The words of this hymn are by John Greenleaf Whittier and are extracted from a much longer narrative poem The Brewing of Soma . This poem tells the story of Vedic priests who, in search of a religious and spiritual experience, take off into the woods, and drink themselves senseless on a mind-altering substance called soma. Aldous Huxley later uplifted the name of this drug for the euphoric that maintains peace and order amongst the various classes in his dystopian Brave New World.
Once this part of the story is told, the poem continues to the hymn, which forms the 'lesson' of the piece. This, as far as I understand it, is that God is not to be found through indulgence in drink or drugs or other creations of man, but in quiet calm and contemplation of the wonders of the world.
There are three alternative tunes given for the hymn: Music: Rest by Frederick C. Maker, Hammersmith by William Henry Gladstone and Repton by Charles H. H. Parry. Of these three, the most common in the UK (and by far my preferred choice) is Repton, and the end of verse repetitions given below relate to that tune. It is Parry’s music, and not the rather stuffy and pompous words, that always made this one of my favourite hymns, back in my days as a chorister.
Interestingly, (and perhaps ironically given the lyric of the last verse) this hymn is a great favourite at weddings in England.
Verses preceded by an asterisk are often omitted when singing the hymn in the course of a normal service.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise. (rpt)
In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee. (rpt)
O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love! (rpt)
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down. (rpt)
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace. (rpt)
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm. (rpt)