Navy Hymn (Eternal Father, Strong to Save)
DESCRIPTION: "Eternal father, strong to save, Whose arm does bind the restless wave... O hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril of the sea." The singer prays to Father, Savior, Holy Spirit, and "Trinity of love and pow'r" for protection, and will praise God
AUTHOR: Words: William Whiting / Music: John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876)
EARLIEST DATE: 1860 (Whiting's manuscript copy; see notes)
KEYWORDS: sailor religious nonballad navy
FOUND IN: Britain US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
NOTES [363 words]: Julian, p. 356, reports:
Of this hymn the following texts are known:--
1. The original MS, 1860....
2. The revised text by the Compilers of Hymns A[ncient] & M[odern], 1861, No. 222. This is the most widely used of any.
3. A revision made by the author... [in] 1869....
4. A Latin version also by Whiting.... [1867, based on the Hymns Ancient & Modern version rather than Whiting's own original]
The lack of hymns for that at sea, together with its merits as a hymn, rendered it exceedingly popular from its first publication, and its use has become most extensive in English-speaking countries. Hodges, of Frome, has published a short tale founded thereupon, and entitled "Hymn 222." - RBW
McKim, pp. 562-563, reports that this was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's favorite hymn, and was sung at his funeral. The tune was played after the death of John F. Kennedy. The melody is called "Melita," after the ancient name of the island of Malta. I do not know why it is connected with Malta, unless it's the fact that composer John B. Dykes (1823-1876) was curate of Malton (with an n) for a time starting in 1847 (McKim, pp. 83-84).
John Bachus Dykes was apparently musical from an early age, playing organ for his father's congregation as early as age 10. He went to Catherine's College, Cambridge, and helped found the Cambridge University Music Society before receiving his B.A. in 1847. He was ordained as a priest the next year. His wife Susanna Kingston, whom he married in 1850, was a resident of Malton, where he was curate. He later moved to St. Oswald's Durham. His other most familiar hymn tune is probably "Holy, Holy, Holy." He was perhaps not easy to get along with; in the 1870s, he became involved in a religious and legal controversy with the Bishop of Durham which likely helped to induce a breakdown in 1875. He died in 1876 -- and was popular enough that an endowment of 10,000 pounds was raised for his widow and children. Four of his daughters have the minor distinction of having been photographed by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) in 1862 (DodgsonWakeling4, p. 129 and n. 105), although, oddly, he does not seem to have corresponded with them. .- RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
- DodgsonWakeling4: Edward Wakeling, editor, Lewis Carroll's Diaries: The Private Journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Volume 4, May 1862 to September 1864, Lewis Carroll Society, 1997
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
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.