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Maybe this tune should be in the hymnal, too.

I recently blogged about the Lutheran Service Book hymn "We Praise You and Acknowledge You" (LSB 941), sung to the beautiful tune of the English patriotic song "I Vow to Thee, My Country." Well, there's another hymn tune from the British Isles I'd love to see in our hymnal.

Several times over the years I've written this blog, I've mentioned my ancestor, Henry Joy McCracken, who was an early member if the United Irishmen and who led the Irish forces in the Battle of Antrim during Wolfe Tone's rebellion in 1798. After the defeat of the rebel forces at Antrim, he attempted to escape to America but was betrayed and hanged by the British at the Corn Market in Belfast on July 17. 1798.

Like Tone himself, McCracken was a Protestant. He is the subject of two Irish folk songs, "Henry Joy" and "Faithful to the Last."

Another major battle in that same rebellion was fought in County Wexford, at a place called Vinegar Hill. That battle gave rise to a beautiful Irish folk song, "The Boys of Wexford," which was John F. Kennedy's favorite march. Since Kennedy's ancestors were from County Wexford, that shouldn't be surprising.

In the mid-Sixties, a television series was made from Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage. An instrumental version of "The Boys of Wexford" was its theme song.

This beautiful tune, as it happens, metrically fits several well-known hymns, including "The Church's One Foundation" and "For All Your Saints in Warfare." Since I wrote a couple of verses for the latter myself to commemorate Lutheran martyrs Heinrich Voes, Johannes Esch, and Robert Barnes, I've occasionally thought of expanding them to an entirely new hymn, perhaps commemorating Patrick Hamilton, Heinrich of Zutphen, and several other martyrs of the Lutheran tradition who deserve to be remembered more widely. If I ever get around to doing so, there's a good chance I'll set it to the tune of "The Boys of Wexford."

Here are the verses I wrote to LSB 517-518.

For Esch and Voes, the Flemish monks who were the first martyrs of the Reformation:
All praise for John and Henry,
Whose witness to Your truth
In fire and smoke foreshortened
Their brave and faithful youth.
But now their pain is over;
They dwell with You above.
Lord, give us all such courage
To witness to Your love!
And for Barnes, an English theologian and guest in Martin Luther's home who was burned at the stake by Henry VIII:
Praise, too, for England's doctor
Of brighter faith than fame,
Whose witness to the Gospel
Glowed brightest in the flame!
Lord, grant that our confession-
Like Robert's- may inspire
In other hearts the kindling
Of Your most holy fire.

And here's the original song, performed by the Irish Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.


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