Hymn #205: Forty Days and Forty Nights

George Hunt Smyttan (1822-1870) wrote three poems for Lent, one of which became this hymn. It was published in the March 1856 edition of The Penny Post and was revised five years later in Hymns Fitted to the Order of Common Prayer (1861), by Francis Pott.

George H. Smyttan was an Anglican clergyman who published three collections of verse. Smyttan moved in 1859 to Germany, where he died at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, unknown and friendless. He was buried in a pauper’s grave, and his name was entered in the burial registry only as “Smyttan, England.”

Martin Herbst (1654-1681) is believed to have written this tune, but it is named HEINLEIN after Paul Heinlein (1626-1686), another German composer to whom it was attributed in the past. The tune also has been called AUS DER TIEFE, for the German text with which it appeared in a 1676 hymnbook.

Martin Herbst was born in Nürnberg, Germany, and became a Lutheran pastor. He served as rector for the school and pastor of the church at Eisleben in 1680 but died of the plague the following year, at age twenty-seven. This is one of three tunes attributed to Herbst.