‘Lead Kindly Light’–A Musical Meditation

Monsignor Philip Whitmore discusses one of Blessed Cardinal Newman’s great hymns, Lead Kindly Light, on Vatican Radio. The Blessed’s own title for the work was The Pillar of the Cloud.


LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
          Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
          Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou
          Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
          Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
          Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
          The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

At Sea

June 16, 1833.

4 Replies to “‘Lead Kindly Light’–A Musical Meditation”

  1. This is not much heard in Catholic parishes in the USA, sad to say.

    I would offer a personal pitch that my strongly preferred tune for this hymn is SANDON, which appears to have been the tune to which it was first sung before other tunes were crafted for the text. (SANDON was written a few years before LUX BENIGNA, which has never appealed to me)


  2. I agree with you regarding SANDON, Liam.

    By the way, someone on the MusicSacra Forum suggested using SUO GAN for Firmly I Believe and Truly. I think it's a brilliant pairing–any thoughts?

  3. Nice idea. SUO GAN is not strongly established in American Catholic hymnody, so its free to be given more texts to associate with it.

  4. Excellent.
    I found SUO GAN to be very quickly picked up, even by a hostile congregation.
    I also agree about SANDON, "Lead, Kindly…" became a standard funeral prelude at my last parish, (replacing a creepy, "May the road rise up to meet you….")
    It had the added merit of being in the same key as the Taize chant that parish used for funeral processions, or Nimrod if we had to stretch.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

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