This hymn was written in 1833, by John Newman; while traveling in Italy as a young priest, he fell ill and stayed at Giovanni almost three weeks. Finally he was well enough to continue his journey to Palermao. His journal reads:
Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, "I have a work to do in England."
I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three more weeks....At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for a whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, "Lead, Kindly Light."Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.
I try to provide some variety in these Friday musical interludes, choosing choirs or solos, traditional or contemporary. This hymn, performed by the Wells Cathedral Choir was particularly appropriate, with our studies of Christ as "the light" this week.