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This page last updated 16 July 2012  

The Top 20 Desert Island Hymns of Anglicans Online readers

In November 2003. we asked readers to choose one hymn they would take with them to a remote island. They could choose only one. After compiling the results, here are the top 20 hymns they'd take. We hope your favourite is here somewhere.

  Hymn Tune, composer, year Author or translator, year Comments
St Patrick with crozier, in an iconic mode'I bind unto myself today'

St Patrick's Breastplate, Charles Villiers Stanford, 1902

Translated in 1889 by the prolific and gifted Mrs C F Alexander, from a very early Gaelic poem.

The Gaelic poem was called St Patrick’s Lorica or breast-plate. A lorica was a mystical garment that would supposedly protect the wearer from danger. A favourite across many countries.
'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound' New Britain, from Southern Harmony 1835 John Newton, 1779. John Newton, post conversionTop-rated with American readers, it had no votes from elsewhere in the Communion.
'Be thou my vision' Slane, Irish folk melody Translated into English by Mary E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, and put into rhyme by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912. Another ancient Irish favourite. For a while it looked as if it would be Number One in our list. It slipped a bit but remains a firm favourite across several countries. Hard to tell whether its fans are keener about the words or the music.
'Come down, O Love Divine' The vicarage at Down AmpneyDown Ampney, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906. (Down Ampney vicarage, right) Mid-14th century Spanish poem by Bianco da Siena; English translation by Richard Littledale in 1867. The first appearance of a Ralph Vaughan Williams tune, this hymn was a cross-Communion favourite.
'All my hope on God is founded' Michael, Herbert Howells, 1935 Based on the German of Joachim Neander (1650-1680), Robert S. Bridges adapted it in 1899. This popular choice was linked to a fondness for Howells' brilliant setting. We suspect that the hymn itself wouldn't appear in the list if it was sung to Coblentz.
'For all the saints who from their labours rest' Sine Nomine, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906 William W. How, in Hymns for Saint’s Days, and Other Hymns, wrote this in 1864. A popular text married to a brilliant tune. One of the few hymn texts written by an Anglican bishop, the much-loved Bishop of Wakefield.
'Let all mortal flesh keep silence' Picardy, French carol melody Translated from Greek to English by Gerard Moultrie in 1864, from the Liturgy of S. James, fourth century AD. SeraphimThis mystical text, combined with a haunting melody, was again a choice from various countries across the Communion.
'Dear Lord and Father of mankind' The old Victorian standard — Rest (Maker), by Frederick C. Maker, 1887 — is not what put this hymn into the Top Ten, but rather the 1888 setting Repton, by CHH Parry. It's also occasionally sung to Hammersmith (Gladstone), by, er, WH Gladstone.
A cover of the Atlantic Monthly in the 1870s.John Greenleaf Whittier published this in the Atlantic Monthly in 1872. It is an excerpt from a longer epic (see right). An example of a hymn chosen specifically with reference to a particular setting; in this case, Repton. Until we did a bit of research on the text, we had no idea it referenced Vedic priests and cocaine-like concoctions called 'soma'. The story is here.
'Joyful, joyful, we adore thee' An engraving of Beethoven, looking glum.Hymn to Joy, L. van Beethoven, from the Ninth Symphony, adapted by Edward Hodges, 1824 Henry J. van Dyke wrote this hymn while a guest at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA in 1907. Another example of a regional favourite; it appears in US, Canada, and Australian hymnals
'O thou who camest from above' Hereford, SS Wesley, 1872. Charles Wesley wrote this stirring hymn in 1762. A superb pairing by grandfather and grandson. An example of a hymn far better known in the Church of England than elsewhere. The phrase 'inextinguishable blaze' in the second verse is inexplicably changed to 'ever bright undying blaze' in the Episcopal Church in the USA Hymnal 1982.
'Abide with me, fast falls the eventide' Eventide, WH Monk, 1861. HF Lyte, looking pallid.Henry Francis Lyte wrote this not long before he died in 1847. Lugubrious, perhaps, but well loved — and indeed sung in other places than football stadiums. In fact, we learn from the Cyberhymnal that it 'was sung at the wedding of King George VI of Britain, and at the wedding of his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II'.
'All creatures of our God and King' Lasst Uns Erfreuen (Köln, Germany: 1623); harmony by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906. Francis of Assisi, circa 1225 (Cantico di fratre sole, Song of Brother Sun). 'Translated into English by WH Draper for a children’s Whitsuntide festival in Leeds, England; first appeared in the Public School Hymn Book, 1919', according to the Cyberhymnal. The Reverend WH Draper penned about 60 hymns, but this is the only one widely known and loved. The others are dated period pieces, with such titles as 'We Love God’s Acre Round the Church' and 'What Can I Do for England?'.    The tune Lasst Uns Erfreuen is also used for the lovely text 'Ye watchers and ye holy ones'.
'I come with joy to meet my Lord' Set to a frightening number of tunes, including St Botolph, Land of Rest, University, Barchester Fair, Bramwell, and Twyford. Brian Wren, 1971. An American Episcopal favourite when sung to Land of Rest. The only Top 20 hymn written after World War II.
'I sing a song of the saints of God' Grand Isle, John Henry Hopkins Jr Lesbia Scott, 1929. Whilst charmingly old-fashioned, the text succeeds at not being a period piece. There is a dreadful Americanization of the lyrics; tea and shops are banished for stores and houses next door. Mrs Scott apparently wrote hymns for her three children; this is the only one we know that has been published.
'Lift high the cross'An air balloon with a cross, flying high Crucifer, Sydney H. Nicholson, 1916 George William Kitchin; modified by Michael Robert Newbolt, 1916. One of those hymns which seems to be either loved or hated. George William Kitchin, author of the text, was successively Dean of Winchester, Dean of Durham, and then first Chancellor of the University of Durham.
'Lord of all hopefulness' Slane, Irish folk melody

Jan Struther (pseudonym of Joyce Anstruther Graham Plaszek), 1931.

Signing the register to Slane.Is it the words or the melody that catapults 'Lord of All Hopefulness' into the Top 20? Slane is already in the number-three place with another text. Non-sequitur: We came across this intriguing advice: 'This hymn is suitable as the third hymn sung after the signing of the register'.


'Love divine, all loves excelling' Sometimes sung to Beecher, Airedale, Blaenwern, and Love Divine (Stainer), we confess we never want it sung to anything other than Hyfrydol, by Rowland Huy Pritchard, 1830. An oil portrait of Charles WesletCharles Wesley, 1747. Another Wesley super hit. Is there any Anglican who doesn't like this hymn?
'My song is love unknown' Love Unknown, John Ireland, 1919. Samuel Crossman, from The Young Man’s Meditation, or Some Few Sacred Poems upon Select Subjects, and Scriptures, 1664. After a chequered vocation, careering between Anglican and Puritan and back, Crossman eventually made his peace with the Church of England. He later became Dean of Bristol, in which cathedral he is buried. The text is much loved, with a simple and direct pathos that never descends to the mawkish.
'The king of love my shepherd is'
Jesus as shepherd
Sung to either St Columba, one of those ancient Irish melodies, or Dominus Regit Me, John Bacchus Dykes, 1868. HW Baker, circa 1865. A much-loved text by the Reverend Sir Henry Williams Baker, who was editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern from 1860-77. He died on 12 February 1877, at Monkland, Herefordshire, England. His friend John Ellerton reported that Baker’s dying words were from his famous hymn:
   Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
   But yet in love He sought me,
   And on His shoulder gently laid,
   And home, rejoicing, brought me.
'When I survey the wondrous cross' Set to Rockingham, arranged by Edward Miller, 1790 or less commonly, Hamburg, Lowell Mason, 1824. And there is always Eucharist, Isaac B. Woodbury, 1819. Isaac Watts, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707. Charles Wesley (above) is alleged to have said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one. The only representative of the oeuvre of the prolific Isaac Watts, but perhaps his most brilliant and effective text.


Here are a few of the other hymns that got a scattering of votes here and there, in no particular order.
 'Immortal, invisible, God only wise' 'Lo! He comes with clouds descending' 'Ye watchers and ye holy ones' 'Alleluia, sing to Jesus'
'Crown him with many crowns' 'Father, hear the prayer we offer' 'New every morning is the love' 'Praise to the holiest in the height'
 'Wake, awake for night is flying' (Wachet Auf)

'Ye holy angels bright, who wait at God's right hand'

'Of the Father’s heart begotten' 'All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine'


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