kind,
Let me have thy loving mind.
Let me above all fulfil
God my heavenly Father’s will,
Never His good Spirit grieve,
Only to his glory live.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
This is perhaps what most adults think of first when asked for a hymn for children. But Bernard Shaw described its first line as ‘a snivelling travesty’. One can object to the second line in that it asks the child to describe itself as ‘little’. In the third, does any child dwell upon its ‘simplicity’? In the fourth, do we use the word ‘suffer’ to mean ‘allow’? Thus there are objections to all four lines of the first verse, even without the classic story of the child asking, “Where is Plicity, and why do we pray for ‘Mice in Plicity’?”
It would seem that editors of contemporary hymn books agree with the objections, since in them the hymn is severely cut and never begins with the original first verse.
But the hymn has been taught at mother’s knee to tens of thousands, perhaps millions of children. The answer must surely be that this is on the one hand an extreme example of what adults have wanted children to be like, without seriously considering the reality of what children might want or be able to say; and, on the other, that it does express with great skill a number of profound insights on the child’s relationship to Jesus.
The tune ‘Innocents’ was first published in 1851 in The Parish Choir, an important crusading magazine for those concerned to bring about changes in the church music of the time. There is no indication of its composer.