Cwm Rhondda

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Cwm Rhondda
Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah
TextWilliam Williams
Based onIsaiah 58:11
MelodyJohn Hughes

Cwm Rhondda, taken from the Welsh name for the Rhondda Valley, is a popular hymn tune written by John Hughes.

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 in Welsh. The tune and hymn are often called Bread of Heaven because of a 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.

Plaque at Capel Rhondda, Hopkinstown


Capel Rhondda, Hopkinstown

John Hughes wrote the first version of the tune, which he called "Rhondda", in 1905 for the Cymanfa Ganu (hymn festival) in Pontypridd, 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's words because of the large number of English-speaking industrial workers who had immigrated 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.

John Owen-Jones singing 'Bread of Heaven'

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 now become 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 collections.

The Welsh version shown here is a somewhat literal translation from the English version back into Welsh. Earlier versions of the hymn book published jointly by the Calvinist and Wesleyan Methodists had five verses (i.e. omitting verse 2 of the 6) and was much closer to Pantycelyn's original, as stated above.


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, no relation of the author but well known for his popular edition of the Welsh Bible, with notes[9][10]) 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.[11] 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 defining 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).[12] 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.)

Original Translation
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 Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.[13][14]

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.[15] 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 tune-words pairing in Welsh is quite different. Arglwydd, arwain.. is usually sung to the tune Capel y Ddôl[16] and Cwm Rhondda is the setting for this hymn by Ann Griffiths:

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).

Non-religious uses[edit]


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). Further, the final chorus is amended to begin "Wales Victorious" .


In the second half of the 20th century, English and Scottish football fans began to regularly 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. Currently, in 2016, the variation "You're Not Singing Any More" when taunting the fans of opposing teams who were on the losing sides remains extremely popular.[17] The chant, along with many variations, remains popular to this day.


  1. ^ John Richard Watson, An Annotated Anthology of Hymns Published 2002, Oxford University Press 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", BBC News, 24 January 2003
  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. ^ 'Emynau a'u Hawduriaid', John Thickens, 1927, Llyfrfa'r Methodistiaid Calvinaidd
  8. ^ "Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook". Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  9. ^ 'Emynau a'u Hawduriaid', John Thickens, 1927, Llyfrfa'r Methodistiaid Calvinaidd
  10. ^ 'Peter Williams – abridged history', J Douglas Davies, Llandyfaelog, published privately
  11. ^ 'Welsh Hymns and their Tunes', Alan Luff, 1990, ISBN 0852497997 p130
  12. ^ 'Gwaith Pantycelyn', Gomer M Roberts, 1960, Gwasg Aberystwyth
  13. ^ "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  14. ^ "She was strength, dignity and laughter". BBC. 2002-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  15. ^ "Soundtracks for The African Queen". IMDB. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  16. ^ 'Caneuon Ffydd', 2001, ISBN 1903754011, Hymn 702, Tune 576
  17. ^ Wighton, Kate; Spanton, Tim (2010-09-28). "Oldencalls". The Sun. London.

External links[edit]