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  • Writer's pictureAll Saints Episcopal Church

Hymn of the Week #4 - "Lord of All Hopefulness"

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy, whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy: Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray, your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe: Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray, your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace, your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace: Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray, your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm, whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm: Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray, your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

- Jan Struther (1901-1953)

We resume our "hymn of the week" blog with an exploration of the hymn "Lord of All Hopefulness," which is listed as #482 in the Hymnal 1982. Here, we find a newer text from about 1931, paired with the older Irish folksong “SLANE”.

The text of the hymn was written by Joyce Maxtone Graham Plazcek (1901-1953), whose pen name, Jan Struther, was derived from her mother's name, Eva Anstruther. Born in London, she moved to New York City with her children during World War II and lived there until her passing, due to breast cancer.1 Of note to fans of The Simpsons, she was the great aunt of Ian Maxton-Graham, a former executive producer of the show.

Struther is best remembered for this hymn and for creating the character "Mrs. Miniver" for The Times newspaper in 1937. The newspaper's editor requested Jan to write columns about "an ordinary sort of woman who leads an ordinary sort of life – rather like yourself," depicting the life of a British family before World War II. These columns were later published as a book in 1939 and served as the basis for an American movie released in 1942, which won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.2

"Lord of All Hopefulness" was written at the request of Percy Dearmer, with whom Struther collaborated on the 1931 edition of Songs of Praise. According to Michael Hawn, the hymn is a prime example of an "all-day" hymn that petitions God's abiding presence throughout each moment of the day. Each of the four stanzas requests God's providential care at the "break of the day," "noon of the day," "eve of the day," and "end of the day.”3

According to the The Hymnal 1982 Companion:

“The almost naive imagery of the text suits the simple folk-song qualities of the melody SLANE with its gentle flower meter. The text uses the classic collect form that includes an address describing an attribute of our Lord followed by a petition relating it, in this case, to our daily lives.”

While the text carries profound meaning, the tune SLANE is greatly beloved. The Hymnal 1982 also pairs this tune with the text "Be Thou My Vision," listed as #488. Originating in Ireland, the tune is named after a hill where, according to the Confessions of St. Patrick, the Irish saint lit the Paschal fire on Easter eve, defying the pagan king's order that no fire could be ignited before the royal fire on Tara Hill. Slane Hill is located approximately 10 miles away.

2 Maxtone-Graham, Ysenda (2001). The Real Mrs Miniver: The Life of Jan Struther. John Murray. ISBN0719555418.

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