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  • Writer's picturePastor Nancy Raabe

Hymn Reflection

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

“Go, My Children, With My Blessing” (ELW 543)

The tune of this soulful Welsh folk song, Ar Hyd y Nos, is perhaps best known to a text written by Sir Harold Boulton in 1884, “All Through the Night.” The first two verses are as follows:

Sleep my child and peace attend thee, All through the night Guardian angels God will send thee, All through the night Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, Hill and dale in slumber sleeping I my loved ones' watch am keeping, All through the night

Angels watching, e'er around thee, All through the night Midnight slumber close surround thee, All through the night Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, Hill and dale in slumber sleeping I my loved ones' watch am keeping, All through the night.

This was not the intent of the original Welsh words attached to the tune, which were much lighter in character. In a literal translation, those first two verses read:

All the stars' twinkles say

All through the night [Ar hyd y nos]

"This is the way to the realm of glory,"

All through the night.

Other light is darkness

To show true beauty

The Heavenly family in peace

All through the night.

O, how cheerful smiles the star,

All through the night

To light its earthly sister

All through the night.

Old age is night when affliction comes

But to beautify man in his late days

We'll put our weak light together

All through the night.

In 1983, the great Lutheran hymnist Jaroslav Vajda wrote the hymn that we will be singing to this tune as a kind of benediction, based on Numbers 6:22-27. It is a happy marriage of text and tune, particularly in the way Vajda brings out the soaring lyricism of the second part of the tune. It can currently be found in print in 17 hymnals across denominations. Its first stanza:

“Go, my children, with my blessing

never alone.

Waking, sleeping, I am with you,

you are my own.

In my love’s baptismal river

I have made you mine forever.

Go, my children, with my blessing,

You are my own.”

The quotation marks are essential. Vajda writes, “I placed the words of the hymn into the mouth of the blessing triune God dismissing the congregation after worship while drawing together a review of the events that transpired during the service [forgiveness; hearing the gospel; sharing the sacrament].”

The blue hymnal supplement With One Voice contains all four verses, including the final one in which God blesses the congregation: “I, the Lord will bless and keep you,

And give you peace….” But the editors of ELW chose to omit this fourth verse--not only because of apprehension that the hymn as a whole puts God’s words into the mouths of the people, but that this fourth verse essentially has the congregation bless itself as if it were God.

Yet without this final stanza, the hymn seems incomplete. As long as singers can clearly hear God as the speaker and hold this truth in tension as the hymn is sung, there should be no tumble into idolatry as the ELW editors must have feared.

Yours in the power of song,

Pastor Nancy Raabe

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