Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost

Text: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885)
Music: Friedrich Filitz (1804-1860)
Tune name: CAPETOWN



The nephew of the poet William Wordsworth, the author of this hymn was a priest and later a bishop in the Church of England. An accomplished Greek scholar and prolific poet, Christopher Wordsworth published a notable collection of his own hymns in 1862 entitled The Holy Year, or, Hymns for Sundays and holy days throughout the year. Nine of his hymns are in our Hymnal, including “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph” and “O day of rest and gladness.”

“Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost” was included in The Holy Year as a hymn appropriate for Quinquagesima, as the epistle reading for that Sunday is I Corinthians 13, and this is a hymn about love as the greatest gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Wordsworth’s original (available in a scanned edition here) had 8 stanzas, 4 of which are in our Hymnal:

1. Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost,
taught by thee, we covet most
of thy gifts at Pentecost,
holy, heavenly love.

2. Love is kind, and suffers long,
love is meek, and thinks no wrong,
love than death itself more strong;
therefore give us love.

3. Prophecy will fade away,
melting in the light of day;
love will ever with us stay;
therefore give us love.

4. Faith and hope and love we see
joining hand in hand agree;
but the greatest of the three,
and the best, is love.



CAPETOWN was originally composed by the German composer Friedrich Filitz and first published in the 1847 hymnal Vierstimmiges Choralbuch (1847). After earning a doctorate of philosophy, Filitz became active in music editing and publishing in Berlin, where he lived from 1843 to 1847, and in Munich, where he lived from 1848 to 1876.

Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.