Breathe on me, Breath of God

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

This hymn by Edwin Hatch (1835-89) was privately printed in Between Doubt and Prayer (1878). It was later published in Towards Fields of Light (1890), a memorial volume to Dr Hatch compiled by his widow. Edwin Hatch was educated at both Cambridge and Oxford, and ordained an Anglican priest. From 1859 to 1866 he was in Canada as Professor of Classics (Toronto) and Rector of the High School, Quebec. Upon returning to England he spent the rest of his life in academia. Hatch was a man of deep piety and simplicity of spirit, and won an international reputation for profound and original scholarship. The original verse 3 line 2 reads "Blend all my soul with thine...". Hatch used the word "blend" in the several works on the influence of Greek ideas on Christian thought and organisation. One commentator remarked that Hatch's religious poems "are a beautiful supplement to his theology and reveal the depth and tenderness of his religious life". Breath has long been associated with the concept of the Holy Spirit - both Greek and Latin have the same word for spirit and breath (pneuma and spiritus). The hymn is a meditation on John 3:3-8, where the creating breath of God (Genesis 2:7) becomes the breath of the Holy Spirit in the new creation. It brings new life and love (verse 1, Galatians 2:20 and 5:22), purity and obedience (verse 2, Psalm 51:10, Mark 13:13), surrender and inspiration (verse 3, Acts 2:3-4), and eternal life (verse 4, 1 Peter 5:10).

Tune - Carlisle

The hymn is most commonly sung to the tune Carlisle by Charles Lockhart (1745-1815). Lockhart was blind from birth, but despite this he was a notable church organist in London and established a reputation for training children's choirs. The tune was originally set to the words "Come, Holy Spirit, come", in the Lock Hospital Collection, edited by Martin Madan (1792), where it was named "Invocation". The original version of the tune has the fourth syllable of the first line as a crotchet F instead of the quavers G-F as written today. The name refers to the former Carlisle Chapel, later Holy Trinity Church, in London

Nigel Day
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997