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The Midweek Hymn: At the Name of Jesus


THIS is quite an unusual hymn in that the most popular tune is by a composer who is still living.

The words were written in 1870 by Caroline Maria Noel (1817-1877), the sixth and youngest daughter in an upper-class family. Her father, 

Gerard Thomas Noel, was the second son of a baronet, and in line with common practice he became a Church of England clergyman. He wrote and published hymns, but none seems to have survived.

There is not a lot of detail about Caroline’s life. She began writing hymn and poems at the age of 17, producing a dozen or so texts before she was 20. For the next 20 years she appears to have written nothing. The last 25 years of her life were spent in increasing illness and she was mainly bedridden; this prompted the title and some of the contents of her 1861 collection The Name of Jesus and other Verses for the Sick and Lonely. In later editions ‘for the sick and lonely’ was dropped from its title.

There is a memorial tablet to her in Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, where her father was vicar (the abbey houses the tomb of Lord Mountbatten of Burma). On it are inscribed two stanzas of one of her poems: ‘Thou didst lead a blind man/ In thine earthly days/ Lead me now and always/ Even to the last/ In the way eternal/ And the darkness past,/ Till I read the story/ I was born to share;/ This the crowning glory,/ That my Lord is there’.

At the Name of Jesus is based on Philippians 2:5-11 (King James Bible):

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

These are the words of the hymn:

At the name of Jesus
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him
King of glory now:
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure
We should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning
Was the mighty Word.

At his voice creation
Sprang at once to sight,
All the angels faces
All the hosts of light,
Thrones and Dominations,
Stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders,
In their great array.

Humbled for a season,
To receive a name
From the lips of sinners
Unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it
Spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious,
When from death he passed:

Bore it up triumphant
With its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures,
To the central height,
To the throne of Godhead,
To the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory
Of that perfect rest.

Name him, brothers, name him,
With love as strong as death,
But with awe and wonder
And with bated breath:
He is God the Saviour,
He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped,
Trusted, and adored.

In your hearts enthrone him;
There let him subdue
All that is not holy,
All that is not true:
Crown him as your captain
In temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you
In its light and power.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus
Shall return again,
With his Father’s glory,
With his angel train;
For all wreaths of empire
Meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him
King of glory now.

The first tune, named Evelyns, was written by William Henry Monk (1823-1889) for the second edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1875). Monk also wrote Eventide, the tune for Abide With Me.

Here it is sung by the choir of Marlborough College chapel.

The best known tune is Camberwell, by Michael Brierley (b 1932). He was ordained in the Church of England in 1960. He was a curate and vicar in Worcestershire, and also an organist. He teamed up with Patrick Appleford, Geoffrey Beaumont and others to spearhead the 20th Century Church Light Music Group from the 1950s onwards. The pioneering Thirty 20th Century Hymn Tunes (1960) included several of his compositions, including Camberwell which has been in wide use ever since.  He retired in 1992.

Here is a robust performance by the Boys’ Brigade:

There is a third tune, called King’s Weston, written by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for the 1925 Songs of Praise. I think it is pretty dismal and it doesn’t even fit the words very well.

Here is a livelier version by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band but even they can’t make it enjoyable.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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