Saturday, 9 July 2016
An anniversary you may not have heard about by Ros Bayes
2016 is a notable year for literary anniversaries. April marked 200 years since the birth of Charlotte Brontë (21st) and 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare (23rd). July 28th is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. This summer also marks 200 years since the eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley dreamed up Frankenstein and his unruly creation, and September 13th is the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth.
But there is another literary figure with an anniversary this year, one whom perhaps few of us have heard of, but I guarantee we are all familiar with some of the words he wrote. February 13th 2016 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ernest Bode.
Bode was born into a well-to-do family, and was educated at Eton, Charterhouse and Oxford before being ordained, serving as a vicar in both Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. He wrote a number of books of poetry, and was in fact beaten to the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford by Matthew Arnold.
In addition, Bode wrote some collections of hymns, particularly his principal manuscript of “Hymns from the Gospel of the Day for each Sunday and Festivals of our Lord”. Much of what he wrote has fallen into obscurity, and the Bampton lectures which he gave in 1855, at a time when John Henry Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism and support for the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement was giving consternation to the more Evangelical wing of the Anglican church, would probably sound strange in our era of ecumenism.
But 150 years ago, when John Bode was fifty years old, he wrote a hymn for the confirmation of his daughter and two sons, and it is principally for this hymn that he is remembered today. The hymn takes its inspiration from John 12, the passage in which Jesus said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.”
O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my guide.
O let me feel Thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.
O let me hear Thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, Thou guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my master and my friend.
O let me see thy features, the look that once could make
So many a true disciple leave all things for Thy sake;
The look that beam’d on Peter when he Thy name denied;
The look that draws thy loved ones close by the pierced side.
O let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
And then in Heaven receive me, my Saviour and my friend.
Ros Bayes has 8 published and 4 self-published books, as well as some 3 dozen magazine articles. She is the mother of 3 daughters, one of whom has multiple complex disabilities, and she currently works for Through the Roof (www.throughtheroof.org) as their Training Resources Developer, and loves getting paid to write about disability all day. You can find her blog at http://rosbunneywriting.wordpress.com and her author page at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ros-Bayes/e/B00JLRTNVA/. Follow her on Twitter: @rosbwriting.