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William Henry Monk

Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847) was born in Scotland, educated in Ireland, and ordained in the Church of England. He was chronically ill with asthma and tuberculosis, but he nonetheless pursued a career as a cleric, spending the last 23 years of his life as the pastor of a poor parish church in Lower Brixham in Devonshire. Knowing that he was dying, he was finally enjoined to leave England for Italy in 1847. As part of his final sermon, he wrote the hymn "Abide With Me" based on the episode when the resurrected Christ met two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus and their request that he "Abide with us: for it is toward evening and the day is spent" (Luke 24:29). Lyte died in Nice on the way to Italy and "Abide With Me" was published as part of a book of his sermons and hymns Lyte's Remains in 1850. It was found by William H. Monk (1823-1889) in 1860. Later the editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, the historic hymnal that sold 60 million copies, Monk found comfort in Lyte's consoling hymn. As his wife recalled, "This tune was written at a time of great sorrow -- when together we watched, as we did daily, the glories of the setting sun. As the last golden ray faded, he took some paper and penciled that tune which has gone all over the earth." Also known as "Eventide," Monk's music perfectly catches the spirit of solemn solace and profound hope in Lyte's words and "Abide With Me" has indeed gone all over the earth, serving as consolation for those facing death, either their own or of those they love.