Lord Jesus, think on me

Lord Jesus, think on me,
and purge away my sin;
from earthborn passions set me free,
and make me pure within.

This hymn is based upon the last of the ten odes of Synesius, Bishop of Cyrene (c.365-414 ?). In these odes the great themes of Christian doctrine are expressed, but in the tenth ode Synesius presents an epilogue of personal supplication. Synesius was a philosopher and country gentleman. He became a Christian in 401 (410 ?) and was consecrated Bishop of Ptolemais. All ten odes were translated by Allen William Chatfield (1808-1896) for his Songs and Hymns of the Earliest Greek Christian Poets, Bishops and others (1876). Chatfield was the son of a vicar, and was himself ordained after education at Charterhouse and Cambridge. Chatfield admits that the translation of this last ode is a paraphrase rather than a direct translation - it omits the first, eighth and ninth stanzas of the Synesius original. Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard present only four verses, the New English Hymnal offers six. Verse 1 was originally written as:

Lord Jesus, think on me:
And this poor offering
Which I do humbly weave for thee
Accept, O Christ my King.

Verses 2, 5, 6 and 7 (of the original version) were used by Benjamin Britten in Noye’s Fludde (1958). Biblical references include - Verse 1, Psalm 106:4, 51:2, 1 John 1:7, 3:3: Verse 2, Isaiah 38:14, John 12:26, Matthew 11:28: Verse 3, Psalm 139:24, John 14:6, Hebrews 10:20: Verse 4, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 5:10.

Tune - Southwell

The tune Southwell first appeared in The Psalmes of David in English meter, with Notes of foure partes set unto them, by Guiliemo Daman, for John Bull, to the use of the godly Christians for recreatyng themselves, in stede of fond and unseemely Ballades (London 1579). William Daman (Damon) (c.1540 - c.1591) was organist of The Chapel Royal during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The tune was originally in the Dorian mode (sharpened fourth and fifth notes of line 3). In Ravenscoft’s The Whole Booke of Psalmes ... (1621) it was named Southwell (Ravenscoft starting a trend of using placenames for tunes) and set to Psalms 50, 70 and 134. It was first used with the present hymn in The English Hymnal (1906).

Nigel Day

St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 4th March 1998