Hymn of the Week: May 15, 2022
by the Rev. Brooke Myers
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life (The Call)
This week’s selection is among the most distinguished hymns in The Hymnal 1982; an exceptional text set to a lovely tune. Come, my Way is appropriate for the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C because the Collect and the Gospel both identify Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The 17th century priest, mystic, musician, academic and poet George Herbert, generally considered one of England’s finest poets, wrote the text. He influenced such writers as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Frost. Had it not been for Herbert’s friend, the English scholar, businessman, courtier and deacon Nicholas Ferrar, we may never have heard of him. At Herbert’s request, Ferrar posthumously published a collection of his poems. Come, my Way consists of three stanzas of four lines each; the rhyme scheme is ABAB throughout. The first line of each identifies Jesus in three ways; the succeeding three lines elaborate on each descriptor. The poem is simple and direct; all its words are monosyllabic except for killeth in stanza one.
None other than Ralph Vaughan Williams, the famous 20th century English composer, wrote the tune. He originally wrote the music in 1911 for a song cycle of Herbert’s poems called Five Mystical Songs. One of them, The Call, was arranged for congregational use in 1956 and has, since then, been included in several hymnals. His 6/4 time tune, like the text, is simple and direct: the first two gently ascending lines are identical, the third starts high before descending, and the fourth spreads the penultimate words over several notes toward a peaceful resolution.
Come my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath;
such a truth as ends all strife;
such a life as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast;
such a feast as mends in length;
such a strength as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move;
such a love as none can part;
such a heart as joys in love.