Henry Francis Lyte, 1793-1847

Julian's account:-

Henry Francis Lyte, M.A., son of Captain Thomas Lyte, was born at Ednam, near Kelso, June 1st, 1793, and educated at Portora, (the Royal School of Enniskillen), and at Trinity College, Dublin, of which he was a scholar and where he graduated in 1814. During his university course he distinguished himself by gaining the English prize poem on three occasions. At one time he had intended studying Medicine, but this he abandoned for Theology, and took "holy orders" in 1815, his first curacy being in the neighbourhood of Wexford. In 1817, he removed to Marazion in Cornwall. There in 1818, he underwent a great spiritual change, which shaped and influenced the whole of his after life, the immediate cause being the illness and death of a brother clergyman. Lyte says of him:- "He died happy under the belief that though he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his delinquencies, and be accepted for all that he had incurred"; and concerning himself he adds:- "I was greatly affected by the whole matter, and brought to look at life and its issue with a different eye than before; and I began to study my Bible, and preach in another manner than I had previously done".

From Marazion, he removed in 1819 to Lymington, where he composed his Talks on the Lord's Prayer in verse (published in 1826); and in 1823 he was appointed Perpetual Curate of Lower Brixham, Devon. That appointment he held until his death on Nov. 20th. 1847. Lytes's poems have been somewhat freely drawn upon by hymnal compilers; but by far the larger portion of his hymns found in modern collections are from his "Spirit of the Psalms". In America his hymns are very popular. His most famous hymn is "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide". His daughter, Anna Maria Maxwell Hogg, relates the story connected with the writing of this.

"The summer was passing away, and the month of September (that month in which he was once more to quit his native land) arrived, and each day seemed to have a special value as being one day nearer his departure. His family were surprised and almost alarmed at his announcing his intention of preaching once more to his people. His weakness and the possible danger attending the effort, were urged to prevent it, but in vain. "It was better", as he used to say often playfully, when in comparative health, "to wear out than to rust out". He felt that he should be enabled to fulfil his wish, and feared not for the result. His expectation was well founded. He did preach, and amid the breathless attention of his hearers, gave them a sermon on the Holy Communion. He afterwards assisted at the service of the "Holy Eucharist", and though necessarily much exhausted by the exertion and excitement of this effort, yet his friends had no reason to believe it had been hurtful to him. In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, 'Abide with Me', with an air of his own composing, adapted to the words".

Lyte's hymn in 'Spiritual Songs' is no. 301 and is from his "Spirit of the Psalms".

"Our rest is in Heaven, our rest is not here".

It is in all the editions of the Little Flock Hymn book from 1856 to 1978.

Hymns by Henry Francis Lyte