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Amazing Grace how sweet the sound /
O Miorbhail gris! nach breagh'an cel;

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Melody: Amazing Grace - pipe organ (Duration: 0:27) [Artist: Unknown]

Melody: Amazing Grace - bagpipes (Duration: 2:27) [Artist: Unknown]

Melody: Amazing Grace - bagpipes (Duration: 2:32) [Artist: Unknown]

Melody: Amazing Grace (Duration: 3:47) [Artist: Unknown]
Amazing Grace

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.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace that fear reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis'd good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

[Many hymnals include this additional verse:]

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.

This verse is not by Newton. It was originally from a hymn called "Jerusalem, My Happy Home."
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Modern variation

First three verses the same; Verse 4:

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds,
In a believer's ear;
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free;
No, there's a cross for everyone,
And there's a cross for me.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.

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A Scots Gaelic Translation (of the first four verses)

O Miorbhail gràis! nach brèagh an ceòl;
'S e lorg mi 's mi air chall,
Air seachdran dorch', gun neart, gun treòir,
'S a dh'fhosgail sùilean dall.

'S e gràs thug eòlas dhomh air in' theum;
'S e gràs thug saors' is sìth;
'S cha cheannaicheadh òr a' chruinne-chè
Chiad-là bha fios nam chrìdh'.

Tro iomadh cunnart's trioblaid chruaidh
Thug E gu sàbhailt mi.
An gràs a shaor bhon bhàs le buaidh
Chan fhàg's cha trèig gu sìor.

San dachaigh bhuan gun uair gun tìm,
'S deich mìle bliadhn' mar là,
Cha sguir an ceòl's chan fhàs iad sgìth
A'seiinn a chaoidh mun ghràs.

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Comments:

This is probably the most popular, and widely known hymn in the English language. It is a favorite for Christians of all denominations, largely because the hymn vividly and briefly sums up the Christian doctrine of Grace. Its words so well describe the author: John Newton was a slave trader before coming to Christ.

John Newton (1725-1807)

Born: July 24, 1725, London, England.

Died: December 21, 1807, London, England.

Buried: Originally at St. Mary Woolnoth Church, Lombard Street, London. In 1893, Newton and his wife Mary were reinterred in the southeast corner of the graveyard at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Olney.

Pseudonym: Omicron.

Words: Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779).
"The Revd John Newton wrote the hymn 'Amazing Grace' for the New Year's Morning sermon at Olney parish church in 1773. It was based on the sermon's text, I Chronicles 17:16-17, 'Faith's Review and Expectation', and was first published in Olney Hymns (1779)."
Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney.

"Composed probably between 1760 and 1770 in Olney. ... Through the years other writers have composed additional verses to the hymn which came to be known as "Amazing Grace" (it was not thus entitled in Olney Hymns), and possibly verses from other Newton hymns have been added. However, these are the six stanzas [above - whm] that appeared, with minor spelling variations, in both the first edition in 1779 and the 1808 edition, the one nearest the date of Newton's death. It appeared under the heading Faith's Review and Expectation, along with a reference to First Chronicles, chapter 17, verses 16 and 17."
Amazing Grace: The Story of John Newton

The last stanza [the seventh above] is by an unknown author; it appeared as early as 1829 in the Baptist Songster, by R. Winchell (Wethersfield, Connecticut), as the last stanza of the song "Jerusalem My Happy Home." It was popularized by Harriet Beecher Stowe, as it appears in her novel Uncle Tom'sCabin (1852). Uncle Tom has pieced the lyrics of several hymns together; those who learned the lyrics from the novel have assumed that it belongs.

Music: The now familiar and traditional melody of the hymn was not composed by Newton, and the words were sung to a number of tunes before the now inseparable melody was chanced upon.

"It was the practice of the Church of England in the 18th century to chant, rather than sing, hymns. Newton, who died in 1807, did not write any music for his poem, which was published in "The Olney Hymns" in England.

"Somehow that collection made its way to the United States. It was wedded to music in America. The tune to which "Amazing Grace" is sung was originally an old plantation folk melody "Loving Lambs,"

"The first time the tune, then called "Harmony Grove" appeared in a prominent publication was in Virginia Harmony, by James P. Carrell and David S. Clayton (Winchester, Virginia: 1831) [a songbook traveling music teachers used throughout the country]

"The tune, then called "New Britain" and Newton's poem were published together for the first time in 1835 in New Haven, Conn., in "The "Southern Harmony," a "shape note" hymnal, another music book for itinerate teachers."
Winchester Star article

"Some say it is an old Scottish tune; others that it is an American plantation song. It could of course be both: an old Scottish melody taken to America by emigrants and later adapted. Certainly the geographical area associated with the source of the tune contained a high percentage of Scottish immigrants. If the tune does have Scottish roots, why was it unknown in Scotland at the time? One answer might be that from time to time, especially during the period of the 'Highland Clearances', entire areas of the Scottish Highlands became depopulated as their inhabitants moved to the New World. One musicologist, Peter Van der Merwe, has argued that it is "an overwhelmingly Scottish tune" because it uses the "pentatonic (scale) in a specifically Scottish way" (quoted in Turner, p.123).
[Turner, Steve, Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song, New York: Harper Collins, 2002]

"It is only with the growth of the record industry that the hymn's popularity has spread internationally. Two recordings out of so many should be mentioned in this respect. The first by Judy Collins made the pop charts in the USA and Britain in 1971, exemplifying the crossover from gospel and folk music to pop. The second was a recording by the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in 1972. This recording has led to pipe bands all over the world making the tune their own, perhaps reinforcing the idea of a Scottish origin for it. Since '9/11' we have heard it played most poignantly by the pipes at funeral and memorial services for members of the New York Fire Department and the NYPD."

Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney.

It was also played at the funeral of President Ronald Regan.

A marble plaque at St. Mary Woolnoth carried the epitaph which Newton himself wrote:

JOHN NEWTON, Clerk
Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
JESUS CHRIST,
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.
He ministered,
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty-eight years in this Church.


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URL:  http://www.mcgillsociety.org/bard/lyrics/amazing-grace.html
        Revision:  18 March 2006
Last modified:  18 March 2006