Nearer My God to Thee - all versions

This is a 19th century hymn about the death and difficult times, and the comfort of being close to God. It is often used at funerals.

Verses 1-5 of the original were written by English Unitarian poet, author and hymn-writer, Sarah Fuller Flower (Sally) Adams (1805–1848).   The first version was first published in a compilation published in 1840/41 for a Unitarian chapel in London.  In 1844, they hymn was included in a Service Book, published by Rev. James Freeman Clarke, D.D., of Boston for use in an American Unitarian church.   From here it was picked up by other denominations and included in other hymn books. 

Verses 2-4 of the original text are based on Genesis 28:10-22 (Jacob and the ladder to heaven).

Verse six was written by English Church of England priest and later bishop, Edward H Bickersteth, Jr (1825-1906).

Several alternative verses have been in Roman Catholic hymn books - the author of these has not been located, and they are sometimes credited to Flower-Adams. Some are printed in the Basilian Hymnal printed 1918, copyright in the USA with an imprimatur from the Bishop of Toronto.  This publication lists authors and composers for other hymns, but this one is unattributed, suggesting that the details were unknown even then.

If you have any further information about the author of these verses, please leave a message in the Comments area near the bottom of this page.

With meter 6.4.6.4.6.6.6.4, tunes it has been set to include: 
  • BETHANY (Mason), written/arranged by American composer Lowell Mason (1792-1872), which was published in 1856 - which is now the best-known tune for the hymn
  • HORBURY   John Bacchus Dykes (1861)
  • PROPIOR DEO - by Arthur Sullivan (1872).

BETHANY was reportedly the last hymn played by the band on the Titanic as the ship sank - although some scholars have wondered if this is likely, given how widely know the tune was (or was not) at the time. However it was the tune played as the ship sank in the most-recent Titanic movie.


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Examples

Singer with gentle piano-led backing - professional recording:


Duet, unaccompanied, professional recording:


Choir with orchestra:


Choir, minimal accompaniment:


Singer with guitar-led band - Catholic words:


Shape-note singing in a Primitive Baptist church:


Instrumental - fingerpicked guitar:


Lyrics

Original version

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

Chorus:
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone.
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God to Thee.

There let the way appear, steps unto Heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me, in mercy given;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee.

Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee.

Or, if on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I’ll fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Saviour’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.


Catholic version

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

Chorus:
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

Friends may depart from me, night may come down,
Clouds of adversity darken and frown:
Still through my tears I'll see
Hope gently leading me ....

What though the shadows fall, Naught shall I fear;
When darkest seems the night, morning is near.
Sweet shall my trusting be, sorrow still bringing me ....

Version from St Basil's Hymnal

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Deep in thy Sacred Heart, let me abide.
Thou that has bled for me, sorrowed and died.
Sweet shall me weeping be, grief surely leading me,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

And when the goal is won, how like a dream,
In the dim retrospect, sorrow will seem.
Sweet will my transports be, Jesus thy face to me
When I have come at last, nearer to thee.


ABC Notation

X: 1
T: Nearer My God To Thee
C: Music: 'Bethany (Mason)' Lowell Mason
M: 4/4
L: 1/4
K: G
"G"B2 "D"A "Em"G | "C"G3/2 E/2 E2 | "G"D2 G1 B | "D"A4 |
w: 1.~Near- er, my God, to Thee, near- er to Thee!
"G"B2 "D"A "Em"G | "C"G>E E2 | "G"(D G) "D"F1 A | "G"G4 |
w: E'en though it be a cross that * rais- eth me,
"G"d2 "C"e "G"d | d>B d2 | "Bm"d2 "C"e "G"d | d>B "D"A2 |
w: Still through my tears I'll see, hope gent-ly lead-ing me,
"G"B2 A1 G |"C" G>E E2 | "G"(D G) "D"F A | "G"G3 z|]
w: Near- er, my God, to Thee, Near- * er to Thee!

Ref:  What is ABC

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