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THE ENGLISH HYMNAL is a collection of the best hymns in the English language, and is offered as a humble companion to the Book of Common Prayer for use in the Church. It is not a partybook, expressing this or that phase of negation or excess, but an attempt to combine in one volume the worthiest expressions of all that lies within the Christian Creed, from those 'ancient Fathers' who were the earliest hymn-writers down to contemporary exponents of modern aspirations and ideals.
We therefore offer the book to all broad-minded men, in the hope that every one will find within these pages the hymns which he rightly wants. At the same time, since literary, musical, and religious standards vary, a really inclusive collection must of necessity be larger than the needs of each particular individual: hymn books, indeed, afford special facilities in this respect, because those who use them can select according to their requirements. Such a method of selection we have ourselves suggested in the Musical Edition by a List of simple hymns, which may satisfy the ordinary needs of many parishes; while we have also arranged a Table of hymns for all the Sundays and Holy-days of the year, which covers the whole ground. Thus we have endeavoured to produce a book that shall suit the needs of learned and simple alike, and
shall at the same time exhibit the characteristic virtue of hymnody, --its witness, namely, to the fact that in the worship of God Christians are drawn the closer together as they are drawn more closely to the one Lord. In Christian song Churches have forgotten their quarrels and men have lost their limitations, because they have reached the higher ground where the soul is content to affirm and to adore. The hymns of Christendom show more clearly than anything else that there is even now such a thing as the unity of the Spirit.
Little explanation is needed of the principles which governed the selection and arrangement of the hymns. The new work, inserted in every case to fill an acknowledged gap or to introduce a tune of special excellence, must stand or fall on its merits. One feature, however, requires a word of comment. Hymns are printed, wherever possible, as their authors wrote them. To many it will be a surprise to find that the ascription of a hymn to this or that author, when it was given at all in hymnals of the last century, was very often misleading. The public now has the opportunity of comparing many originals with their altered versions ; and few, we venture to predict, will deny that they had been altered for the worse. Occasionally, indeed, the music requires the removal of an extra word if a hymn is to be used at all, as for instance in Neale's hymn, No. 137 (The Day of Resurrection), and in Milton's, No. 532 (Let us with a gladsome mind); but although these hymns are marked as altered, none of their characteristic epithets have been changed. Sometimes alterations are justified for other reasons; and some translations are the work of several hands. But, apart from such exceptional cases, the efforts, so often made in the past to improve the work of competent authors, have had the inevitable result. The freshness and strength of the originals have been replaced by stock phrases and commonplace sentiments; and injury has been done to the quality of our public worship as well as to the memory of great hymn-writers.
A Hymn Book that is offered as a companion to the Book of Common Prayer must provide adequately not only for Sundays but also for all those other Holy-days which in the Prayer Book are ordered to be observed precisely in the same way as Sundays. The Office Hymns for the Saints' Days to be observed are therefore given, as well as many suitable modern hymns : to these have been added the hymns for the Minor Saints' Days of the Anglican Calendar (since it is a common practice to sing a hymn as a memorial of such days), although we recognize the fact that as there is no Office for such days in the Prayer Book they can have no Office Hymn in the strict sense of the word.
The Hymns marked Office Hymn' are translations from those appointed in the ancient choirservices of the English Church. In suggesting these as specially suitable, by placing them out of the alphabetical order under a special heading, we have followed the example of the Reformers,