Cwm Rhondda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Cwm Rhondda
Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
TextWilliam Williams
Based onIsaiah 58:11
MelodyJohn Hughes
Plaque at Capel Rhondda, Hopkinstown

Cwm Rhondda, taken from the Welsh name for the Rhondda Valley, is a popular hymn tune written by John Hughes (1873–1932) in 1907.

It is usually used in English as a setting for William Williams' text "Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" (or, in some traditions, "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah"),[1] originally Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch ("Lord, lead me through the wilderness") in Welsh. The tune and hymn are often called "Bread of Heaven" because of a repeated line in this English translation.

In Welsh the tune is most commonly used as a setting for a hymn by Ann Griffiths, Wele'n sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd ("Lo, between the myrtles standing").


Capel Rhondda, Hopkinstown

John Hughes wrote the first version of the tune, which he called "Rhondda", for the Cymanfa Ganu (hymn festival) in Pontypridd in 1905, when the enthusiasm of the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival still remained.[2] The present form was developed for the inauguration of the organ at Capel Rhondda, in Hopkinstown in the Rhondda Valley, in 1907.[3] Hughes himself played the organ at this performance, using the English translation of William Williams' words perhaps because of the large number of English-speaking industrial workers who had migrated to the area.[citation needed] The name was changed from "Rhondda" to "Cwm Rhondda" by Harry Evans, of Dowlais, to avoid confusion with another tune, by M. O. Jones.

A modernised version of 'Bread of Heaven', sang by John Owen-Jones
Traditional version, sung by Cymanfa Treforus

The hymn is usually pitched in A-flat major and has the measure which is common in Welsh hymns. The third line repeats the first and the fourth line develops the second. The fifth line normally involves a repeat of the four-syllable text and the sixth reaches a climax on a dominant seventh chord (bar 12) – emphasised by a rising arpeggio in the alto and bass parts. The final line continues the musical development of the second and fourth (and generally carries a repeat of the text of the sixth). On account of these vigorous characteristics, the tune was resisted for some time in both Welsh and English collections but has long been firmly established.[4]

\new StaffGroup
  \new Staff \relative c'
  { \time 4/2 \key aes \major \tempo 2 = 72 \set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t
      { \voiceOne ees2 f ees2. aes4 | aes (g) aes (bes) c2 bes2 | c aes f des' | c bes aes1 | ees2 f ees2. aes4 | aes (g) aes (bes) c2 bes2 | c2 des ees des4 (bes) | aes2 g aes1 | bes2. c4 des2 bes | c2. des4 ees2 c | ees2. ees4 ees ees ees ees | ees\breve | ees2. des4 c (ees) des (bes) | aes2 g aes1 \bar "|." }
      \new Voice="Alto"
      { \voiceTwo c,2 des ees2. ees4 | ees2 ees4 (f) ees2 ees | ees des f f | ees des c1 | c2 des ees2. ees4 | ees2 ees4 (f) ees2 ees | ees2 f ees f | ees ees ees1 | g2. aes4 bes2 ees, | aes2. bes4 c (bes) aes2 | aes2. aes4 g aes ees aes | g2 ees4 g bes1 | aes2. g4 aes2 f | ees ees ees1 }
  \addlyrics { Guide me, O thou great Re -- dee -- mer, Pil -- grim through this bar -- ren land; I am weak, but thou art migh -- ty; Hold me with thy power -- ful hand: Bread of hea -- ven, bread of hea -- ven Feed me till I want no more. Feed me till I want no more. }
  \new Staff \relative c
  {  \time 4/2 \key aes \major \clef "bass"
    { \voiceOne aes'2 aes aes2. c4 | c (bes) aes2 aes g | aes aes aes aes | aes g aes1 | aes2 aes aes2. c4 | c (bes) aes2 aes g | aes aes aes aes4 (des) | c2 bes c1 | ees2. c4 bes (aes) g (bes) | ees2. des4 c2 ees | ees2. ees4 des c bes aes | ees'\breve | ees2. ees4 ees (c) aes (des) | c2 bes4 (des) c1 }
    \new Voice="Bass"
    { \voiceTwo aes,2 des c bes | aes4 (bes) c (des) ees2 ees | aes f des bes | ees ees aes,1 | aes2 des c bes | aes4 (bes) c (des) ees2 ees | aes f c des | ees2 ees aes,1 | ees'2. ees4 ees (f) g2 | aes2. ees4 aes (bes) c2 | c2. c4 bes aes g f | ees2 g4 bes des1 | c2. bes4 aes2 des, | ees ees aes1 }

Hymn text: 'Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer'[edit]


The following are the English and Welsh versions of the hymn, as given in the standard modern collections.

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.

Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch,
Fi, bererin gwael ei wedd,
Nad oes ynof nerth na bywyd
Fel yn gorwedd yn y bedd:
Hollalluog, Hollalluog,
Ydyw'r Un a'm cwyd i'r lan.
Ydyw'r Un a'm cwyd i'r lan

Agor y ffynhonnau melus
'N tarddu i maes o'r Graig y sydd;
Colofn dân rho'r nos i'm harwain,
A rho golofn niwl y dydd;
Rho i mi fanna, Rho i mi fanna,
Fel na bwyf yn llwfwrhau.
Fel na bwyf yn llwfwrhau.

Pan yn troedio glan Iorddonen,
Par i'm hofnau suddo i gyd;
Dwg fi drwy y tonnau geirwon
Draw i Ganaan – gartref clyd:
Mawl diderfyn. Mawl diderfyn
Fydd i'th enw byth am hyn.
Fydd i'th enw byth am hyn.

Lord, lead me through the wilderness,
Me, a pilgrim of poor appearance,
I don't have strength or life in me,
Like lying in the grave:
Omnipotent, Omnipotent
Is the one who brings me to the shore.
Is the one who brings me to the shore.

Open the sweet fountains
Flowing from the Rock that is;
Give a column of fire to lead me at night,
And give a column of fog during the day.
Give me manna. Give me manna,
So that I shall not falter.
So that I shall not falter.

When I walk the bank of the Jordan,
Cause all my fears to sink;
Take me through the roughest waves
Over to Canaan, a cosy home:
Unending praise. Unending praise
Will be to Your name for this.
Will be to Your name for this.

The Welsh version shown above is a somewhat literal re-translation from the English version back into Welsh. Earlier versions of the hymn book published jointly by the Calvinist and Wesleyan Methodists had a version with five verses (i.e. omitting verse two of the six given in the History section below) that was otherwise much closer to Pantycelyn's original Welsh text.


William Williams Pantycelyn (named, in the Welsh style, "Pantycelyn" after the farm which his wife inherited) is generally acknowledged as the greatest Welsh hymnwriter.[6] The Welsh original of this hymn was first published as Hymn 10 in Mor o Wydr (Sea of Glass) in 1762. It comprised six verses.[7] (References to a five verse version in Pantycelyn's Alleluia of 1745[8] appear to be incorrect.) It was originally titled Gweddi am Nerth i fyned trwy anialwch y Byd (Prayer for strength for the journey through the world's wilderness).

Peter Williams (1722–1796)[a] translated part of the hymn into the English version given above, with the title Prayer for Strength. It was published in Hymns on various subjects, 1771. This translation is the only Welsh hymn to have gained widespread circulation in the English-speaking world.[10] The present-day Welsh version, given above, is essentially a redaction of the original to parallel Peter Williams's English version. A result of the translation process is that the now-familiar phrase "Bread of heaven" does not actually occur in the original; it is a paraphrase of the references to manna.

The Welsh word Arglwydd corresponds more-or-less to the English Lord, in all its senses. It appears in the Old Testament to translate Hebrew words which are a paraphrase of the Divine Name (the tetragrammaton), and in the New Testament to translate κύριος (kyrios), the standard honorific for Jesus Christ. Accordingly, Peter Williams translated it as Jehovah in accord with the practice of his time. Many English-language hymnals today translate it as "Redeemer".

The following version of the original is taken from Gwaith Pantycelyn (The Works of Pantycelyn).[11] All but the second verse is given, with minor variations, in the Welsh Hymnbook of the Calvinist and Wesleyan Methodists, published by the assemblies of the two churches. (The variations are mainly to update the language, e.g. in verse 1 ynwyf (elided to ynwy'), meaning "in [me]", has become ynof in more modern Welsh.)

Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch
Fi bererin gwael ei wedd,
Nad oes ynwy' nerth na bywyd
Fel yn gorwedd yn y bedd:
Hollalluog, hollalluog,
Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan.

Myfi grwydrais hir flynyddau,
Ac heb weled codi'r wawr;
Anobaithiais, heb dy allu,
Ddod o'r anial dir yn awr;
Dere dy hunan, dere dy hunan,
Dyna'r pryd y dof i maes.

Rho’r golofn dannos i'm harwain,
A’r golofn niwl y dydd;
Dal fi pan bwy’n teithio’r mannau
Geirwon yn fy ffordd y sydd:
Rho i mi fanna, rho i mi fanna,
Fel na bwyf i lwfwrhau.

Agor y ffynhonnau melys
Sydd yn tarddu o’r Graig i ma's;
'R hyd yr anial mawr canlyned
Afon iechydwriaeth gras:
Rho i mi hynny, rho i mi hynny,
Dim imi ond dy fwynhau.

Pan bwy’n myned trwy’r Iorddonen,
Angau creulon yn ei rym,
Ti est trwyddi gynt dy hunan,
Pam yr ofna'i bellach ddim?
Buddugoliaeth, buddugoliaeth,
Gwna imi waeddi yn y llif!

Mi ymddirieda' yn dy allu,
Mawr yw’r gwaith a wnest erioed:
Ti gest angau, ti gest uffern,
Ti gest Satan dan dy droed:
Pen Calfaria, Pen Calfaria,
Nac aed hwnw byth o’m cof.

Lord, guide me through the wilderness,
A pilgrim weak of aspect,
There is neither strength nor life in me,
As though lying in the grave,
It is Thou who shalt take me to that shore.

I wandered for long years,
And saw not the break of dawn;
I despaired, without Thy strength,
Ever to leave the desert land;
Do Thou grant,
The occasion to escape.

Give Thou a pillar of fire to lead me in the night,
And a pillar of mist in the day,
Hold me when I travel places
Which are rough on the way,
Give me manna,
Thus shall I not despair.

Open the sweet springs
Which gush forth from the rock,
All across the great wilderness
May a river of healing grace follow:
Give this to me
Not for me but for Thy sake.

When I go through Jordan -
Cruel death in its force -
Thou Thyself suffered this before,
Why shall I fear further?
Let me cry out in the torrent.

I shall trust in Thy power,
Great is the work that Thou hast always done,
Thou conquered death, Thou conquered hell,
Thou hast crushed Satan beneath Thy feet,
Hill of Calvary,
This shall never escape from my memory.


The hymn describes the experience of God's people in their travel through the wilderness from the escape from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12–14), being guided by a cloud by day and a fire by night (Exodus 13:17–22) to their final arrival forty years later in the land of Canaan (Joshua 3). During this time their needs were supplied by God, including the daily supply of manna (Exodus 16).

The hymn text forms an allegory for the journey of a Christian throughout their life on earth requiring the Redeemer's guidance and ending at the gates of Heaven (the verge of Jordan) and end of time (death of death and hell's destruction).

Instances of use[edit]

The hymn has been sung on various British state occasions, such as the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the weddings of Prince William and Catherine Middleton and of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.[12][13]

The hymn is also featured prominently in the soundtrack to the 1941 film How Green Was My Valley, directed by John Ford. The soundtrack, by Alfred Newman, won that year's Academy Award for Original Music Score. It is also featured at the beginning of The African Queen (film), with Katharine Hepburn singing and playing the organ.[14] Only Men Aloud! also sang an arrangement by Tim Rhys-Evans and Jeffrey Howard on the BBC 1 Show Last Choir Standing in 2008. They subsequently released it on their self-titled début album.

The hymn was the informal anthem of Wales in the "Green and Pleasant Land" section of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

The BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave used this song on the episode "The Beast In The Cage". The lyrics were altered to be about the main character Victor Meldrew.

Hymn text: 'Wele'n sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd'[edit]

Despite the history of the tune and its common English text, the usual tune-words pairing in Welsh is quite different. Arglwydd, arwain... is usually sung to the tune Capel y Ddôl[15] and Cwm Rhondda is the setting for the hymn Wele'n Sefyll Rwng y Myrtwydd by Ann Griffiths:

Wele'n sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd
Wrthrych teilwng o fy mryd;
Er o'r braidd 'rwy'n Ei adnabod
Ef uwchlaw gwrthrychau'r byd:
Henffych fore! Henffych fore!
Caf ei weled fel y mae.
Caf ei weled fel y mae.

Rhosyn Saron yw Ei enw,
Gwyn a gwridog, hardd Ei bryd!
Ar ddeng mil y mae'n rhagori
O wrthddrychau penna'r byd ;
Ffrind pechadur! Ffrind pechadur!
Dyma'r llywydd ar y môr.
Dyma'r llywydd ar y môr.

Beth sydd imi mwy a wnelwyf
Ag eilunod gwael y llawr?
Tystio 'r wyf nad yw eu cwmni
I'w gymharu a'm Iesu Mawr.
O, am aros! O, am aros!
Yn Ei gariad ddyddiau f'oes!
Yn Ei gariad ddyddiau f'oes!

Other English hymn texts[edit]

Some hymnals use this tune for the hymn God of Grace and God of Glory written by Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1930.

Others for Full salvation! Full salvation! Lo, the fountain opened wide by Francis Bottome (1823–94).


In 2007 dignitaries from Pontypridd Town Council unveiled a plaque at Capel Rhondda in Hopkinstown, Pontypridd, to celebrate the centenary of the hymn's composition. Minister Rev Phil Rickards said: "This is where the tune was first publicly performed."[16] A service celebrating the centenary was also held at John Hughes' burial place, Salem Baptist Chapel in nearby Tonteg.[17]


Apart from church use, probably its best known use is as the 'Welsh Rugby Hymn', often sung by the crowd at rugby matches, especially those of the Wales national rugby union team. There it is common for all voices to sing the repeat of the last three syllables of the last-but-one line, e.g. "want no more" or "strength and shield" (which in church use is repeated only in the bass and alto parts, if at all).


From the second half of the 20th century, English and Scottish football fans used often to sing a song based on this tune using the words "We'll support you evermore", which in turn led to many different versions being adapted. As of 2016, the variation "You're Not Singing Any More" when taunting the fans of opposing teams who are losing remains extremely popular.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Peter Williams was no relation of the author but was well known for his popular edition of the Welsh Bible, with notes[7][9]


  1. ^ John Richard Watson, An Annotated Anthology of Hymns, Oxford University Press 2002, p. 228. "Hymns Ancient and Modern and the English Hymnal have always printed Guide me, O thou great redeemer, as the first line."
  2. ^ "Caniadau'r Diwygiad", Noel Gibbard, 2003, ISBN 978-1850491958
  3. ^ "Cwm Rhondda chapel's history celebrated". January 24, 2003. Retrieved 28 April 2020 – via
  4. ^ "Welsh Hymns and their Tunes", Alan Luff, 1990, ISBN 0852497997 pp223-4
  5. ^ Hymns and Psalms. Methodist Publishing House. 1983. ISBN 0-946550-01-8.
  6. ^ 'Welsh Hymns and their Tunes', Alan Luff, 1990, ISBN 0852497997 pp102-3
  7. ^ a b 'Emynau a'u Hawduriaid', John Thickens, 1927, Llyfrfa'r Methodistiaid Calvinaidd
  8. ^ "Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook". Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  9. ^ 'Peter Williams – abridged history', J Douglas Davies, Llandyfaelog, published privately
  10. ^ 'Welsh Hymns and their Tunes', Alan Luff, 1990, ISBN 0852497997 p130
  11. ^ 'Gwaith Pantycelyn', Gomer M Roberts, 1960, Gwasg Aberystwyth
  12. ^ "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  13. ^ "She was strength, dignity and laughter". BBC. 2002-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  14. ^ "Soundtracks for The African Queen". IMDB. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  15. ^ 'Caneuon Ffydd', 2001, ISBN 1903754011, Hymn 702, Tune 576
  16. ^ "A hundred years of Cwm Rhondda". walesonline. November 22, 2007.
  17. ^ "Cwm Rhondda's composer remembered". June 15, 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2020 – via

External links[edit]