Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood Upon the chaos dark and rude, And bid its angry tumult cease, And give, for wild confusion, peace; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
The original hymn was written in 1860 by William Whiting,
an Anglican churchman from Winchester, Great Britain.
Whiting grew up near the ocean on the coasts of England,
and at the age of thirty-five had felt his life spared by God
when a violent storm nearly claimed the ship he was travelling
on, instilling a belief in God's command over the rage and calm
of the sea.
As headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers' School
some years later, he was approached by a student about to
travel to the United States, who confided in Whiting an
overwhelming fear of the oean voyage. Whiting shared his
experiences of the ocean, saying he wrote the hymn to
"anchor his faith".
In writing it, Whiting is generally thought to have been
inspired by Psalm 107, which describes the power and fury
of the seas in great detail:
- Some went out on the sea in ships;
- they were merchants on the mighty waters.
- They saw the works of the Lord,
- his wonderful deeds in the deep.
- For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
- that lifted high the waves.
- They mounted up to the heavens and
- went down to the depths;
- in their peril their courage melted away.
- Psalm 107: 23-26
- Within a year the text appeared in the influential first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (HA&M) in 1861 and its circulation became widespread throughout England.
The text was substantially revised by the compilers of that
edition. In response Whiting continued to revise his own text,
releasing another version in 1869 and third in 1874, the last
one incorporating most of the suggested changes by HA&M.
Meanwhile, John B. Dykes, an Anglican clergyman, composed
the tune "Melita" to accompany the HA&M version of 1861.
Dykes was a well-known composer of nearly three hundred
hymn tunes, many of which are still in use today.
"Melita" is an archaic term for Malta, an ancient seafaring
nation which has been a colony of the British Empire. It was
the site of a shipwreck, mentioned in Acts of the Apostles
(chapters 27-28), involving the Apostle Paul.
The original words of the 1861 version are:
- O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
- And hushed their raging at Thy word,
- Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
- And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
- Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
- For those in peril on the sea!
- O Trinity of love and power!
- Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
- From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
- Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
- Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
- Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
- Here's the song by the U.S.Navy Band & Chorus,
- a very moving, very powerful version. Video background
- is simply satellite footage over the "blue planet."