Abide With Me
By Worshipful Brother Peter Brown, Past Master Lodge Muizenberg
Published in the 1993 GLSA Southern Division Spring Ball Magazine
I found an article in an old copy of the Natal Masonic Journal explaining the origins of the lovely hymn which we sing at the close of our workings. I believe it is well worth reproducing, with acknowledgement to NMJ.
As one of the few living descendants of the author of the above hymn, Mr W Maxwell Lyte writers to the Times: “It is only those who know the tragic circumstances under which this beautiful hymn was written who can explain the inner meaning of the words, ‘Fast falls the eventide’.
“My great-grandfather, Rev. Henry Francis Lyte, author, was Vicar of Lower Broxham, a picturesue little fishing village on the shores of Torbay. During the latter part of his life he devoted himself to the service of the humble fisher folk of Brixham, among whom were many of his best friends. His labours undermined his health, but he persisted in his work until his health broke completely under the strain, and his doctor told him he must go abroad at once. He was dying of consumption.
“He preached his farewell sermon one Sunday evening and as he walked slowly home the sun was setting in a blaze of glory, and the purple hills of distant Dartmoor stood out darkly against a flaming sky. In the foreground was Brixham Harbour, like a pool of molten gold. Several times the poet stopped to rest and gaze on this wonderful manifestation of nature.
“We can well imagine his feelings. He had just said ‘Goodbye’ for the last time to his parishioners, and he knew he had only a few weeks to live. The dying day reminded him insistently of his life, which was drawing to its close, so he prayed that before he died he might be allowed to write one message of consolation to humanity which would endure forever.
“On arriving home he went to his study and wrote the immortal hymn which has enriched our language and brought comfort and consolation to millions.
“His prayer was indeed answered. No-one who knows the circumstance under which the hymn was written can sing it without feeling some of the emotion which inspired the poet as he wrote about the eventide of his life.”