Lead, Kindly Light
Lead, Kindly Light is a hymn with words written in 1833 by John Henry Newman as a poem titled "the Pillar of Cloud". In some hymnals, one may find a fourth verse added by Edward H Bickersteth Jr, Bishop of Exeter. It is usually sung to the tune Lux Benigna, composed by John Bacchus Dykes in 1865, to Alberta by William H Harris, or as a choral anthem by John Stainer (1886). New choral settings have been composed by Nottingham-based composer Alex Patterson, first performed in December 2011, and by American composer Dan Forrest, first performed April 3, 2012.
As a young priest, Newman became sick while in Italy and was unable to travel for almost three weeks. In his own words:
- Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, "I have a work to do in England." I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, Kindly Light, which have since become so well known.
Notable occasions relating to hymn
The largest mining disaster in Britain was at West Stanley Colliery, known locally as "The Burns Pit", when 168 men and boys lost their lives as the result of two underground explosions at 3:45pm on Tuesday 16 February 1909. In the Towneley Seam 63 lay dead, in the Tilley Seam 18 lay dead, in the Busty Seam 33 lay dead and in the Brockwell Seam 48 lay dead. But incredibly, there were still men alive underground. A group of 34 men and boys in the Tilley Seam had found a pocket of clean air. They were led by Deputy Mark Henderson. Sadly a few of them panicked and left the group, they died instantly after inhaling the poison gas. The remainder sat in almost total darkness, when one of them began humming the Hymn "Lead Kindly Light". In no time at all. the rest of the miners joined in with the words, "Lead kindly light amidst the encircling gloom, lead thou me on, The night is dark, and I am far away from home". Before the hymn ended, young Jimmy Gardner died of injuries. These 26 men were rescued after 14 hours, four others were later rescued.
"Lead, Kindly Light" was sung by Bestie Ten Boom, sister of Corrie Ten Boom, and other women as they were led by the S.S. Guards to the concentration camp Ravensbruck during the Holocaust.
'Lead Kindly Light' is also the motto for the Cambridge High School, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The hymn is referred to in Chapter LVI entitled 'Beauty in Loneliness - After All' from Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd.
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John Henry Newman (21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890)
- Corrie Ten Boom. The Hiding Place. USA: Bantam Books, 1974. pp. 190. Paperback
- Lynch, Don; Marschall, Ken (1997). Titanic - An Illustrated History (2nd edition ed.). London: Hodder & Stoughton. p. 77. ISBN 0-340-56271-4.
- Thomas Hardy. Far From The Madding Crowd. London: Penguin, 1994. pp. 361-2.