Onward Christian Soldiers
DESCRIPTION: "Onward, Christian Soldier, Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus Going on before." The Christian "army" is urged forward, bypassing temporary earthly structures for the eternal kingdom of God
AUTHOR: Words: Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) / Music: Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
EARLIEST DATE: 1864 (Church Times)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Silber-FSWB, p. 352, "Onward Christian Soldiers" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 416-417, "Onward, Christian Soldiers"
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), pp. 80-81, "Onward, Christian Soldiers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Haydn Quartet, "Onward Christian Soldiers" (Victor 521, 1901)
Old Southern Sacred Singers, "Onward Christian Soldiers" (Brunswick 166, 1927)
Stellar Quartet, "Onward, Christian Soldiers" (Puritan 11158, 1922)
Onward, Christian Bedbugs (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 105)
Quartette, "Onward Valiant Klansmen" (KKK 75008, c. 1924)
W. R. Rhinehart, "Onward Christian Klansmen" (100% K-32, n.d., prob. 1920s)
NOTES [272 words]: Yes, the Sabine Baring-Gould who wrote this is the same fellow as collected English folksongs. And whose descendants are responsible for the Annotated Mother Goose cited frequently in this index. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1864, and produced quite a bit of Christian poetry and analysis, though this hymn is nearly the only part to have achieved any popularity.
Julian, p. 870, reports:
This most successful processional hymn was written in 1865, and first printed in 6 st[anzas] in the Church TImes during the same year. Usually st[anza] iv.,
"What the saints established
That I hold for true,
What the saints believed
That believe I too.
Long as earth endureth
Men that Faith will hold, --
Kingdoms, nations, empires,
In destruction rolled."
is omitted, and certainly to the advantage of the hymn. The form given to the text in [Hymns Ancient and Modern], 1868, is that in general use in all English-speaking countries.
On p. 1684, Julian notes another change to the original text; since the Church is no longer a single denomination, "We are not divided" was altered to "Though divisions harass."
Kellett, p. 199, reports that "[Whitsuntide] was until very recently observed by churches and Sunday schools walking round, sometimes with a banner, usually on Whit Monday, to sing hymns in the open air; the well-known Onward Christian Soldiers was specially written for the children of Horbury Bridge, near Wakefield, in 1865 for such an occasion.
Reynolds, p. 176, records that Sir Arthur Sullivan's tune was given the name "St. Gertrude," after Gertrude Clay-Ker-Seymer, at whose home the tune was written. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- Kellett: Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore, revised edition, Smith Settle, 2002
- Reynolds: William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
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