The tune Repton was written by the English composer Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry in 1888 as a contralto aria for queen Meshullemeth in his oratorio Judith. In the oratorio, a group of children asks the queen to tell them the story of the Exodus. She laments that she is not sure that God is the god of Israel anymore, but consents to tell them the story anyway. The first stanza of her “ballad” is:
Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land
Our fathers were oppressed;
But God, whose chosen folk they were,
Smote those who long enslaved them there,
And all their woes redressed.
In 1924, George Gilbert Stocks, the organist and choirmaster of the Repton School in Derbyshire, England, who had studied under Parry at Oxford, set a text by John Greenleaf Whittier, the American poet, to this melody. He chose five of the last six stanzas of his 1872 poem The Brewing of Soma, beginning with the words “Dear Lord and Father of mankind.”
While the ending stanzas are more peaceful and introspective, the full poem is about an ancient Vedic tradition, and begins with a quote from the Rig-Veda; Soma is a Sanskrit word meaning “to distill or extract” often in ritual context, and it also refers to the plant and the drink brewed from this plant. The plant itself is unknown, though several theories have been proposed by various scholars, but it was called “The Creator of the Gods” and it thought to be some kind of psychoactive substance, possibly a hallucinogen. The ceremony is quite vigorous and drunken. For those interested, the full text of the poem may be found at http://www.bartleby.com/372/197.html
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
Bob Chilcott, an English singer, conductor, and composer arranged a special anthem version the tune for Repton’s 450th anniversary celebrations in 2007. The text is also sung to the tune Rest (or Elton) written in 1887 by Frederick C. Maker, another English composer. It is often favored for congregational singing, especially in America, because it is somewhat simpler.