Saviour, when in dust to thee

Hymn #332
Text: Robert Grant (1739-1838)
Music: Benjamin Carr (1768-1831)



Educated at Cambridge, Sir Robert Grant served as a Member of Parliament, a Director of the East India Company, and Governor of Bombay. A medical college was established in Bombay (now Mumbai) in his name, and to this day is considered one of India’s premier health-care institutions.

Among Grant’s other hymns is the lofty “O worship the King” (#288). The present hymn was first published in 1815, and included a stanza omitted in our Hymnal:

By the sacred griefs that wept
o’er the grave where Lazarus slept;
by the boding tears that flowed
over Salem’s loved abode;
by the anguished sigh that told
treachery lurked within thy fold;
from thy seat above the sky,
Hear our solemn litany!

This missing stanza adds an episode in Christ’s sufferings that fills out the other aspects of his life described in the remaining four stanzas in our Hymnal. Note that the helplessness of his infancy is included as a signal of coming deprivations.

1. Saviour, when in dust to thee
low we bow th’adoring knee;
when, repentant, to the skies
scarce we lift our weeping eyes;
oh, by all thy pains and woe
suffer’d once for us below,
bending from thy throne on high,
hear our solemn litany!

2. By thy helpless infant years,
by thy life of want and tears,
by thy days of sore distress
in the savage wilderness,
by the dread, mysterious hour
of the insulting tempter’s pow’r,
turn, oh, turn a fav’ring eye;
hear our solemn litany!

3. By thy hour of dire despair,
by thine agony of prayer,
by the cross, the nail, the thorn,
piercing spear, and taunt and scorn,
by the gloom that veiled the skies
o’er the dreadful sacrifice,
listen to our humble cry;
hear our solemn litany!

4. By thy deep expiring groan,
by the sad sepulchral stone,
by the vault whose dark abode
held in vain the rising God,
oh, from earth to heav’n restored,
mighty, re-ascended Lord,
listen, listen to the cry,
of our solemn litany!



Born in London, the young Benjamin Carr studied organ with Charles Wesley. In his mid-20s, he came to America with a stage company, and soon settled in Philadelphia where he became active in the city’s musical life. A co-founder of the Musical Fund Society, he served as a music teacher and a church organist in Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches while managing a prominent music publishing firm. In 1826, his firm published this tune as Spanish Hymn arranged and composed for the concerts of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia by Benjamin Carr, The Air from an ancient Spanish Melody. The pedigree for this claim remains unestablished. Nonetheless, the tune was a popular parlor piece for pianoforte for a season, as well as being almost immediately appropriated for use in the 1827 edition of the Hymnal of the Episcopal Church.

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