“Hail the blest morn!”: Merry Christmas from Alexander Campbell

Selina Huntington Campbell remembered in 1882 that

Dear Mr. Campbell was a lover of good music; he had when young received lessons in the art, but, as he said, “was born tuneless;” he understood time and loved to make a “joyful noise.” He could almost sing  “Hail the blest morn! When the great Mediator ” etc., and when riding together, through the vales and over the hills of Bethany, he was sure to commence with ecstacy : “’Tis not the law of ten commands,” but  always turned to the last verse :

“Israel, rejoice, now Joshua (Jesus) leads,

He’ll bring your tribes to rest;

So far the Saviour’s name exceeds,

The ruler and the priest.”

Ahh, the wonders of the internet, where an easy search of YouTube brings us here:

Authored by Reginald Heber (perhaps best known for Holy, Holy, Holy), the tune you hear in the clip is ‘Star in the East.’  I added the chorus as sung in the clip to the verses below (which are from Hymnary.org):

Hail the blest morn, see the great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger,
Lo, for his guard the bright angels attend.

Chorus:

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid
Star in the east the horizon adorning
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid!

Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies his bed with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him, in slumbers reclining,
Wise men and shepherds before him do fall.

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Eden and offerings divine?
Gems from the mountain, and pearls from the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
Vainly with gold we his favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Low at his feet we in humble prostration,
Lose all our sorrow and trouble and strife;
There we receive his divine consolation,
Flowing afresh from the fountain of life.

He is our friend in the midst of temptation,
Faithful supporter, whose love cannot fail;
Rock of our refuge, and hope of salvation,
Light to direct us through death’s gloomy vale.

Star of the morning, thy brightness, declining,
Shortly must fade when the sun doth arise:
Beaming refulgent, his glory eternal
Shines on the children of love in the skies.

The Southern Harmony, 1835

So, here is one of Alexander Campbell’s favorite songs, one he sang up and down and over and around the verdant Virginia hills.  What the Bishop of Bethany lacked in musical skill he compensated with enthusiasm.  You can hear him singing before you see his horse make the turn around the bend in the road ahead.  A smile on his face, he holds forth in song about God’s work in Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

 

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3 thoughts on ““Hail the blest morn!”: Merry Christmas from Alexander Campbell

  1. The Southern Harmony attributes this to the Baptist Harmony. The tune name is “Star in the East” and is a beautiful old “shaped note” song. I have been blessed to sing it a few times. For those who have an interest in this type of music check out the website http://www.fasola.org This type of singing has been preserved up to our time, primarily by people who sing from “The Sacred Harp.” Shaped note singing is one of life’s real musical joys.

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