385. Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed

1 Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?

2 Was it for sins that I have done
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
and love beyond degree!

3 Well might the sun in darkness hide
and shut its glories in
when Christ, the mighty Maker, died
for his own creatures' sin.

4 Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears,
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

Text Information
First Line: Alas! and did my Savior bleed
Title: Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
Author: Isaac Watts (1707, alt.)
Publication Date: 1987
Meter: CM
Scripture: Isaiah 53:3-6; Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44; Romans 5:6-11; Luke 23; Romans 5:11
Topic: Cross of Christ; Suffering of Christ; Lent
Language: English
Tune Information
Name: MARTYRDOM
Adapter: Robert Smith (1825)
Composer: Hugh Wilson, 1726-1824
Meter: CM
Key: G Major


Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 2 = Mark 15:34
st. 3 = Mark 15:33

Written by Isaac Watts (PHH 155) in six stanzas, this text was published in Watts' Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. The final line in stanza 1 originally read, "for such a worm as I."

Watts' original heading for the text, "Godly sorrow arising from the suffering of Christ," fits stanzas 1-3 well. Stanza 3 contains the profound paradox of God the creator dying for the sin of human creatures: "Christ, the mighty Maker, died for his own creatures' sin." Stanza 4 moves from penitent sorrow to gratitude and tears of joy.

Liturgical Use:
Holy Week; with sermons on atonement and redemption.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

MARTYRDOM was originally an eighteenth-century Scottish folk melody used for the ballad "Helen of Kirkconnel." Hugh Wilson (b. Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland, c. 1766; d. Duntocher, Scotland, 1824) adapted MARTYRDOM into a hymn tune in duple meter around 1800. A triple-meter version of the tune was first published by Robert A. Smith (b. Reading, Berkshire, England, 1780; d. Edinburgh, Scotland, 1829) in his Sacred Music (1825), a year after Wilson's death. A legal dispute concerning who was the actual composer of MARTYRDOM arose and was settled in favor of Wilson. However, Smith's triple-meter arrangement is the one chosen most often. The tune's title presumably refers to the martyred Scottish Covenantor James Fenwick, whose last name is also the name of the town where Wilson lived. Consequently, in Scotland this tune has always had melancholy associations. .

Hugh Wilson learned the shoemaker trade from his father. He also studied music and mathematics and became proficient enough in various subjects to become a part-¬time teacher to the villagers. Around 1800 he moved to Pollokshaws to work in the cotton mills and later moved to Duntocher, where he became a draftsman in the local mill. He also made sundials and composed hymn tunes as a hobby. Wilson was a member of the Secession Church, which had separated from the Church of Scotland. . He served as a manager and precentor in the church in Duntocher and helped found its first Sunday school. It is thought that he composed and adapted a number of psalm tunes, but only two have survived because he gave instructions shortly before his death that all his music manuscripts were to be destroyed.

Although largely self-taught, Robert Smith was an excellent musician. By the age of ten he played the violin, cello, and flute, and was a church chorister. From 1802 to 1817 he taught music in Paisley and was precentor at the Abbey; from 1823 until his death he was precentor and choirmaster in St. George's Church, Edinburgh. He enlarged the repertoire of tunes for psalm singing in Scotland, raised the precentor skills to a fine art, and greatly improved the singing of the church choirs he directed. Smith published his church music in Sacred Harmony (1820, 1825) and compiled a six-volume collection of Scottish songs, The Scottish Minstrel (1820-1824).

MARTYRDOM has an effective melodic contour. Sing in harmony with subdued accompaniment. One pulse per bar permits singing in two long lines rather than four phrases.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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