Darkly Frowns the Ev’ning Sky   2 comments

Harrowing of Hades

Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

Image in the Public Domain

Text by Greville Phillimore (1821-1884)

Hymn Source = Sursum Corda:  A Book of Praise (1898), Baptist General Convention for Foreign Missions

William Jensen Reynolds writes from a Southern Baptist perspective:

The three most significant hymnals published for Baptists in the North during the last half of the nineteenth century were The Baptist Hymn and Tune Book (1871), The Baptist Hymnal (1883), and Sursum Corda (1898).  All of these were the work of the American Baptist Publishing Society in Philadelphia.  The first, a large collection of 980 hymns, failed to meet with general acceptance, largely because of the inferior quality of the tunes.  The second collection is of better quality, and while it gives evidence of the rapidly emerging gospel song, it also reveals the initial influence among Baptists of Hymns Ancient and Modern, the most influential English hymnal of the nineteenth century.  Sursum Corda, compiled by E. H. Johnson, went further in this direction.  The compiler’s disregard for the emerging gospel song and his excessive borrowing of Anglican hymns and tunes resulted in a hymnal of the highest quality, but one unacceptable to the majority of Baptist congregations.  All of this plus the Latin title was too much for too many Baptists even in the North.

Companion to Baptist Hymnal (Nashville, TN:  Broadman Press, 1976), page 18

I wondered why an Anglican hymn based on the Harrowing of Hell was in a Baptist hymnal.  Now I know.  I also approve of borrowing Anglican hymns, especially from Hymns Ancient and Modern.  And the Latin title is a nice touch.  The fact of my Episcopal affiliation is showing, is it not?

Sursum Corda is Latin for “Lift up your hearts,” as in that which precedes “We lift them up to the Lord.”

The Baptist General Convention for Foreign Missions helped to form the Northern Baptist Convention in 1907.


Darkly frowns the ev’ning sky;

Falls for woe the mourner’s eye:

Silent is the rocky tomb

Where as yet no dead have come,

Armed soldiers by the side,

They have left the Crucified.


God! my God! and dost thou show

Wonders midst the dead below?

They who slumber ‘neath the earth,

Shall they wake to second birth?

Who shall these dread gates unfold,

Barred through all the days of old?


Lo! the doors are opening,

And the dead behold their King:

See! the awful fathers know

Him, who lays death’s terrors low:

Hark! he bids the ancients rise

Ransomed by his sacrifice.


When we sink into the dust,

May we fix on thee our trust!

Saviour of the sons of men,

May we die to live again!

Dying, may our faith recall

Thy dear death and burial.


2 responses to “Darkly Frowns the Ev’ning Sky

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  1. Pingback: Holy Week: Holy Saturday | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: Greville Phillimore | GATHERED PRAYERS

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