The third most popular hymn for children, in 42% of hymnals, began its life as personal poem of religious reflection by the Tractarian leader John Keble: “Sun of my soul, my Saviour dear,” published in The Christian Year, 1827. It corresponds to other “evening hymns” with its symbolism of the Christ-as-Sun simile, one who mitigates nighttime fears: “It is not night if Thou be near.” The first person invites a very personal connection with Christ as do metaphorical images of sleeping “on my Saviour’s breast.” Repetition and parallelism augment this poem clearly intended for the adult in its poetic maturity. Children are only twice indirectly alluded to: “If some poor wandering child of thine/ Have spurned to-day the voice divine” (v. 4) and the peace which becomes “every mourner’s sleep to-night/ Like infant’s slumbers, pure and light” (v. 5), both implicating every person as God’s “child.” Like other Tractarian writings, the poetry is intricate and cloaked with symbolism. The tune “Hursley” from the German and set to the text in 1855 (“Hursley” was Keble’s parish) has a soothing somberness better appreciated by children, perhaps, even if the poetics belie its intended audience. At least it is a simple and memorable melody and easy for children to learn.
More discussion of this hymn can be found in Chapter 3, British Hymn Books for Children.