Dream word – HOPE
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” NKJV
One foot in the grave
The South of France has always been a place for British ex-pats seeking solace in the sun. It was a few years ago when I flew into Nice on that same Cote D’Azur and it is here in this 2000-year-old French city, that the Anglican church there has one of its most famous of European churches. For me the beauties of Holy Trinity lies not in its Neo-Gothic majesty or in its rich stained glass, lit majestically above the high alter and warmed by the afternoon sun, but outside, in the green graveyard where lies the mortal remains of a famous Scottish Poet. Today in 1847, the Revd. Henry Francis Lyte died of tuberculosis and was buried in graveyard of Holy Trinity in Nice.
Since 1927, along with the British national anthem, millions of cheering fans at each and every Football Association Cup Final have sung Lyte’s most famous of poems. How wonderful is that! Indeed, it is even more wonderful when you understand the life that this man led, for it was indeed a life ever and always lived, with one foot in the grave.
Evelyne Millar writes of the second son of Captain Tomas Lyte of the Royal Marines. Henry, born in Scotland, together with his mother and two siblings, followed his father to Ireland. Captain Lyte had been sent there to help put down the 1798 Irish rebellion. Shortly after this, his father deserted the family taking with him Henry’s older brother, whilst his mother returned to England with his other brother. There they died and Henry aged but nine years of age, was left in Ireland, alone, orphaned and destitute.
It was the headmaster of Lyte’s school, the Revd Dr Robert Burrows, who took pity on young Henry and took him in and cared for him, even to the point of paying for his education. It was money well spent for Henry, whilst at Trinity College Dublin, was awarded the Chancellor's Prize for English Verse for three successive years!
Henry was ordained into the ministry and worked so fervently at his parochial duties and writing that he wore himself out and contracted a lung disease that would bother him the rest of his life. Indeed it was his doctor that told him that if he did not seek easier and warmer climates of Europe, he would die. Throughout his life Henry Lyte would spend long and torturous absences from his duties and family, whilst recovering from these recurring bouts of debilitating illness.
Henry’s last Parish was Brixham on the south coast of England where he served the last twenty-three years of his life, living always with one foot in the grave. Ministering to the sailors of his parish he wrote them hymn books, prayers to be said whilst at sea and of course, sea shanties!
It was just three weeks before his death that he penned his most famous of poems and he sent the finished manuscript to his wife, from Avignon in France. It seemd that he knew that it was very unlikely that he would ever return home. The poem was first sung at his memorial service which was held at his home parish in Brixham and from the lips of a man who spent all his life with one foot in the grave, we have left for us one of the most immortal and moving of prayers full of his own personal testimony and jam packed with life’s observances. Never flowed more marvellous words from the pen and heart of man that was deeply in love with his Saviour, despite the sorrows of his life.
Listen: May Lyte’s most famous poem, be our daily and most ardent prayer.
Pray: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
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