Come Down, O Love Divine

Sung in Worship: The Day of Pentecost, 19 May at 10:30am 

Words by Bianco da Siena, b. ca. 1350, d. 1434. (Although he was born in Anciolina, in Arezzo, and died in Venice, before becoming a lay brother he worked as a wool carder in Siena.) He entered the newly-founded brotherhood of Gesuati, who were unordained men that renounced the world and lived in apostolic poverty, devoted to charitable, especially medical, work and to preaching. They had their name because of their custom of shouting “praise the name of Jesus” before and after preaching. Pope Clement IX, possibly pressured by the Jesuits, abolished the order in 1668. Bianco wrote more than 100 religious poems, which were widely popular, though not printed until 1851. This poem is “Discendi, amor santo". The translation is a cento of Bianco’ work by Richard Frederick Littledale (b. Dublin 1833, d. London 1890). He was ordained and held several curacies before retiring from parish work because of ill health. Littledale was a devoted Tractarian, but strongly opposed Anglo-Catholics becoming Roman Catholics. He spent the greater part of his life writing on ritualism and writing hymns and translating hymns from various languages. This hymn first appeared in his The People’s Hymnal (1867), but remained relatively unknown until RVW set it to Down Ampney (pronounced with only a hint of the p), named for the small Gloucestershire village in the Cotswolds where he was born in 1873. His father was the Rector of the Church of All Saints there. RVW wrote the tune for these words in 1906 for The English Hymnal.

- Dr. Phil Rogers