Robert Bridges


Robert Seymour Bridges (who was Poet laureate* of England from 1913 until his death in 1930) retired from a career in medicine in 1882 to devote himself to writing and literary research. He was considered a brilliant lyrical poet and this is evident in his best known poem, The Testament of Beauty which was published in 1929, one year before his death. In addition, Bridges published literary research including Milton’s Prosody (1893) and John Keats (1895).

Bridges made an important contribution to hymnody with the publication in 1899 of his Yattendon Hymnal. This beautifully elaborate collection of hymns, although not a financial success, inadvertently became a bridge between the Victorian hymnody of the last half of the 19th century and the modern hymnody of the early 20th century. Bridges assimilated the ideals of the Oxford Movement which were manifested in the successful hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern, (1861) and at the same time prefigured some of the characteristics of The English Hymnal (1906).

The Yattendon Hymnal

Bridges created the Yattendon Hymnal specifically for musical reasons. He explains in the Preface to the historical notes:

The origin of this book was my attempt, when precentor of a village choir, to provide better settings of the hymns than those in use. When I gave up my office, I printed the first twenty-five hymns for the convenience of the choir, and also for the sake of the tunes by Jeremy Clark, which I had been at some pains to restore, and for the preservation of the tunes composed on our behalf by Professor Wooldridge.

Bridges goes on to explain that the tunes he had found and wanted to preserve (see the Synopsis of Tunes in the thumbnail scans below) needed texts and that originally he had planned to provided these from a standard hymnal which had been in use in England since 1861, Hymns Ancient and Modern, particularly those texts which had been translated from the Latin, Greek, and German. However, he discovered that many of the tunes he wanted to use had NO TEXTS in any hymnal which could be used (the meters of the texts would not fit the tunes). Consequently, he decided to go back to original sources and retranslate some of the texts such that they would fit the tunes. Of course, he was unwilling to edit the tunes to fit the texts because this was the whole point of the hymnal -- to preserve the historic tunes in their original form. He explains in the Preface to the hymnal:

Among the old melodies which it is the chief object of this book to restore to use, some will be found which will be quite new to the public, while others will be familiar though in a somewhat different form; and since the sources whence all the tunes are taken are well known, and have been already largely drawn upon by the compilers of Psalters and hymnals, any melody which is new in this book may be considered as having been hitherto overlooked or rejected, while in the alternative case it is to be understood that the original cast of the melody has at some former time been altered, (frequently to suit the English common metre to which it was not at first comfortable,) and is now restored.

Bridges translated important historic texts and many of these were included in Songs of Syon (1904) and the later English Hymnal, 1906. Several of Bridges translations are still in use today:

Ah, Holy Jesus (Johann Heermann, 1630)
All My Hope on God Is Founded (Joachim Neander, c. 1680)
O Gladsome Light ( (Phos Hilaron)
O Splendor of God's Glory Bright (Ambrose,4th cent.)
When morning guilds the skies (stanza 3; Katholisches Gesangbuch, 1744)

(click on thumbnails to see large images)

Also see:



See The Yattendon Hymnal (Oremus)

See Robert Bridges (Wikipedia)

See The Robert Bridges Page

See Robert Bridges

Read poems by Robert Bridges at

Purchase a copy of the The Yattendon Hymnal online ($1500.00) - Bromer Booksellers, Ltd. [You're too late. It was sold.]

See "The Small Hymn-Book, The World-Book of the Yattendon Hymnal" for sale online at Oak Knoll Books for $350.00

Download an advertisement from the Old School Press about historical typefaces used in printing fine books, including The Yattendon Hymnal (1899): Old School Press

[*In 1616 Ben Jonson was named England's first poet laureate; however, the title did not become an official royal office until 1668, when John Dryden assumed the honored post. Since that time, the office has been awarded for life. The poet laureate is responsible for composing poems for court and national occasions. At the time of each laureate's death, it is the duty of the prime minister to nominate successors from which the reigning sovereign will choose. It is the Lord Chamberlain who appoints the poet laureate by issuing a warrant to the laureate-elect. The life appointment is always announced in the London Gazette.]

Robert Frost was the first poet laureate appointed in the United States (1960, by President John Kennedy). It has become the custom in the US, for a poet laureate to be appointed for a period of 1 year.]

© 2001 Smith Creek Music

Site last updated: February 15, 2007