Blind but Now I See

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

An Anglican clergyman named John Newton wrote the hymn titled “Faith’s Review and Expectation” late in 1772, and he introduced the hymn in a New Year’s Day service in his parish in Olney, Buckinghamshire, on that date in 1773.

Many years later, the hymn became best known by the two-word exclamation that opens it: “Amazing grace!”

Newton did not attach his hymn to any music, however.

Newton and a poet friend named William Cowper collaborated on many hymns for the Olney parish, and in 1779 the two published a book that collected them entitled Olney Hymns. (The page with “Amazing Grace” is seen at top.) The book was not an instant bestseller, but over time it became popular in America during the Second Great Awakening in the 1830s: at least 37 editions had been published in America by 1836.

“Faith’s Review and Expectation,” not yet known as “Amazing Grace,” was not yet popular, not yet a standard, but the hymnal that presented it was. The lyric was merely one of the many hymns one could find in an otherwise popular book.

During the Second Great Awakening, congregations in America started what became a tradition of singing hymns together. There are more than two dozen versions of “Faith’s Review and Expectation” attached to various popular tunes that most people already knew by heart in the 1830s. Congregations started to publish sheet music for church-goers to follow.

In 1835, a South Carolinian named William Walker published a textbook of sheet music for popular hymns. For “Faith’s Review and Expectation,” Walker used music from a tune titled “New Britain.”

That tune, “New Britain,” is the one that perhaps started to go through your mind when you saw the first two words from “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” The words and the music make a sweet sound together.

Many years later, Joan Baez and Aaron Neville:

The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 10 asks us to reflect on the word, “Blindly.”

Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.

Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.