This page was created by Donal Hegarty.  The last update was by Alisa Clapp-Itnyre .

Sounding Childhood

Great God, and will Thou condescend

 Anne and Jane Taylor were extremely influential writers of hymns for children, primarily through their 1809 Hymns for Infant Children, a hymn book which would continue to be published throughout the nineteenth century.  Their most famous hymn from this hymn book during the century, according to my calculations, in ¼ of hymn books, was “Great God and wilt Thou condescend”, a hymn clearly written with children in mind.  In first person, the hymn works as a series of questions from the child to the Father.  By the end, the child has been empowered to answer her questions, to create the gentler Father-figure she desires, and to chart her own, Christian course.  Simple verse in AABB couplets and iambic tetrameter lends itself to singing and, indeed, this hymn was found as late as in the 1894 Hymns for Children with Opening & Closing Services, suggesting how sing-able it continued to be.  One tune to which it is set is “Holley” (in The Methodist Sunday-School Hymn and Tune-Book, 1879).  A tune in E-flat major, its harmonies are generally created by thirds.  Its third line ascends up the scale to a C above middle C, perhaps to reflect, in the first verse, “Thou so high” in contrast to the “poor child” represented by a low F and E.  Due to the repetition of music, however, this same ascending scale also highlights the various actions of the child: “deed and thought” (v. 4) and “to do and be” (v.5).

More discussion on this hymn can be found in Chapter 2, British Hymn Books for Children.

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