STUDIES OF FAMILIAR HYMNS
LORD, WITH GLOWING HEART I’D PRAISE THEE
THE TEXT OF THE HYMN
||Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise:
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.
Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wanderer, far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee
From the paths of death away:
Praise, with love’s devoutest feeling,
Him who saw thy guilt-born fear,
And, the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.
Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express:
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign Thy suppliant’s prayer to bless:
Let Thy grace, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise.
Francis Scott Key, 1817
NOTE– The text is taken from Dr. Muhlenberg’s Church Poetry, 1823.
THE STORY OF THE HYMN
To a patriotic American Christian it is a real satisfaction to find in
the hymn book of his Church a hymn by the author of The Star Spangled
Banner. And the hymn is not unworthy of its place. A good judge, the Rev.
Frederick M. Bird, in an essay upon the Hymnology of the Protestant Episcopal
Church, called Mr. Keys hymn as memorable a piece of work as his Star
Spangled Banner. It has, he says, high devotional and fair literary
merit, and is endeared to many thousands by long associations. There is,
no doubt, a flavor of an older fashion in the rhetoric of the hymn, but
its expression of Christian gratitude still rings true; and, as a matter
of fact, the use of the hymn is more widespread today than ever before.
In 1823 the Rev. Dr. William A. Muhlenberg, afterward famous as the author
of I Would not Live Alway, printed a hymn book under the name of Church
Poetry. Here first (so far as is known) appeared Francis S. Keys very
genuine hymn, Lord, with Glowing Heart Id Praise Thee, says Mr. Bird
in the essay already referred to. Such has been the general belief up to
this time, and hence in every hymnal the hymn bears the date 1823. But
in aur present study we shall be able to make use of some facts not hitherto
In the autumn of 1900 the writer saw in a New York auction catalogue the
entry of a copy of this hymn in Mr. Keys autograph, which he secured.
It is written on a half sheet of foolscap and inscribed in the margin,
Written by the author, F. Key, for Sylvester Nash. Hitherto only three
eight-line verses of the hymn had been known to hymnologists, as printed
in Dr. Muhlenbergs book and always since. But the autograph copy has an
additional verse (or two of four lines each) as reproduced in the accompanying
facsimile. This was the original third verse, preceding the last one as
And now, as regards the date. In December of 1901, while having some part
in the rearrangement of the library of the Presbyterian Historical Society
in Philadelphia, the writer took the opportunity of examining some old
periodicals, on the chance of what he might find. Among them were three
volumes of The Christian Messenger, an unsectarian religious magazine,
edited and published by Joshua T. Russell, in Baltimore. At page 288 of
the first volume, at the end of the number for Saturday September 6th,
1817, he found the original printing of this hymn. It is printed in eight
four-line verses, and is prefaced by this note:
The Newly-Found Verse
The following Hymn was composed by a gentleman, formerly a resident of
this city, distinguished for his eminent talents and exemplary piety.
This little discovery changes the accepted date of the hymn from 1823 to
1817. The additional eight lines of the manuscript are included in the
hymn in the magazine, and this seems to be the first and last time they
have been printed until now. Dr. Muhlenberg chose to omit them from his
hymn book in 1823. And since then every one else, even the editor of Mr.
Keys poems (which were gathered up and published in 1857), seems completely
to have lost sight of them. In 1826 Mr. Keys hymn, in its three-verse
form, was given a place in the Hymns of the Protestant Episcopal Church,
and it has retained that place in the hymnals from time to time authorized
for use in that Church. It was introduced to a much wider company when,
in 1830, the Rev. Joshua Leavitt included it in his very popular collection,
The Christian Lyre. This was the book the light and secular character of
whose music caused such grief to the heart of Thomas Hastings. Designed
for revival and social meetings, it found its way into the more formal
services of many Presbyterian churches, as a welcome substitute for the
authorized psalmody. It cannot be said, however, that by this means, or
any other, Mr. Keys hymn became generally familiar to Presbyterians until
a much later date. The Presbyterian Hymnal of 1874 was the first authorized
book to contain it. A peculiar feature in the long career of this hymn
is that so little music should have been composed for it. Even now the
words can hardly be said to be associated with any particular tune.
THE AUTHOR OF THE HYMN
Over the grave of Francis Scott Key, at Frederick, Maryland, there was
placed in 1898 an impressive monument. His figure in bronze stands on a
granite base. He is represented at the moment of discovery that our flag
was still there, his right arm extended toward it, and the left waving
aloft his hat in an exultant salute. It is a striking representation of
the way in which Mr. Key himself stands before the minds of his countrymen.
They think of him always as in that attitude. To them he is always the
man who wrote The Star Spangled Banner. The one hour outshines the life
so much in mens eyes that the life has become obscure.
It is none the less pleasant to know how worthy that life was before and
after its great event; to find the home life as attractive as the patriotism,
to find the grace of the gentleman and the earnestness of the Christian
at one with the gifts of the poet.
No extended life of Mr. Key has been published, but it seems as if (like
that editor who put the note before his hymn) every one who wrote of him
felt called upon to praise him.
Mr. Key was the son of John Ross Key, a man of means and high social position,
and a self-sacrificing patriot of the Revolution; and was born on his fathers
estate, Terra Rubra, Frederick, Maryland, on August 1st, 1779. He was educated
at St. Johns College, Annapolis, and in 1802 married the representative
of another distinguished Maryland family, Mary Tayloe Lloyd, whose ancestral
home, with its wainscotted drawing-room, has stood in Annapolis from 1709
Mr. Key practiced law in Frederick for some years, afterward moving to
Georgetown, D. C. For three terms he was district attorney of the District
of Columbia. As a lawyer he seems not to have been given to severe studies,
but yet competent, with a ready mind full of resources and equal to the
occasion. He had, too, more than a little of the gifts of the orator; was
natural and earnest, and easily kindled into passion. In person he was
slight, and of extraordinary vigor both in mind and body; walking, when
an elderly man, with the light and elastic gait of a boy, and highly charged
with electricity through his whole system. He was absolutely fearless,
ardent, impulsive, frank, outspoken; not without the defects of his qualities.
Not always recognized by passing acquaintances as being all that he was,
and yet always as being a gentleman. He was cheerful, and liked social
life and hospitalities, and excelled in bright conversation. Of real warmth
of heart, he loved his friends with great loyalty and his family with tender
Mr. Key was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, of the type known
as Evangelical. He loved his own Church, but one who had been his rector
(Rev. John T. Brooke) has taken pains to record in a Memorial Discourse
that he had no sympathy whatever with the later attempts of individuals,
at different periods, to erect high and exclusive fences upon the original
peculiarities of the church. He was in sympathy with good men of every
name, and ready to worship and cooperate with them. Though burdened with
the care of a very large family and heavy professional duties, he was habitually
busy in Christian work to a degree that excited the wonder of his pastor.
Ready to officiate as lay-reader when needed, a fervent participant in
social meetings for prayer, he found much time to visit the sick, to comfort
the mourning, to confer with the enquiring, to warn the careless; and he
stood ever ready, at a moments warning, to lift his voice in behalf of
any of the great public charities of the day.
Mr. Key and his wife were both slave-holders by inheritance, but deplored
the existence of the institution of slavery. Mr. Key gave much thought
to his own negroes, and regularly held Sunday-school for them; in his neighborhood
he was proverbially the colored mans friend, their unpaid advocate in
the courts, their helper in time of trouble. He was among the first to
think out the scheme of African colonization as the most hopeful remedy
for a complicated situation. In connection with his friend Bishop Meade,
he traveled much and worked hard to promote the cause, to which he became
ardently devoted. His income was always carefully apportioned to provide
a fund for his charities, and among his last words were his directions
where to find and how to employ the moneys then on hand for such uses.
Francis Scott Key
Good men are great blessings to the community it was so that Mr. Keys
pastor began the Memorial Discourse. But they must die so it continued.
And though a commonplace, one can understand how hard it must have been
to apply the phrase to one so very much alive as he. Mr. Key died in Baltimore,
January 11th, 1843. In addition to the monument over his grave erected
by popular subscription, a statue of him also stands in Golden Gate Park,
San Francisco, provided by the will of James Lick, the California millionaire.
But his song is his monument. Toward the end of the War of 1812 he learned
that a friend and neighbor had been taken from his home by the British
forces and was held as a prisoner on board the admirals ship. He at once
determined to intercede for his friends release, and secured from the
government such papers as were necessary to his purpose. Visiting the squadron
of the British on the Potomac under a flag of truce, that summer day in
1814, he was detained under guard, for an attack on Baltimore was just
about to begin. Anxiously he paced the deck through the long night of the
bombardment until he caught the dawns early light on the flag still waving
over Fort McHenry. The attack had failed. He was released with the song
in his heart, and most of it roughly drafted on the back of a letter before
he reached the shore. The next day it was printed on handbills, and men
were singing it, as they have been ever since.
SOME POINTS FOR DISCUSSION
(1) The first would seem to be in regard to the value of the newly found
lines, as to whether they are a real addition to the hymn. It will be
noticed that in the second verse (keeping to the eight-line form of each
verse) the poet recites the acts of divine love calculated to raise the
dull soul to a rapture of gratitude. But that verse stops with the appearing
of the cross. The newly found verse (as the third) celebrates the Saviors
drawing the sinner to that cross, the call of His gospel, the gifts of
His pardon and His peace. Do not these things add to the grounds of praise?
Can they be omitted without loss to the hymn?
(2) We have now three texts of the hymn where we had only one, and the
opportunity, always interesting, of comparing them. They are the text in
the magazine, that of the autograph, and the usual text as here printed.
The first verse is precisely the same in all three texts.
The second verse is identical in the autograph copy and in the usual text.
But we have to choose between their reading of the seventh line, the light
of hope, and that of the magazine, the light of life.
Of the newly found third verse there are only two texts. That of the autograph
copy is before us; that of the magazine reads (the differences are italicized):
Praise thy Savior Lord, that drew thee
To that cross, new life to give
Calld a guilt-staind sinner to thee!
Bade thee look to him and live!
Praise the grace whose threats alarmd thee!
Rousd thee from thy fatal
Praise the grace whose pardon savd thee!
Praise the grace that whisperd
The last verse in the autograph copy has only one word different from the
usual text here printed; its fifth line reading, Let thy love instead
of Let thy grace. But in the magazine the verse reads:
Lord, this bosoms ardent feeling,
Vainly would my tongue express!
thy foot-stool kneeling,
Deign thy suppliants prayer to bless!
Let thy love, my hearts best treasure,
Ever bind me to Thy ways!
ever seek thy pleasure!
Let me ever lisp thy praise!
If the writer were to venture a guess as to the history of the three texts
it would be that the magazine has the hymn as originally written; that
Mr. Key afterward saw that the line, Calld a guilt-staind sinner to
thee! in the newly found verse, and the lack of rhyme between alarmd
thee and savd thee, needed correction, and the close of the hymn needed
strengthening; so that he changed the hymn to the form seen in the autograph
copy; and that the omission of the third verse and the single change that
marks the usual text as here printed were made by Dr. Muhlenberg. If the
writer were editing a hymn book today he should print this hymn precisely
as in Mr. Keys autograph copy.
NOTE Since making the statement on page 54 concerning the appearance of
the hymn in its four-verse form, I have discovered a second printing in
that form in The Washington Theological Repertory for December, 1819, page
151. The hymn is headed For The Repertory, as though making its first