I grew up with the old hymns. I love them in a way I do not feel towards any modern song. I don’t really think that is because they are superior to a truly well thought lyric or tune in the modern repetoire, but because they are associated with spiritual doorways to my soul.
Every Sunday would have us singing the Doxology. That hymn always ushers quiet in my soul… it makes me somehow “be still and know that I Am God”.
I love too many hymns to recount here, but I especially love those with the Welsh tunes and the Hungarian . Melodically melancholic in their minor keys, they are also uplifting, as if from the depth of coal mines or of galley slaves quarters they look up and hope in God alone.
a bit of history:
for the chained men, whether slaves on the ships of the Ottoman sultan and the corsair captains of North Africa, or condemned prisoners on the galleys of the Most Catholic King of Spain or the Most Christian King of France, to serve at the oars was a form of living death. Their end might come in many ways. They were unlikely to starve, for it was not in the interests of any galley captain to lose his skilled rowers needlessly. Beans, corn, and a little meat, with wine on the Christian ships, were the staples, while buckets of freshwater were always available at each bench to slake the thirst of the rowers. Each man would drink about two liters a day at the height of the summer sailing season. Once a rower had become conditioned to the life, and survived the first few months, his whole body adapted to the rhythm of the oars. Some oarsmen lasted for thirty years or more. Disease was the most likely end to their suffering, for cuts and wounds inevitably festered in such conditions. The weak, sickly, or moribund would simply be unchained and tossed overboard. Only the strokes could expect better treatment: strong and reliable pacesetters could bring a ship up to maximum speed more reliably than the whip of the boatswain.
In times of war especially the demand for rowers was insatiable, and there were never enough men to fill the benches.
…….The men who filled the benches on most Christian warships were either Muslim villagers or prisoners of war. But they also included many Christians ground out through the machinery of the law. In Spain, debt, sedition, even petty crime could bring a sentence to the galleys. As the demand for oarsmen rose, so the flow of criminals through the courts who were condemned to the galleys increased. Often those who had served their time at the oars and were due for release were held back.p These forzados, or pressed men, were technically free but in every other respect were treated as harshly as they had been before. In France, the Catholic authorities sent a steady stream of Protestants to serve in the galleys, while the papal prisons were regularly emptied to fill the rowing benches.
~ Excerpt from ‘Infidels, A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam
by Andrew Wheatcroft’
Remembering worthy women:
Jane Haining was the only Scot who perished in a Nazi concentration camp. Of a Dumfries-shire farming family, following secretarial work in Paisley she felt called to work with Jewish missions.
She studied at the Glasgow Domestic College, trained as a teacher and as a missionary, and served from 1932 as matron of the girls home of the Scottish Jewish Mission in Budapest. As fascism spread, the Church of Scotland urged her to come home. Her response was: “If these children need me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in days of darkness.” Despite the opportunity to escape, she remained in Hungary, and would be found weeping as she sewed the yellow star on the clothes of her Jewish charges.
She went with her girls to Auschwitz, tattooed with the number 79467, where most probably on this day in 1944 she was gassed along with them.