Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 10: Bread of Heaven: William Williams Pantycelyn

After four days of love, nature, and more love, climaxing in the poetry of Gwerful Mechain, perhaps it’s time for a little repentance—time to get some religion. Today’s poet is William Williams Pantycelyn (the latter was his birthplace—in a country with few surnames, people often distinguish themselves by appending an additional descriptor). Williams Pantycelyn (1717-1791) was a Calvinistic Methodist minister, poet, and Wales’ greatest hymnist. If you’ve attended any Protestant or Restorationist denomination’s services, there’s a good chance you’ve sung a hymn by William Williams.

The Welsh are a nation of singers, and their chapel choirs are world renowned. Little wonder then, that Welsh soccer and rugby matches are accompanied by fans singing hymns in harmony in the stands. We started this month-long series with the Welsh national anthem. I think (and many would probably agree) the real national anthem is Cwm Rhondda (pronounced Coom Ronthuh), with Williams Pantycelyn’s poem, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, set to John Hughes’ music. A version sung by the Newcastle Male Voice Choir can be found here. I’ve chosen this version solely because the choir is from the area of Pembrokeshire from which my Welsh ancestors came. And, for the stadium version (with Tom Jones). If you aren’t moved, you must be English.

Our poems for today are Cariad at Dduw/I Gaze Across the Distant Hills and (you guessed it) Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. The first is our antidote to the past few days of Hywel, Dafydd, and Gwerful. The second is for us all to rise and sing in exultation. The Welsh texts of Cariad at Dduw and Guide Me… (first verses only) are from the Oxford Book of Welsh Verse for the former and for the latter. The English translations are from the Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English. Williams Pantycelyn often translated his own works from Welsh to English.

CARIAD AT DDUW (Love for God; titled in English as I Gaze Across the Distant Hills)

Rwy’n edrych dros y bryniau pell
Amdanat bob yr awr;
Tyrd, fy Anwylyd, mae’n hwyrhau
A’m haul bron mynd i lawr.

I gaze across the distant hills,
Thy coming to espy;
Beloved, haste, the day grows late,
The sun sinks down the sky.

All the old loves I followed once
Are now unfaithful found;
But a sweet sickness holds me yet
Of love that has no bound!

Love that the sensual heart ne’er knows,
Such power, such grace it brings,
Which sucks desire and thought away
From all created things.

O make me faithful while I live,
Attuned but to thy praise,
And may no pleasure born of earth
Entice to devious ways.

All my affections now withdraw
From objects false, impure,
To the one object which unchanged
Shall to the last endure.

There is no station under heaven
Where I have lust to live;
Only the mansions of God’s house
Can perfect pleasure give.

Regard is dead and lust is dead
For the world’s gilded toys;
Her ways are nought but barrenness,
And vain are all her joys.


Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch,
Fi, bererin gwael ei wedd,
Nad oes ynof nerth na bywyd
Fel yn gorwedd yn y bedd:
Hollalluog, Hollalluog,
Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan,
Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan,

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art might,
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heavenly home,
Fills my soul with holy longing:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with thee!


  1. I didn't go to church today. Does reading these hymns "count"? And, alas, my computer speakers are not working, so for today I'll miss out on hearing the choirs and, along with the English, remain unmoved.

  2. Amy-- Yes, reading these hymns counts. If you happen to have a copy of Hymns of the Saints, you should find "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" in it. You can play it on your piano, or Mom and Dad's, and be moved...