Friday, July 1, 2005

Quarter Notes

"How Firm A Foundation" was wedded to a Christmas tune, "Adeste Fideles", a Latin hymn which we have translated as "O Come, All Ye Faithful." Nothing definite is known of the author save a mysterious "K" followed by the Scripture II Peter 3:4.
Originally printed in 1787 with seven stanzas by the Baptist preacher Dr. John Rippon, "How Firm A Foundation" still rings across the nations today, because, as one venerable lady said, "It is so full of Scripture."
Perhaps that is what comforted the boys of the 7th U.S. Army Corps who were encamped on the hills surrounding Havana, Cuba, on Christmas Eve, 1898. It was a lovely, quiet, tropical night when suddenly a sentinel from the Forty-ninth Iowa called, "Number 10; twelve o'clock, and all's well!" Following that assuring announcement, a strong voice lifted the chorus, and the others began to join in until, as General Guild said, "on the long ridges above the great city whence Spanish tyranny once went forth to enslave the New World, a whole American army was singing:

"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed;
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."

The Northern soldier knew the hymn as one he had learned beside his mother's knee. To the Southern soldier it was that and something more; it was the favorite hymn of General Robert E. Lee, and was sung at that great commander's funeral. Protestant and Catholic, South and North, singing together on Christmas day in the morning -- that's an American army!"

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, tho' all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake."

(image courtesy of

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