Monday, February 20, 2012

On a Quiet November Evening

This moving article comes from the book On the King's Service Inward Glimpses of Men at Arms by Innes Logan.

Innes Logan was Chaplin to the Forces from September 1914 to May 1916.

Here he reflects the words of a famous hymn as it drifts on a gentle wind that carried with it the noise of a heavy gun firing a round.

“One November evening I was picking my way cautiously through the mud camp near Reninghelst, and hearing the tune of a famous hymn, drew near to listen, for Jock sometimes sings to hymn tunes words that certainly never appeared in any hymn-book, and I wanted to make sure that it was the greatest hymn in the English language which was being sung. It was a quiet night. Now and again a heavy gun fired a round, and infrequently, on a gentle wind blowing from the trenches, was borne the rattle of a machine-gun. From all the camp arose the subdued confused noise of an army settling to rest for the night. Some tents were in darkness, in others a candle burned, and here and there braziers still glowed redly.

It was from one of the lighted tents that the singing came, each part being taken, and a sweet clear tenor voice leading. The tune was old 'Communion,' and they had just come to this verse:

'Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God:
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.'

How often have we sung that, perhaps thoughtlessly, in comfort at home, but these lads had in truth sacrificed the 'vain things.' With a lump in my throat I waited for the last verse:

'Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all.'

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