Text: JOHN HENRY NEWMAN
Music: JOHN B. DYKES
Tune Name: LUX BENIGNA
Arrangement: DARMON MEADER
© 2014 Hamptones Music
The lyrics of this hymn are in direct reflection to Cardinal John Henry Newman’s life (1801 – 1890). In 1833, Cardinal Newman, while abroad in Italy, became seriously ill and longed to return home to England. It was during this time, when as a young priest, that he penned the words to his poem then entitled “The Pillar of Cloud”. He recounts:
“Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, “I have a work to do in England.” I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, “Lead, Kindly Light,” which have since become so well known.”
These lyrics, then, are the author's account of the state of his personal feeling, and the circumstances which surrounded him at the time that he wrote what must be regarded as one of the finest lyrics of the nineteenth century. Angry at the state of disunion and indifference in the Church he still loved and in which he still believed; confident that he had "a mission," "a work to do in England;", passionately longing for home and the converse of friends; sick in body to prostration, and, as some around him feared, even unto death; feeling that he should not die but live, and that he must work, but knowing not what that work was to be, how it was to be done, or to what it might tend, he breathed forth his impassioned prayer.
John B. Dykes (1823-1876) set these lyrics to a music that came to him while walking the busy streets of London in August of 1865. He named his hymn tune Lux Benigna (Kindly Light) after the light which if we will follow kindly leads us out of the darkness of adversity and trial.