Forward! Be Our Watchword Hymn – Henry Alford, 1810-1871

Who Wrote Forward Be Our Watchword Hymn?

Dean Henry Alford stood forth as one of the great ecclesiastical scholars of his generation. Twenty years of scholarly labor he devoted to his edition of the Greek New Testament and accomplished besides a great

Henry Alford

wealth of literary labors, including many original hymns and translations of hymns. Probably his most popular hymn is, “Forward! be our watchword.” The great Dean of Canterbury, shortly before his death, was requested by the Rev. ]. G. Wood to write a hymn to be sung at the tenth festival of parochial choirs of the Canterbury Diocesan Union on June 6, 1871.

His first hymn so written did not seem to Mr. Wood to be adaptable to processional use, and he suggested that the Dean go into the cathedral and march up and down the aisles, and so compose the processional hymn. Accordingly, the old Dean went into the stately cathedral, and, slowly marching beneath the high-vaulted roof and past the ancient shrines of Canterbury, where many of England’s greatest men are sepulchered, he composed, while joining his voice to his steps, the hymn,

Forward! be our watchword,
Steps and voices joined.
It was sung by the Canterbury choirs at their festival, but before that day had come the Dean had passed on to the higher life, pressing
Forward through the darkness,
Forward into light!

Forward Be Our Watchword Hymn Lyrics

1 “Forward!” be our watchword,
  Steps and voices joined;
Seek the things before us,
  Not a look behind;
Burns the fiery pillar
  At our army’s head;
Who shall dream of shrinking,
  By our Captain led?
Forward through the desert,
  Through the toil and fight;
Heaven’s Kingdom waits us,
  Forward into light.
2 Glories upon glories
  Hath our God prepared,
By the souls that love Him,
  One day to be shared:
Eye hath not beheld them,
  Ear hath never heard;
Nor of these hath uttered
  Thought or speech or word;
Forward, marching forward
  Where the kingdom’s bright,
Till the veil be lifted,
  Till our faith be sight!
Below are some must read posts on hymns history and lyrics: –

Forward Be Our Watchword YouTube video.

For more lyrics and stories of old hymns visit here.

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