Text: Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)
Music: John Goss (1800-1880)
Tune name: LAUDA ANIMA
Born in Scotland, Henry Francis Lyte studied in Dublin with the intention of entering the medical profession. Instead, he took Holy Orders in 1815 and eventually became a curate in Devonshire. He published several collections of poems during his lifetime.
In 1818, a fellow clergyman developed a fatal illness. Lyte, a young clergyman, observed his colleague’s suffering and death with acute attentiveness. He later wrote about his friend: “He died happy under the belief that though he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his delinquencies, and be accepted for all that he had incurred. . . . I was greatly affected by the whole matter, and brought to look at life and its issue with a different eye than before; and I began to study my Bible, and preach in another manner than I had previously done.”
This hymn, originally published in 1834 in Lyte’s Spirit of the Psalms, is a paraphrase of portions of Psalm 103. It originally included another stanza, placed between the present 4th and 5th stanzas:
Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
blows the wind and it is gone;
but while mortals rise and perish
God endures unchanging on.
Praise Him, praise Him,
praise Him, praise Him,
praise the High Eternal One!
Another well-known hymn by Lyte is “Abide with me; fast falls the eventide” (#467), which he is believed to have written in 1820 after having sat at the bedside of a dying friend. This poem was not published until just before Lyte’s own death 27 years later.
1. Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing.
Praise the everlasting King!
2. Praise him for his grace and favor
to our fathers in distress.
Praise him, still the same as ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in his faithfulness!
3. Fatherlike he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows!
4. Angels, help us to adore him;
ye behold him face to face.
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise with us the God of grace!
The tune LAUDA ANIMA was written by John Goss in 1868 for use with this poem. Goss was the son of a parish organist who at an early age became a choirster at the Chapel Royal. After studying organ and composition, he held two successive posts in Anglican churches before being appointed professor of harmony at the Royal Academy of Music, a position he held for 47 years. In the realm of church music, Goss is best known for the composition of hundreds of settings of Anglican chant for use with psalm texts; two are in our Hymnal: #660, to which is chanted the Evening Prayer canticle Cantate Domino — based on Psalm 98 — and #680, familiar to our parish since we often sing it with the canticle for Easter Day (“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us . . .”).
Church music historian Paul Westermeyer has written that this hymn, “has been praised as one of the finest, if not the finest of the Victorian hymn tunes, and certainly one of the most satisfying for congregations” “Praise, my soul” is quite popular in the U.K. and the U.S., and is often used on public occasions. In 1947, it was sung at the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and in 2018, it was the opening hymn at the funeral of former president George H. W. Bush.
The grandeur of the hymn shines out in this rendering by the choir of Westminster Abbey.
Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.