Christian, dost thou see them?

Christian, dost thou see them
On the holy ground?
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around?
Christian, up and smite them,
Counting gain but loss;
Smite them by the merit
Of the holy cross.

This hymn first appeared in Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862) by J M Neale (1818-1866) and was first published for congregational use in his Parish Hymn Book (1863). Neale described it as from a hymn of St Andrew of Crete, but no Greek original has been found. It is probable that the translation is more of an original composition by Neale, based upon some phrases of a Greek hymn. The hymn rapidly grew in favour in Victorian England. Each verse of the hymn has a contrast between the halves. The first half, generally more sombre, depicts variously the prowling troops of Midian, and the (Lenten) temptations, fasting and vigil. The second half offers the hope of victory - smiting the troops and others, the peace following battle and the ultimate ending of all sorrow.

Tune - St Andrew of Crete

Various tunes have been used for this hymn. The antiphonal contrast of the verses referred to above has allowed the opportunity for the more creative of our hymn tune writers to show their skills in composition. The most popular tune is St Andrew of Crete by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876) which is used in Hymns Ancient and Modern. The first half is in a sombre C minor and is a prelude to the brilliance of C major. The contrast is certainly dramatic; some would perhaps argue it is too great. The compositional style is, however, most effective.

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