O Perfect Love, All Human Thought Transcending

Dorothy F Gurney (nee Blomfield) (1858-1932)

Perfect Love http://youtu.be/v0t0-UhExFM Joseph Barnby
Sandringham https://youtu.be/5QSb2rK07Nc Joseph Barnby
Highwood https://youtu.be/6Wj_RBIh8P0 Richard Runciman Terry
Strength and Stay https://youtu.be/R2lPXiXI2NI John B Dykes
  1. O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
    Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
    that theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
    Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

    2. O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance,
    of tender charity and steadfast faith,
    Of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
    With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.

    3. Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
    grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife,
    And to life’s day the glorious unknown morrow
    that dawns upon eternal love and life.

    4. Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
    Through Jesus Christ, Thy coeternal Word,
    Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
    Now and to endless ages art adored.


It would be best to let the author herself speak to the origins of this wedding hymn:

 “It was Sunday evening and we were enjoying a time of hymn singing. A song that was particularly enjoyed by us all was O Strength And Stay. As we finished someone remarked, ‘What a pity the words of this beautiful song are not suitable for a wedding!’

My sister turned to me and challenged, ‘What’s the use of a sister who composed poetry if she cannot write new words to a favourite tune? I would like to use this tune at my wedding.’

I picked up a hymnbook and said, ‘If no one will disturb me, I’ll go into the library and see what I can do.’ Within fifteen minutes I was back with the group and reading the words I had jotted down. The writing of them was no effort after the initial idea came to me., I feel God helped me to write this song.”

Dorothy F Gurney (nee Blomfield) has quite a pedigree. Her father was a pastor at St. Andrews in London and her paternal grandfather was the Bishop of London. She married Gerald Gurney who was an actor who later became a Anglican priest in 1904. The couple joined the Catholic Church in 1919.

As Dorothy tells us the tune “O Strength and Stay” was the tune the text was written for and the one which first brought it fame. However, Joseph Barnby was asked to write a new tune for this text for the royal wedding of the Duke of Fife and the Princess Louise of Wales in 1889.

I have found four different tunes used for this wedding hymn. The Dykes tune “O Strength and Stay” is by far the most popular and Barnby’s Sandringham a distant second.


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