Hymn #103: Watcher, Tell Us of the Night

John Bowring (1792-1872), a politician, poet, and master of languages, served as counsel and governor of Hong Kong.  His time spent in that Eastern commonwealth is said to have influenced the imagery in this text based on Isaiah 21:11-12.

John Bowring published two volumes of sacred verse and more than thirty other books on a wide array of subjects.  Highly regarded for his immense intellect, facility with languages, and diplomatic skills, Bowring served in the British parliament for two separate terms, totaling ten years.

Joseph Parry (1841-1903) composed the tune ABERYSTWYTH in 1879 in the Welsh seaside town of that name, where he was born.  The tune was first set with Bowring’s poetry in The Hymnal 1940 with effective results.  The words and music continued to be paired in hymnals throughout the twentieth century.

Joseph Parry dropped out of school at the age of ten to help support his family.  They moved to the United States in 1854 and settled in Danville, Pennsylvania, where Parry received his first music lessons.  He returned to England in 1868 to study at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and he eventually completed a doctor of music degree at Cambridge University.