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When I survey the wondrous cross – Rockingham

First line:
When I survey the wondrous cross
adapted from an older tune; NEH 95
author of text

Isaac Watts, the ‘father of the English hymn’, takes this, one of the greatest of all English hymns, from St Paul’s words in Galatians 6: 14, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Starting with the self-confident ‘When I survey’ he moves to denial of all those things that seem so important for most of our lives . He urges us in verse 3 to ‘See’ with him not only the physical sufferings of our Saviour, but that these are his ‘sorrow and love’. The sudden splash of colour in verse 4 is no less than Christ’s blood, and his death leads us to our being dead to the world. All leads to the powerful final line, and indeed final word, where the only present we can give to such a God is the whole of ourselves, our ‘all’.

The tune has had a varied history, but has been in this form since 1790, and associated with these words since 1833. While not matching the words at every move, its rise and fall allows us to express the high points of this superb hymn.

from notes by Alan Luff © 2002


Praise my soul
Studio Master: SIGCD545Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Sing, ye Heavens - Hymns for all time
COLCD126Download only
The English Hymn, Vol. 3 - Hills of the north, rejoice
CDP12103Archive Service
The Hymns Album, Vol. 2
Studio Master: SIGCD572Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 12 on CDP12103 [3'53] Archive Service
Track 11 on COLCD126 [3'20] Download only
Track 13 on SIGCD545 [3'38] Download only
Track 19 on SIGCD572 [3'11] Download only

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