Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 14. Revivalist Hymns

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXVI. Patriotic Songs and Hymns

§ 14. Revivalist Hymns

For, unhappily, the influences at work in uniting the breadth and dignity of older song with the warmth and colour of the later generation led very easily from sentimental ornateness to tawdry sensationalism. The decline in hymn-writing from Bernard of Clairvaux by way of the Wesleys to Phœbe Cary, and in composition from the Gregorian chants via Lowell Mason and Bradbury to P. P. Bliss, reached the popular descensus Averni in the Moody and Sankey “gospel hymns.” The banalities of evangelistic song have not been offset by a corresponding output of finer and purer music; they have only been held in partial check by the restraining influence of the more excellent recent collections of “standard hymns” for public worship. Here the matter rests, and here it may rest until the influence of some great religious awakening leads to a new upwelling of religious song.