LIBERTY, June 16, 2013 - "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is a hymn traditionally associated with seafarers, particularly in the maritime armed services. Written in 1860, its author William Whiting was inspired by the dangers of the sea described in Psalm 107. It was popularized by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy in the late 19th century, and variations of it were soon adopted by many branches of the armed services in the United Kingdom and the United States. Services who have adapted the hymn include the Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, the British Army, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corps, as well as many navies of the British Commonwealth. Accordingly, it is known by many names, variously referred to as the Hymn of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the Royal Navy Hymn, the United States Navy Hymn (or just The Navy Hymn), and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on the Sea." The hymn has a long tradition in civilian maritime contexts as well, being regularly invoked by ship's chaplains and sung during services on ocean crossings.
The original hmyn was written in 1860 by William Whiting, an Anglican churchman from Winchester, Great Britain. Whiting grew up near the ocean on the coasts of England, and at the age of thirty-five had felt his life spared by God when a violent storm nearly claimed the ship he was travelling on, instilling a belief in God's command over the rage and calm of the sea. As headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers' School some years later, he was approached by a student about to travel to the United States, who confided in Whiting an overwhelming fear of the ocean voyage. Whiting shared his experiences of the ocean, wrote the hymn to "anchor his faith". In writing it, Whiting is generally thought to have been inspired by Psalm 107, which describes the power and fury of the seas in great detail:
Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.
Pslam 107: 23-26
Meanwhile, John B. Dykes, an Anglican clergyman, composed the tune "Melita" to accompany the HA&M version of 1861. Dykes was a well-known composer of nearly three hundred hymn tunes, many of which are still in use today. "Melita" is an archaic term for Malta, an ancient seafaring nation which has been a colony of the British Empire. It was the site of a shipwreck, mentioned in Acts of the Apostles (chapters 27-28), involving the Apostle Paul.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
O Trinity of love and power!