This thesis approaches the emergence of English hymnody from the
standpoint of its communicational function in the corporate worship
setting (its use in private devotion not here being considered).
The Introduction develops this frame of reference, with
associated terminology. Worship is examined as to the direction(s) of
communication therein: the God-to-man 'descending'encounter, the man-to-God
'ascending' response, and the 'horizontal' communication between
worshippers. Since much of worship, including hymnody, is conducted
through the verbal mode of communication, the human and religious scope
of language is next considered. But as the hymn is also the work of a
literary artist, his mode of communication, qua artist, is integrated
with general religious verbal communication through the concept of
'trajectorial* speech, as seen in both Scriptural and artistic uses of
language. In worship then, the hymn stands somewhat uniquely at the
confluence of all these aspects.
A preliminary chapter traces the career of the Calvin-inspired
'Scriptural Principle' in English congregational song from the Anglican
Reformation to c. 1700, as principally embodied in metrical psalmody.
The gradual expansion of the Principle to include all Scripture, its
bending to include paraphrase thereof, and finally the first stirrings
of hymnody in the seventeenth century are all noted. This prepares us
to consider the works of three representative hymnodists after 1700.
The first is Isaac Watts (l67il-17l4-8). He is the real agent of
transition from psalmody to hymnody. His "Psalms of David Imitated"
show his efforts to make psalmody more theologically and environmentally
communicative t£ the singer (encounter), in order that the singer's re¬
sponse through the singing of the psalm may be fuller and more personally
involved. Watts also wrote "Hymns and Spiritual Songs," and in these
we see the beginning of a new communicational focus and content: the
singer's feelings, states, and perceptions, contemplated aloud, and
perhaps not cognitively communicated in any specific direction.
not cognitively communicated in any specific direction.
The subjective focus is seen to be deepening in the "Olney Hymns"
of John Newton (1725-1807)(William Cowper (1731-1800)) ,who represents
the Evangelical Revival of the later eighteenth century. The hymns are
examined in this regard, and also (in Newton's case) for a strong
didactic element. Both the subjective focus and the didacticism present
communicational problems when sung: they are more impressive than
expressive, from the singer's standpoint. A detached note to this chapter
briefly discusses John Wesley's translations of the subjective, pietistio
strain in German hymnody.
The hymns of Reginald Heber (1783-1826) commended hymnody to
'majority' Anglicanism, through his intent to integrate hymnic content with
the Gospel lections of the liturgical year. Thus we are partly returned
to the objectively-centered/recollective-response function of congregational
song which characterized metrical psalmody and most of Watts's work. A
new form of subjectivity enters, however, in Heber*s use of romantic
nature imagery, sometimes so vivid as to possibly divert the singer's
attention from the religious content and direction-of-communication, by
pleasurable immersion in the verbal imagery surrounding and conveying the
These, then, are the major coramunicational elements in the
emergence of J&igliah hymnody. In the mid-nineteenth century, hymnody in
England gained historical authentication through the translations from the
Latin tradition. Simultaneously, German hymnody - both pietiatlc and
pre-pietiatic - was being introduced in translation. These endeavors are
examined, showing how they reinforced both the objective and subjective
communicational elements already present in English hymnody. Finally,
it is observed how the indigenous English hymnody and the translations
are eclectically united in "Hymns, Ancient and Modern" (1861), the first
'modern' hymnal, and first book with a truly popular acceptance and use
in England. Its publication and success signal the completion of English
hymnody's emergence, and bring the study to a close on the note of the
pluralistic co-existence of both communicational approaches (objective and
subjective) from that time to this.