Updated: Aug 23
German: Nun der Tag vorüber
Text: Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1934). Tune: Joseph Barnby (1838-1896)
1. Now the day is over, Night is drawing nigh, Shadows of the evening Steal across the sky.
2. Now the darkness gathers,
Stars their watch do keep;
Birds and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep.
3.. Jesus, give the weary Calm and sweet repose; With Thy tend'rest blessing May our eyelids close.
4. Thro' the long night watches,
May thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.
5. Grant to little children Visions bright of Thee; Guard the sailors tossing On the deep blue sea.
6.. Comfort ev'ry suff'rer Watching late in pain; Those who plan some evil From their sin restrain.
7. When the morning wakens, Then may I arise Pure, and fresh, and sinless In Thy holy eyes.
Here is a lovely prayer to sing before going to sleep at night. It is clearly intended to be sung to or with children. Baring-Gould knew about children: he and his wife had fifteen! Nothing quiets one as much as a soothing song like this before going to sleep. It also is in the form of the typical evening prayer which we have seen many times thus far. It notices the time of day, asks for peaceful sleep, for the angels to guard over you during the night, prays for others, even those who plan evil, and for a fresh beginning in the morning.
St. Paul says "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." Ephesians 4:26. Not only was he giving that advice knowing that one needed to be shriven of one’s sins before sleep—the previous generations were very well aware that sleep could bring death—but also it is difficult to fall asleep when one is stewing with resentments, regrets and rage. Jesus invites us to hand all that over to him and clear the slate when he says, “Come unto me…”
Luther thought music was next to the Gospel in importance. He loved it because it changed him, like the Gospel, an announcement coming from outside of him, not something he made up. His very body responded to the beat of the music and its melody, reconnecting it and beating a new rhythm for him that changed him from its deep depression and almost despair. When he was lost in despondency, it is said, his friends would put his lute in his hand and wait. When he came to and started playing it, he would most often be lifted up as the sound tuned his flesh to another melody and beat.
So singing a hymn like this before sleep can calm things down in your being and get you ready for sleep. It helps you hand over what is troubling you and gives you a calm spirit. That is probably why the hymn writers wrote so many morning and evening hymns for family and private devotions. They wanted people to be tuned by the gospel and live their lives to that beat, rather than their own. What a relief to leave all of our stuff with Jesus and go to sleep with a clean slate, restored and forgiven, letting our body prepare for the coming day. Thanks be to God for creating us to receive his goodness through the daily rituals of sleep that bring us out of the darkness into the light, ready for a new day.
HYMN INFO This is about as Victorian a hymn as there is. Baring-Gould was an Anglican divine who served several parishes. He was a prolific writer—one shudders to think of what he would have done with a computer! He wrote over 100 books, many on the Lives of Saints, other history books, novels, hymns, poems. At one time he was the author with the most books in the British Museum. The hymn first appeared in the Appendix to Hymns: Ancient and Modern in 1868. He married, very happily, a young woman in his parish. When she died, he had a phrase written on her tombstone, "Here is half of my soul."
Barnby was also utterly Victorian. He was a well regarded organist and composer in London, and began the tradition of presenting Bach’s St. John’s Passion, and directed the first performance of St. Matthew’s Passion in England where he served, St. Andrews, Wells Street in London. He was knighted by Queen Victoria before his death. His hymns like this one tend to feature the harmonies so that they are fun to sing around the piano on Sunday evening. The bass and tenor have interesting parts which add to the enjoyment of the singing.
The Siebert Family/
Robert Shaw Chorale https://youtu.be/jLu0H_5qmkQ
Helligaand Vespers/Copenhagen https://youtu.be/J-zOu43a5ZM
Sissel with another tune https://youtu.be/Onb5pY0FnoQ