When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

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The hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", was written by Isaac Watts, and published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. It is significant for being an innovative departure from the early English hymn style of only using paraphrased biblical texts, although the first two lines of the second verse do paraphrase St Paul at Galatians 6:14. The poetry of "When I survey..." may be seen as English literary baroque.[1]

The hymn's fourth verse ("His dying crimson...") is commonly omitted in printed versions, a practice that began with George Whitefield in 1757.[2]

In the final verse, some modern variations substitute the word "offering" for "present" to sound more religious.

Musical settings[edit]

Other uses[edit]

  • Sung to the tune 'Rockingham', it has been used for many years by the BBC to introduce its 7am broadcast on Good Friday.
  • It forms the musical setting for the culmination of a passion play told in dance choreographed by Walter Nicks, an American modern dancer.
  • Showbread, a Christian "Raw Rock" band, used excerpts of the lyrics in their song "The Beginning" from the album Nervosa.


  1. ^ D. Davie, "Baroque in the Hymn-Book" in D. Wood (ed) The Church and the Arts (Oxford, 1992), pp. 329-342
  2. ^ Davie, p. 333
  3. ^ Hawn, C. Michael (January 1, 2003). Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-8028-0983-4. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 

External links[edit]