Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Eternal Father, Strong to Save
"Eternal Father, Strong to Save", typeset from The Hymnal Army and Navy which was used by American forces during World War II

"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is a hymn often associated with the Royal Navy or the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Accordingly, it is often known as the Royal Navy Hymn or the United States Navy Hymn (or just The Navy Hymn), and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on the Sea."

Contents

History

The original hymn was written by William Whiting of Winchester, England, in 1860. It was originally intended as a poem for a student of his, who was about to travel to the United States. In 1861, John B. Dykes, an Anglican clergyman, composed the tune "Melita" for this hymn. "Melita" is an archaic term for Malta, an ancient seafaring nation and the site of a shipwreck involving the Apostle Paul mentioned in Acts of the Apostles (chapters 27-28).

Lyrics

The original words are:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Certain verses have been changed in modern hymnals for various reasons.

The first verse refers to God the Father's forbidding the waters to flood the earth as described in Psalm 104. The second verse refers to Jesus' miracles of stilling a storm and walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The third verse references the Holy Spirit's role in the creation of the earth in the Book of Genesis, while the final verse is a reference to Psalm 107.

U.S. Episcopal Church version

In 1940, the U.S. Episcopal Church altered three verses of the hymn to include travel on the land in the second verse (referencing Psalm 50) and in the air in the third verse (again referencing Genesis). The Hymnal 1982, which is in current use by most Episcopal congregations in the USA, has further revised this version (as Hymn #579) with opening line "Almighty Father, strong to save..." by adding the word "space" to the final verse, so it ends "Glad praise from space, air, land, and sea" (because by 1982 space travel was a reality); the Hymnal also has a more traditional water-only version (as Hymn #608) with opening line "Eternal Father, strong to save..."

The 1940 version — incorporating sea, land, and air (but not space) — is:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidst the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
Christ, the Lord of hill and plain,
O'er which our traffic runs amain,
By mountain pass or valley low,
Wherever Lord our brethren go,
Protect them by Thy guarding hand
From every peril on the land!
O Spirit Whom the Father sent
To spread abroad the firmament,
O Wind of Heaven, by Thy might
Save all who dare the eagle's flight,
And keep them by Thy watchful care
From every peril in the air!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them whereso'er they go.
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad praise from air, and land, and sea!

Stanzas 2-3 of the version in the 1940 Hymnal were written by the American Bishop Robert Nelson Spencer (1877–1961) and published in 1937.

U.S. military variants

Several additional or variant verses are in use in the U.S. military services, including the Marines, Seabees, submariners and coastguards.[1]

SEALs

Eternal Father, faithful friend,
Be swift to answer those we send
In brotherhood and urgent trust
On hidden missions dangerous
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For SEALs in air, on land, and sea

Aviation (1943)

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly,
Through the great spaces of the sky;
Be with them traversing the air,
In darkening storms or sunshine fair.
O God, protect the men who fly,
Through lonely ways beneath the sky.

Aviation (variation)

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky,
Be with them always in the air,
In dark'ning storms or sunlight fair.
O, Hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air.

Marines

Eternal Father, grant, we pray
To all Marines, both night and day
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps.
-J.E. Seim, 1966

Seabees

Lord, stand beside the men who build
And give them courage, strength, and skill
O grant them peace of heart and mind
And comfort loved ones left behind.
Lord, hear our prayer for all Seabees
Where'er they be on land or sea
-R.J. Dietrich, 1960

Submariners

Lord God, our power evermore
Who arm doth reach the ocean floor
Dive with our men beneath the sea
Traverse the depths protectively
O hear us when we pray, and keep
them safe from peril in the deep
-David B. Miller, 1965

Navy Nurses

O God, protect the women who,
in service, faith in thee renew;
O guide devoted hands of skill
And bless their work within thy will;
Inspire their lives that they may be
Examples fair on land and sea.
Lines 1-4, Merle E. Strickland, 1972,
and adapted by James D. Shannon, 1973.
Lines 5-6, Beatrice M. Truitt, 1948

Arctic Exploration

Creator, Father, who dost show
Thy splendor in the ice and snow,
Bless those who toil in summer light
And through the cold Antarctic night,
As they thy frozen wonders learn;
Bless those who wait for their return.
-L.E. Vogel, 1965

Coast Guard

Eternal Father, Lord of hosts,
Watch o'er the men who guard our coasts.
Protect them from the raging seas
And give them light and life and peace.
Grant them from thy great throne above
The shield and shelter of thy love.
-Author and date unknown

Astronauts

Eternal Father, King of birth,
Who didst create the heaven and earth,
And bid the planets and the sun
Their own appointed orbits run;
O hear us when we seek they grace
For those who soar through outer space.
-J.E. Volonte, 1961

Doctors

Creator, Father, who first breathed
In us the life that we received,
By power of they breath restore
The ill, and men with wounds of war.
Bless those who give their healing care,
That life and laughter all may share.
-Galen H. Meyer, 1969
Adapted by James D. Shannon, 1970

Military Families

God, who dost still the restless foam,
Protect the ones we love at home.
Provide that they should always be
By thine own grace both safe and free.
O Father, hear us when we pray
For those we love so far away.
-Hugh Taylor, date unknown

Naval (General)

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
And those who on the ocean ply;
Be with our troops upon the land,
And all who for their country stand:
Be with these guardians day and night
And may their trust be in they might.
-author unknown, about 1955

Ship's Dedication:

O Father, King of earth and sea,
We dedicate this ship to thee.
In faith we send her on her way;
In faith to thee we humbly pray:
O hear from heaven our sailor's cry
And watch and guard her from on high!
Author and date unknown

Ship's Decommissioning

And when at length her course is run,
Her work for home and country done,
Of all the souls that in her sailed
Let not one life in thee have failed;
But hear from heaven our sailor's cry,
And grant eternal life on high!
-Author and date unknown

[2]

Notable uses

This hymn was among those sung at a religious service aboard HMS Prince of Wales attended by Winston Churchill (who requested that the hymn be sung) and Franklin D. Roosevelt at the conference creating the Atlantic Charter. [3] It was also the last song sung during the Sunday, April 14 Church Service aboard the RMS Titanic just hours before it sank.[4]

Use in funerals

This hymn has been played or sung at a number of funerals for those who have served in the US Navy. It was sung at the funeral of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, played by the Navy Band at the funeral of John F. Kennedy, sung at the funeral of Richard Nixon, and played by the Navy Band and the Coast Guard Band during the funeral of Ronald Reagan. Roosevelt had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Kennedy was commanding officer of PT-109 in World War II.The hymn was also played to close the funeral of R. Buckminster Fuller, as well as at the Memorial Ceremony in Norfolk, VA for the USS Cole (DDG-67) after the bombing of the ship in October 2000. This is fitting as the hymn was also played at the funeral services of those killed among the crew of the U.S.S. Maine at the beginning of the Spanish-American War. It was performed by the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters at the State Funeral of President Gerald R. Ford, who had served in the Navy during World War II in the Pacific Theater. The hymn was sung by the congregation attending the funeral of news broadcaster Walter Cronkite at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City. This was the last hymn sung at the funeral of Claude Choules, the last living fighter from WWI, at his funeral in Fremantle, Western Australia on May 20, 2011.

In popular culture

The hymn, and variants of it, make numerous appearances in films, TV shows, literature and other formats.

Parodies

  • St. John's College as its fight song with the United States Naval Academy.[6][7][8][9]

References

External links

Sources

Eternal Father, Strong to Save is in the public domain. Some of the commentary is taken from http://www.navy.mil/navydata/questions/eternal.html, which was written by a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. Federal Government, it is in the public domain. The short quotation from Robert Heinlein is believed to be fair use. USCG source: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/chaplain/misc/coast_guard_hymn.htm The Methodist purge is described at http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/VA-news/VA-Pilot/issues/1996/vp/.htm.[dead link]


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