When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

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When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Sandro Botticelli - Christ Carrying the Cross. 1490-1.jpg
"Christ Carrying the Cross" (1490-1491) by Sandro Botticelli
TextIsaac Watts
Based onGalatians 6:14
Meter8.8.8.8 (L.M.)
Melody"Rockingham" arranged by Edward Miller, "Hamburg" by Lowell Mason, and others
HWW When I survey the wondrous cross (Rockingham LM)

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]


Isaac Watts

1. When I survey the wond'rous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory dy'd,
My richest Gain I count but Loss,
And pour Contempt on all my Pride.

2. 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.

3. See from his Head, his Hands, his Feet,
Sorrow and Love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such Love and Sorrow meet?
Or Thorns compose so rich a Crown?

4. His dying Crimson, like a Robe,
Spreads o'er his Body on the Tree;
Then am I dead to all the Globe,
And all the Globe is dead to me.

5. Were the whole Realm of Nature mine,
That were a Present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my Soul, my Life, my All.

The second line of the first stanza originally read "Where the young Prince of Glory dy'd". Watts himself altered that line in the 1709 edition of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, to prevent it from being mistaken as an allusion to Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, the heir to the throne who died at age 11.[citation needed]

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

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

Musical settings[edit]

  • "Rockingham", arranged by Edward Miller, 1790
  • "Hamburg", Lowell Mason, 1824
  • "Eucharist", Isaac B. Woodbury
  • "Morte Criste", Emrys Jones
  • "O Waly, Waly", a folk tune
  • "Senzeni Na?", a South African folk tune[3]
  • "When I Survey/Thank You For the Cross", a modern rearrangement by Tim Hughes, based on "O Waly, Waly", on Soul Survivor (2007)
  • "The Wonderful Cross", a contemporary arrangement by Chris Tomlin and JD Walt utilizing three original verses with a new chorus, on Tomlin's 2001 album The Noise We Make (featuring Matt Redman)
  • Sung to the tune of "The Water is Wide" by Iona on their album "Journey Into The Morn"


Edward Miller

\new Staff <<
\clef treble \key es \major {
      \time 3/2 \partial 2
      \relative es' {
	es2 | g2 aes f | es1 g2 | bes1 c2 | bes1 \bar"" \break
        bes2 | es1 d2 | c1 bes2 | bes2 aes g| g2 f \bar"" \break
        f2 | bes1 c2 | d1 bes2 | es2 g, a | bes1 \bar"" \break
        es,2 | aes1 g2 | f1 es2 | es4 f g2 f | es1 \bar"|."
%\new Lyrics \lyricmode {
\layout { indent = #0 }
\midi { \tempo 2 = 90 }


Lowell Mason

\new Staff <<
\clef treble \key f \major {
      \time 2/2 \partial 1    
      \relative f' {
	f2 f4 g | a2 g4 a | bes2 a4 g | a1 \bar"" \break
        a2 a4 a | bes2 a4 g  | f2 e4 f | g1 \bar"" \break
        f2 f4 g | a2 g4 a | bes2 a4 g | a1 \bar"" \break
        a2 a4 a | g2 f  | g2 a4 g | f1 \bar"" \break
%\new Lyrics \lyricmode {
\layout { indent = #0 }
\midi { \tempo 2 = 54 }

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.

External links[edit]