The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended
From the book "Lead, Kindly Light" (Reproduced with kind permission of ‘This England’ magazine)
John Ellerton (1826 – 1893)
On 20th June, 1897, congregations in churches all over Great Britain and her Empire were singing the hymn named above. Queen Victoria had specially chosen this hymn of praise with its theme of worldwide Christian fellowship for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The author of the hymn, John Ellerton, did not witness this honour, as he had died four years before.
John was born in London and was greatly influenced in his younger years by his mother’s literary talent and love for literature and the arts. He was educated at Cambridge, where he wrote poetry and only narrowly missed being awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for an English poem. He might well have chosen an academic life – his natural inclinations must have drawn him in that direction -- but instead he chose to make his career in the Church and to use to the full his heart and insights as a poet therein.
He became known for “the charm of his preaching”; he spoke as sincerely and simply as he wrote. He never spoke down to his congregation and he appealed to both academic visitors and local folk alike. His energies were boundless at this time of his life and he helped to set up evening classes for the men in the local railway workshops. He taught English and Scripture History at these classes, he formed one of the first choral associations in the Midlands of England, and all the while he wrote, translated and edited hymns. His aim was always to reach the ordinary working man and to make the world of art and letters accessible to him.
Ellerton did much to heighten the standard of hymns being written in his day and age. Many weak and sentimental hymns were often used in public worship. But he insisted that: “Hymns must be forms of worship. It is not enough that they suggest devotion; they must be capable of expressing it… Hymns must never tempt men to come before the God of truth with superficial emotions and unreal words.”
Ellerton wrote and translated approximately 76 hymns in all. His deeply religious spirit shines through his words. He clearly had a great longing to live the perfect Christian life and to be in constant union with God. The lyrics from his most popular hymn, (also found in our “B” sheets), are as follows:
The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended
The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
We thank Thee that Thy Church unsleeping, While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.