Jesus Lover of My Soul
DESCRIPTION: Original hymn: "Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly." Parody: "Jesus, lover of my soul, Set me on top of telegraph pole. When the pole begins to break, Take me down for Jesus's sake."
AUTHOR: Original words: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
EARLIEST DATE: 1740 (Wesley _Hymns and Sacred Poems_, according to Julian); parody collected 1919
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad humorous
FOUND IN: US(ApSE) West Indies
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Warren-Spirit, pp. 226-227, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownIII 347, "Jesus Lover of My Soul" (1 short text, the "telegraph pole" form)
BrownSchinhanV 347, "Jesus Lover of My Soul" (1 tune plus a text excerpt, the "telegraph pole" form)
Gainer, p. 205, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), p. 41, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" (1 text, 1 tune, credited to John B. Dykes)
Elsie Clews Parsons, "Spirituals and Other Folklore from the Bahamas" in _The Journal of American Folklore_, Vol. 41, No. 162 (Oct-Dec 1928 (made available online by JSTOR)), Anthems: Rum Cay #1 p. 463, ("Jesus lover of my soul") (1 text)
Uncle Dave Macon, "Jesus Lover of My Soul" (Vocalion 5316, 1929; on CGospel1)
Rambling Rangers, "Jesus Lover of My Soul" (Vocalion 04628, 1939)
Henry Williams, Henry Thomas, Allan Lovelace and George Roberts, "Jesus Lover of My Soul" (on WITrinidadVillage01)
NOTES [1063 words]: The Charles Wesley lyric seems to be very popular in churches; the Sacred Harp has it to the tune "Martin" (listed as by S[imeon] B[utler] Marsh, 1798-1875); I have seen a Baptist hymnal with both that tune (listed there as "Marsh") and the tune "Refuge" (by Joseph P. Holbrook). A Lutheran hymnal has the Marsh tune (called "Martyn"); Gainer also calls his tune "Martyn." And a Methodist hymnal reveals two versions, one to "Martyn" and one called "Hollingside" by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). These two also appear in the 1926 Lutheran publication The Parish School Hymnal. McKim, p. 215, lists Presbyterians as singing it to Joseph Parry's tune "Aberystwyth." My best guess is that the Dykes tune is the only one written for these lyrics.
It appears that the tunes "Martin/Martyn" and "Marsh" are the same; according to Reynolds, pp. 123, "Martyn" was written by Simeon B. Marsh in 1834 (supposedly while on horseback in New York). He used it as a tune for John Newton's "Mary at Her Savior's Tomb"; it was fitted to these words soon after and appeared in Sacred Songs for Family and Social Worship.
Marsh (according to Reynolds, p. 368) seems to have been a natural musician; having first attended a singing school in 1814, by 1817 he was teaching one. A Presbyterian layman, he lived in New York state his entire live, and became a newspaper editor in 1837.
However, I have yet to find any of these texts in tradition. The "telegraph pole" parody, by contrast, *is* from tradition, though it's not clear how widespread it is. - RBW
You wanted it from tradition? Uncle Dave Macon! - PJS
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was the eighteenth child of Reverend Samuel Wesley and his mother Susanna(h) (Johnson, p. 38, spells the name "Susanna," Willson, p. 540, "Susannah"). His older brother (who was Wesley child #15) was of course John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
According to Willson, p. 540, Susannah Wesley "was a woman of deep personal religion and of inflexible will," who offered little tenderness but who drove her children to be both industrious and intellectually gifted. In John Wesley she created a rather inflexible zealot, but "Charles, the author of many famous hymns, was gentler and more poetic."
Both brothers went to Oxford (Kunitz/Haycraft, p. 557); Charles earned his B.A. in 1730 and his M.A. in 1733. Both brothers went to the American colonies in 1735, but Charles quickly returned home due to ill health In 1749, he married Sarah Gwynne, a singer who accompanied him on his travels and helped popularize his songs. They had two surviving sons, who also proved musically gifted.
It was John Wesley, not Charles, who had a conversion experience when he encountered the Moravian Brotherhood (Charles too met with them, according to Johnson, p.38, but did not have quite the same effect on him). It was this which led Joh, originally a strict Anglican high churchman, to begin to change his approach (Willson, p. 540).
It is interesting to wonder how much difference John Wesley would have made without Charles. Kunitz/Haycraft:, p. 557, declare that Charles shared with John "much of the labor, though little of the fame, of [founding Methodism]. Except that, as he declared, he was born to be a follower and his brother to be a leader. Charles'[s] part in the movementwas as active as, and often more stable than, that of John. His greatest distinction is that he was not only the 'poet of the Revival,' but also the most prolific hymn writer of all time. He wrote over 6500 hymns."
Properly, we should say hymn texts; he rarely if ever produced an original tune, and many of his texts are in fact sung to multiple melodies. Examples of that phenomenon in the Index are filed under "Am I Born to Die? (Idumea)," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (yes, really -- not everyone uses the Mendelssohn tune),"A Charge to Keep," and apparently "And Must I Be to Judgment Brought?" He may also have been responsible for the original of "You've Got to Be a Lover of the Lord."
According to Julian, p. 590, this was "1st pub[lished] in the Wesley Hy[mn]s and Sac[red] Poems, 1740, in 5 st[anzas] of 8 l[ines], and headed 'In Temptations.'"
Julian adds, on p. 591, "Many charming accounts of the origin of this hymn are extant, but unfortunately some would add, they have no foundation in fact. The most that we can say is that it was written shortly after the great spiritual change which the author underwent in 1738; ad that it was published within a few months of the official date (1739) which is given as the founding of Methodism. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the struggles, and dangers with lawless men, in after years. Nor with a dove driven to Wesley's bosom by a hawk, nor with a sea-bird driven to the same shelter by a pitiless storm."
The text has been heavily modified over the years -- Julian lists dozens of significant ones. Julian, p. 590, helps to explain why: "The opening stanza of this hymn has given rise to questions which have resulted in more than twenty different readings of the first four lines. The first difficulty is the term Lover as applied to our Lord. From an early date this tender expression was felt by many to be beneath the solemn dignity of a hymn addressed to the Divine Being. Attempts have been made to increase the reverence of the opening line by the sacrifice of its pathos and poetry. The result was "Jesu, Refuge of my soul," a reading which is still widely adopted; "Jesus, Savior of my soul," and "Father, Refuge of my soul." Wesley's reading, however, has high sanction. In the WIsdom of Solomon, xi.26, we read: "But Thou sparest all for they are Thine, O Lord, Thou Lover of souls."
Julian also notes that "The second difficulty was in [lines] 3, 4," which originally read "While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest is still high." For some reason, this bothered enough editors that Julian lists 17 different changes.
According to McKim, p. 215, despite the fact that this is regarded as perhaps the best Wesley hymn, it did not appear in the official Methodist hymnal until nine years after Wesley's death. - RBW
The Parsons text follows the first four lines of the hymn (through "While the tempest still is high") but then goes on, "leave me not alone" and "when trouble taky you, shine! When frien' forsaky you all de way, Cyas' yer eyes on Jesus. Shine, shine, shine!" - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
- Johnson: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns, Hallberg, 1982
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- Kunitz/Haycraft: Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Editors, British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary, H. W. Wilson, 1952 (I use the fourth printing of 1965)
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
- Reynolds: William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
- Willson: David Harris Willson, A History of England, Holt Rinehart Winston, 1967
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.