Monday, November 18, 2019

Amidst all the Remembrance Day observances last week, I realized one of the hymns of my youth was missing, "O Valiant Hearts." It does not appear in our Book of Praise,. In fact, lists it as appearing in less than 25 hymnals between the 1920's and the 1990's.
The poem was written in 1917, by John Arkwright, and later set to music. It was an attempt to bring meaning to the millions of deaths brought on by WWI -- the war to end all wars.
It is easy to see how grieving nations would embrace the words of this hymn, which links the sacrifice of so many young lives to the sacrifice of Christ. 
The hymn was was sung at the bur­i­al ser­vice of the Un­known War­ri­or in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, No­vem­ber 11, 1920, 
Sadly, the Great War, did not end all wars. Perhaps that is one reason later hymnarys did not include this hymn. However, it was a standard at the cenotaph when I was young and a quick search on-line shows it is still very much a part of Remembrance Day in Britain.
It may not suit our times, but the heartfelt sorrow and grief of so many nations, is worth remembering.

1. O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

2. Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.

3. Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

4. Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

5. Still stands His cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

7. O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.

John Arkwright, 1917  

(Tune: The Supreme Sacrifice) - composed by Charles Harris

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