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Lead, kindly light – Sandon

First line:
Lead, kindly light
author of text

Newman was highly important in the church in the Victorian era, first of all in the Church of England, where he was a leading figure in the Oxford Movement working for change in the church, and then after his conversion in 1845 in the Roman Catholic Church, where he was made a Cardinal. This poem, never intended as a hymn, was written at a troubled period of his life when he himself had been ill, and when he was worried about the state of both politics and the church in England. He was trying to return after a holiday in Italy and his boat was becalmed on his way from Sicily to Marseilles when he wrote these lines.

There is the sense that he is on a journey. It is a prayer to be led from darkness to light. The words take on double meanings, from the situation in which he is when writing, and from the wider view of the church and the world by which he is so troubled. He confesses that he has liked to think of himself as being in control of his life and now knows that he is not. He needs guidance. The last two lines are for the reader and singer to interpret as they prove most helpful. Newman himself, when asked about them, refused to tie himself down to one meaning.

The composer was a music teacher and church organist in London. He was a pioneer in programme notes for concerts (and thus, presumably, the father of such notes as these!). The words were not written to be sung and are in a complex metre with the sense running over from line to line. This tune, which was written for the words, deals with them by being very simple, and expecting that the hymn should be sung intelligently.

from notes by Alan Luff © 2004


The English Hymn, Vol. 5 - Lead, kindly Light


Track 11 on CDP12105 [3'13]

Track-specific metadata for CDP12105 track 11

Recording date
13 November 2003
Recording venue
Wells Cathedral, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Hymn, Vol. 5 - Lead, kindly Light (CDP12105)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: August 2004
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