Updated: Apr 24
Text: Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) Tune: Irish folk or John Bacchus Bykes (1823-1876)
1. The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his And he is mine for ever.
2. Where streams of living water flow My ransomed soul he leadeth, And where the verdant pastures grow With food celestial feedeth.
3. Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love he sought me, And on his shoulder gently laid, And home, rejoicing, brought me.
4. In death's dark vale I fear no ill With thee, dear Lord, beside me; Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.
5. Thou spread'st a table in my sight; Thy unction, grace bestoweth: And O what transport of delight From thy pure chalice floweth!
6. And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never; Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise Within thy house for ever.
If there are two settings of a hymn in a hymnal, the leader better be sure which one is preferred. The English seem to prefer the Dykes tune, Dominus Regit Me for this lovely text: it was sung at Princess Diana’s funeral. (Link below) On the other hand, at an ordination service I attended once, this hymn was to be sung to the Irish tune, but the organist chose the English one. It ruined the service for the candidate.
The name of the Irish tune, St. Columba, brings to mind more than the memories of singing it
in church, or not, or as an anthem I sang while in the Augsburg Choir. It is the name of an Irish monk who left Ireland after a dispute with his bishop. He left, the legends say, in a huff, with some other monks and went toward Scotland until they found a place where they could not see Ireland. The island was the Holy Isle of Iona. Arriving in 563, Columba built an abbey from which he sent missionaries to the Picts in Scotland. Through his work, Scotland became Christian. The monks of the abbey prepared the beautiful Book of Kells, among the most glorious treasures of the early church in Britain.
On Friday, January 13, 1976, I headed north from Glasgow to visit the isle. To get there I took the train, then a ferry, then a bus across the Isle of Mull, where we pushed sheep off the road to pass by. Finally, I stood at the pier where the small red boat to Iona was about to leave. The casket of an elderly woman, Kate, had traveled with us from Glasgow. People on the ferry spoke of her fondly on her homeward journey.
We climbed into the boat, looking into the afternoon sun shining through the mist over the isle. The boat rocked as the casket was loaded on. It was covered with gladioli, and drops of water pearling on the polished wood. The other passenger, a young man, allowed as how sailing over the waters on Friday, the 13, in a small boat barely big enough to hold two passengers and a casket gave him the willies.
When we arrived at the dock, a party was waiting to receive the coffin. Surprisingly,I found a place to stay and roamed the island for some days until the next boat came. Legend had it that the druids thought it a holy isle as well. To the North across the bay one could see Fingal’s cave, and where the Vikings landed to pillage; to the south, places where angels were reported to have ministered to the monks. It was not hard to think it likely as the sun sparkled in the sea mist hanging in the air.
On the next day, now grey and cloudy, I walked up to where the remains of Columba's rooms were and looked down on the interment of the woman, the dark Presbyterian clerical robes, people in black coats standing around the maple coffin being set into the black gash of dirt on the emerald green grass of the cemetery. Sheep munching away on the green pastures, the King of Love feeding us, from the verdant meadows, his celestial food. His goodness faileth never!
Sir Henry William Baker, the writer of this very fine paraphrase of Psalm 23, was an Anglican
divine who wrote several hymn texts that have endured. A member of the high liturgical party of the Anglican church, his greatest work was the editing of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Scholars note in his work a strain of melancholy and sadness. He is said to have died muttering the words of the third stanza of this hymn: "Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,/But yet in love he sought me,/And on his shoulder gently laid,/And home, rejoicing, brought me."
Choral arrangement BYU Singers
Choir with text to sing along with
Prague Symphony with Ars Nova
St. Columba tune
Princess Diana’s funeral version/the Dykes’ tune