Victorian gems


IT HAS been a voyage of discovery for me this week. It is the first time I have written about a hymn I don’t know, and along the way I have come across a Victorian gem.

I can’t remember where I saw a reference to the hymn Buried With Christ but when I listened to it, with its Easter theme, I thought I would like to share it.

The words were written by a Baptist minister, Thomas Ryder (1840-1875). He was born in Wem, Shropshire, but within a year his father was appointed headmaster of a school connected with John Street Chapel, Bedford Row, Bloomsbury, so the family moved to London. When Thomas was 12 he became a chorister at the Chapel Royal and developed a fine tenor singing voice.

At the age of eighteen, having been previously a pupil teacher in his father’s school, he accepted the office of assistant master in a school of four hundred boys, connected with Crescent Chapel, Liverpool. The headmaster, Mr White, wrote:

‘Mr Ryder came to Liverpool an entire stranger, but his disposition soon made for him a large circle of friends, whose attachment continued long after he left, and who were always glad to see him whenever he revisited the town. The cordial manner in which he commenced his duties, and the zeal and efficiency he displayed in their performance, proved that his was no eye-service, but his heart was in the work. He became very popular, winning the esteem and affection of the managers of the school, his fellow-teachers, and the scholars, many of whom look upon their association with Mr Ryder as among the most pleasant of memories.’ This seems to have been the pattern throughout his life.

In Liverpool he experienced a religious conversion and entered the ministry at the Baptist Church at Padiham, Lancashire (not far from where we live), in September, 1866. The same year he married Mary Ann Lenton.  After four years he accepted the pastorate of the General Baptist Church, at Stoney Street, Nottingham. His great interest was temperance and he established 40 Bands of Hope in the city. As always, he was much loved.

In 1874 he began to suffer chest pains and weakness which limited his activities. Although feeling very ill, he was a song leader at the 1875 Baptist Convention in Brighton, and this is when he wrote Buried With Christ.

These are the words:

1 Buried with Christ and raised with Him too,
What is there left for me to do?
Simply to cease from struggling and strife,
Simply to walk in newness of life.

Buried with Christ and dead unto sin;
Dying but living, Jesus within;
Ruling and reigning day after day,
Guiding and keeping all of the way.

2 Risen with Christ my glorious Head,
Holiness now the pathway I tread;
Beautiful thought from walking therein,
He that is dead is freed from all sin. (Chorus)

3 Living with Christ, who dieth no more,
Following Christ, who goeth before;
Not under law, I’m now under grace,
Sin is dethroned, and Christ takes its place. (Chorus)

The tune was written by the American musician William James Kirkpatrick (1838–1921).

There are not many recordings on YouTube and I don’t know who this performance is by:

Eventually an aneurysm of the aorta was diagnosed at the source of Ryder’s crippling pains, and (this seems inexplicable to me) a visit to America was suggested as a rest cure. He duly left Nottingham on August 11, 1975, and sailed on the City of Berlin to New York, leaving his wife at home. On arrival he embarked on a round of visits, staying with acquaintances and in various hotels. In September he spent ten days at Twin Mountain House, in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. There he made the acquaintance of the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and her brother Henry Ward Beecher, who were also staying in the hotel. One evening the conversation turned to songs and Ryder was prevailed upon to sing. He gave The Ninety and Nine.

I had never heard of this song, but what a joy it is. The words were written in 1868 by Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane (1830-1869), who was the daughter of the Sheriff of Fife and was born in Edinburgh.

1 There were ninety and nine that safely lay
in the shelter of the fold,
but one was out on the hills away,
far off from the gates of gold —
away on the mountains wild and bare,
away from the tender Shepherd’s care,
away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

2 ‘Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine;
are they not enough for thee?’
But the Shepherd made answer:
‘This of mine has wandered away from me,
and although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep.’

3 But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thro’
ere he found his sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert he heard its cry —
sick and helpless, and ready to die,
sick and helpless, and ready to die.

4 ‘Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
that mark out the mountain’s track?’
‘They were shed for one who had gone astray
ere the Shepherd could bring him back.’
‘Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?’
‘They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn,
they’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.’

5 But all thro’ the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
and up from the rocky steep,
there arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
‘Rejoice! I have found my sheep!’
And the angels echoed around the throne,
‘Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!’

It was published in 1868 in a small magazine for the young entitled The Children’s Hour. Subsequently it appeared in 1874 as No 8 of a series of Miss Clephane’s hymns entitled Breathings on the Border in the Family Treasury magazine.

The tune was written in 1874 by Ira D Sankey, an American gospel singer and composer who at the time was in Britain on a tour with the evangelist Dwight L Moody. It is reasonable to suppose that he saw the poem during the tour.

Here it is sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford:

Here is a wonderful original recording by Sankey himself. I expect this is not unlike the way Thomas Ryder would had rendered it.

And here is a lovely version by the great Michael Eldridge:

To return to Thomas Ryder: After his sojourn at Twin Mountain House he continued his tour, taking in the Niagara Falls and visiting Canada. In Toronto he preached at a service and afterwards at a prayer meeting he sang The Ninety and Nine (he did sing other songs, but this one keeps coming up).

His health had seemed to improve for a while but by now the pains were severe again. Back in New York he wrote in his journal on October 1: ‘My pains have been acute for several hours today, I trust I am not going to have them long, they are so exhausting and wearying.’

A doctor treated him with electric shocks, which gave him some relief, and on October 6 he travelled 100 miles to Hartford, Connecticut, to stay with Mrs Stowe. After a pleasant evening during which he sang The Ninety and Nine, he retired to bed. The next morning he was found dead, having apparently suffered a ruptured aorta. He was 35.

Mrs Stowe wrote that day to his widow:

‘I have no heart to think of your loss, but my conversations with your husband showed that he was living in a state of constant preparation, so that the coming of the Master was always a joy to him.

‘We cannot but rejoice, since he must depart from a foreign land, that his way was guided to us, and that our house has been consecrated by his last visit. We feel that the angels have visited our dwelling, and we rejoice that his last experiences were among friends – cheerful and gladsome and that he was spared mental and physical anguish in his last hour.’

PS: With Easter coming up, there will be hymns on Sunday, April 5 (Palm Sunday), Good Friday, April 10, and Easter Sunday, April 12.

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