Olney Hymns Book 2 Hymn 99

See, the world for youth prepares...

Manuscript Hymn No. 335

335 v1


The world

[based on Horace Lib 1 Ode 5]

See, the world for youth prepares,
Harlot like, her gaudy snares!
Pleasures round her seem to wait,
But 'tis all a painted cheat.

Rash and unsuspecting youth
Thinks to find thee always smooth,
Always kind, till better taught,
By experience dearly bought.

So the calm, but faithless sea
(Lively emblem, world, of thee)
Tempts the shepherd from the shore,
Foreign regions to explore.

While no wrinkled wave is seen,
While the sky remains serene,
Filled with hopes, and golden schemes,
Of a storm he little dreams.

But ere long the tempest raves,
Then he trembles at the waves;
Wishes then he had been wise,
But too late he sinks and dies.

Hapless thus, are they, vain world,
Soon on rocks of ruin hurled,
Who admiring thee, untried,
Court thy pleasure, wealth, or pride.

Such a shipwreck had been mine,
Had not Jesus (name divine!)
Saved me with a mighty hand,
And restored my soul to land.

Now, with gratitude I raise
Ebenezers to his praise;
Now my rash pursuits are o'er,
I can trust thee, world, no more.

John Newton bw better 150 x 55
  from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:

Hymn No. 335
[no known date, but written alongside the hymns for New Year’s Evening 1779 with the youth in mind]

While at sea, Newton taught himself Latin, having forgotten all he had learned in childhood, but being newly inspired by ‘an imitation I had seen of one of Horace's odes in a magazine.’  He ‘began to relish the beauties of the composition, and acquired a spice of what Mr Law calls classical enthusiasm.’
A few of Newton’s hymns were inspired by Horace’s Odes, including Book 1 Ode 5, where Pyrrah’s youthful lover, utterly enthralled in the tranquillity of a romantic grotto, suddenly encounters her cruel deception, as one taken unawares by stormy seas foreshadowing shipwreck.

Newton, who wrote in his Preface to Olney Hymns that they:

'should be Hymns, not Odes, if designed for public worship, and for the use of plain people. Perspicuity, simplicity and ease, should be chiefly attended to; and the imagery and colouring of poetry, if admitted at all, should be indulged very sparingly and with great judgment.'

turned Horace’s ode into a hymn of New Year’s caution for the youth of Olney.

His hymn was based on:

Horace Book 1 Ode 5

Ad Pyrrham Ode V

Horatius ex Pyrrae illecebris tanquam è naufragio enataverat, cujus amore irretitos, affirmat esse miseros.

Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa
Persusus liquidis urget odoribus,
Grato, Pyrrha, sub antro?
Cui flavam religas comam
Simplex munditie? heu quoties sidem [5]
Mutatosque deos flebit, & aspere
Nigris æquora ventis
Emirabitur insolens,
Qui nunc te fruitur credulus aurea:
Qui semper vacuam, semper amabilem [10]
Sperat, nescius auræ
Fallacis. miseri quibus
Intentata nites. me tabula sacer
Votiva paries indicat uvida
Suspendisse potenti [15]
Vestimenta maris Deo.

a translation by John Milton:

What slender youth, bedew'd with liquid odours,
Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave,
Pyrrha? For whom bind'st thou
In wreaths thy golden hair?
Plain in thy neatness? O, how oft shall he
On faith and changèd gods complain, and seas
Rough with black winds and storms,
Unwonted shall admire !
Who now enjoys thee, credulous, all gold,
Who, always vacant, always amiable,
Hopes thee, of flattering gales
Unmindful ! Hapless they
To whom thou, untried, seemst fair. Me in my vow'd
Picture, the sacred wall declares to have hung
My dank and dropping weeds
To the stern god of sea.

re shipwreck:
[John Newton to James Coffin, 29 September 1792]

Give my love to all your children, particularly to the little stranger [their new-born son, named John Newton Coffin]. I am duly sensible of the honour you have done me in incorporating my name with your own. May the name of Newton be to him as a lighthouse upon a hill as he grows up, to warn him against the evils I ran upon in my youth, and on which (without a miracle of mercy) I should have suffered a fatal shipwreck.

Image copyright:

Hymn: MS Eng 1317, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Marylynn Rouse, 11/09/2013