Saturday, January 1, 2011

On the Eighth Day of Christmas: How Sweet the Name!

The Eighth Day of a boy's life in ancient Jewish life was marked by his circumcision and naming. The Church celebrates this event in Jesus life on January 1 (eight days after she celebrates His birth).

"How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds" was written by John Newton. You might know him as the man who wrote Amazing Grace. Lutheran Service Book and its predecessor hymnals pair this text with the tune "Saint Peter." A quick youtube search reveals other tunes have been paired to this text throughout the years.

Tune: St. Peter

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

Tune: St. Peter

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Tune: St. Peter

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

Tune: Shape Note Melody

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Tune: Edelweiss
[Yes, that "Edelweiss"]

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Tune: St. Peter

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Tune: Shape Note Melody

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death!

Tune: St. Peter


  1. Greetings from Wordwise Hymns. I posted an article on Newton's hymn today, which brought me here for a visit. My! Quite a variety of interesting renditions! I'm most used to the tune St. Peter, of course. Ortonville I've more often used with "Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned."

    But Edelwiess? Interesting! It has the structure of a hymn tune, and I've often wondered if sacred words could be set to it. It sounds fine, with minor adjustments to the metre. (I suppose there could be copyright issues, if one tried to publish this.)

    Enjoyed the Salvation Army arrangement too. Couple of things about it. I wonder why they pronounced "ah believer's ear" as "ay believer's ear." Sounds a little odd. Also, I notice you list the tune as St. Peter, but the opening bars are different. Is that a common variation on the tune?

  2. Thanks for your comments, Robert! Great question. I had to thumb through my hymnals for the question on the Salvation Army hymn. That tune is DUNDEE and not ST. PETER. Texts that are paired with this tune include:

    *God Moves in A Mysterious Way
    *You Are the Way, through You Alone
    *Almighty God, Thy Word Is Cast
    *O Thou Whose Feet Have Climbed Life's Hill

    Of course, for some of these the language flips between Elizabethan and Modern English, depending on the hymnal. That last one is not familiar to me. The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) shows Louis F Benson (born 1891) as the author. It also cites the Scottish Psalter (1615) for the tune.

  3. Oh, and Edelweiss totally took me by surprise! It seems that the estate of Richard Rodgers is rather protective of the original Edelweiss text and tune. Even though Oscar Hammerstein wrote the tune, under this copyright it is only to be sung with this text.

    They ought not have placed it in the movie as though it were a time-honored folk song! It leaves the distinct impression that the tune has been around longer than the movie. So much so that I didn't even think about it until now.

    Apart from the link, there is also the fairly common table blessing "Bless this house, bless this food..." Who knew we were breaking international law by singing that before dinner???

    Thanks again for stopping by.


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