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earlier burfling | later burfling

Memorial Day, 2005

Today, in the United States, we celebrated Memorial Day. I watched the ceremonies in the Acton, Massachusetts town center, in the shadow of the memorial to Issac Davis (Captain of Acton's Minute company, who fell at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775). Much went as I expected; but I was surprised, and moved, when the high school marching band struck up "Eternal Father, Strong to Save", perhaps better known today as the Navy Hymn.

The original words of what is now known as the Navy Hymn were written in 1860 by an Anglican clergyman, the Rev. William Whiting. The following year, another English clergyman, the Rev. John Dykes, adapted Whiting's ode to his tune "Melita". Nearly two decades later, in 1879, Lieutenant Commander Charles Train (in charge of the Midshipman's Choir at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis) inaugurated the present practice of concluding each Sunday's Divine Services at the Academy with the singing of the first verse of this hymn:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.


There have been many verses added over the years, as individuals have been moved and the Sea Services have evolved. My own service was in the Submarine Force; the following thus holds a special place in my own heart:

Lord God, our power evermore,
Whose arm doth reach the ocean floor,
Dive with our men beneath the sea;
Traverse the depths protectively.
O hear us when we pray, and keep
them safe from peril in the deep.


And for those in the Marines, past, present and future - but most especially for wcg:

Eternal Father, grant, we pray
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps.


Many more verses, and much more of the history of this hymn, may be found at http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/questions/eternal.html and at http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq53-1.htm