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Explained: ‘Abide With Me’, the Christian hymn that is under spotlight this Republic Day

In India, the tune achieved significance after it was propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. He had first heard it played by the Mysore Palace Band.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 23, 2020 6:37:55 pm
The tune ‘Abide with me’ has been played as the concluding piece of the Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29 every year.

In the past few days, there has been a controversy about whether the tune ‘Abide With Me’, which is a part of the Beating Retreat celebrations that take place post-Republic Day, would be played this year or not.

The Christian hymn has been played as the concluding piece of the Beating Retreat ceremony on January 29 every year at Vijay Chowk, since 1950.

Opinion | ‘A Hymn In Retreat’ 

The 19th-century poet Alfred Lord Tennyson admired the tune, and had said that it would “rank among the really perfect poems of the English language”.

What is the hymn ‘Abide With Me’?

Known across the world today, the song was written by Henry Francis Lyte, a Scottish poet, and hymnologist, in 1847.

The tune became popular in the trenches during World War I. Edith Cavell, the famous British nurse who was shot by a German squad for helping British soldiers escape from occupied Belgium, is known to have recited it the night before her execution.

In India, the tune achieved significance after it was propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. He had first heard it played by the Mysore Palace Band. At Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, it remains a part of the ‘Ashram Bhajanavali’, alongside bhajans like “Vaishnav jan toh”, “Raghupati Raghav raja ram”, and “Lead kindly light”.

The tune is sung in church choirs and educational institutions.

Abroad, the hymn is sung at military services in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK. It is also a fixture at the FA Cup final, according to a report in The Telegraph.

At the Beating Retreat ceremony, which takes place after Republic Day on January 29, the hymn is set to the tune of Eventide by William Henry Monk, and is the last tune played by Massed Band.

Full text of the hymn

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see;

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,

But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,

Familiar, condescending, patient, free.

Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terror, as the King of kings,

But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;

Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.

Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,

And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,

Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.

On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.

What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;

Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.

Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

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