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Come Ye Thankful People Come


Hymns we love to sing





Come, ye thankful people, come, 
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in, 
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide 
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God's own temple, come, 
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field, 
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown 
are to joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, 
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we 
wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, 
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day 
all offenses purge away,
give his angels charge at last 
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store 
in the garner evermore.

Then, thou Church triumphant, come,
raise the song of harvest-home,
all be safely gathered in, 
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified, 
in God’s garner to abide;
come, ten thousand angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home!

This popular Harvest Festival hymn was written by Revd. Henry Alford and first published in his Psalms and Hymns [1844].  It has been revised through the years and reduced from the original seven to the now popularised version of four stanzas. 

Henry Alford was born in London and came from a line of five successive generations of Anglican priests.  His mother died when he was very young and so he was brought up by his widowed father.  He was a very bright and, at times, precocious child.  He was immersed in the classics from an early age and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was made a fellow in 1834.  After ordination he held a number of livings in the Church of England, rising to Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, a post he held from 1857 to his death in 1871.

He wrote an inscription for his own grave, Diversorium Viatoris Hierosolymam Profisiscentis  - the inn of a traveller on his way to Jerusalem. 

Alford was a talented artist, musician and writer.  He translated the Odyssey, edited an edition of the Greek New Testament, the works of John Donne, and published a number of his poems, along with a manual of idiom A Plea for the Queen’s English.  He wrote several hymns, among them; Come, ye thankful people, come, Forward be our watchword and Ten thousand times ten thousand.  

Come, ye thankful people, come echoes two of Christ's parables; Matthew 13:24-30 [the wheat and the tares] and Mark 4:26-29 [the story of the seed springing up without the sower knowing of it].  This latter text includes the words: "All by itself the earth produces corn.  First the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts a sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

Through the years the hymn has been greatly altered, and Alford himself was critical of some of  the early revisions.

The first verse acknowledges our dependence on ‘God our maker’ and invites the worshipper to give thanks for harvest home.  The second celebrates our partnership with God in creation - we sow and reap but it is God who gives the growth.  The verse ends with a prayer that we too might grow and bear fruit as ‘wholesome grain’.  The last two verses look to the spiritual harvest of the last judgement, when ‘all be safely gathered in.. in God’s garner to abide.’

Come, ye thankful people, come is almost exclusively sung to the tune St George's Windsor.  It was written by Sir George Elvey [1816-93] for Thorne's A Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes [1858] where it was set to the hymn "Hark, the song of Jubilee".  Elvey was organist of St George's Chapel, Windsor from 1835 to 1882.  The compilers of Hymns Ancient and Modern [1861] recognised it as a most suitable tune for Come, ye thankful people, come.