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

Sounding Childhood

Jesus, Lover of my soul

Charles Wesley’s “Jesus, Lover of my soul” has been an extremely powerful hymn to countless generations of believers since he wrote it in 1740.  Alan Sutherland has said that, along with the Twenty-First Psalm, it is first in the hearts of countless thousands (in McCutchan, Our Hymnody 357).  Though it was not found in as many of children’s hymn books as Wesley’s other favorites (e.g., “Hark, the herald angels sing”), it was still an important hymn​ to children, alluded to in various children’s diaries of the era that I have examined.  Its poetics clearly denote an adult-reading audience in the metaphorical and intricate syntax used: “While the nearer waters roll,/ While the tempest still is high” (v. 1) or “Let the healing streams abound;/ Make and keep me pure within” (v. 4).  However, the aid given by Jesus, metaphorical though it may be, must surely have registered with children: “Let me to Thy bosom fly” (v. 1) or “Cover my defenseless head/ With the shadow of Thy wing” (v. 2).  Tunes to which it is sung are numerous, including “Hollingside” by John B. Dykes as used in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), “Aberystwyth” by Joseph Parry, Professor of Music at University College, Aberystwyth, and “Martyn” by Simeon Butler Marsh (1834).

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