Lift Up Your Hearts, Haileybury's fabulous College hymn, was penned by Henry Montagu Butler in 1881. Stirring and joyful, it celebrates the triumph of optimism over personal frailty and doubt and rightly celebrates the spirit of generosity which has, for more than 150 years, been the hallmark of a Haileybury education.
Haileybury's wonderful College Hymn was written in 1881 by Henry Montagu Butler, Headmaster of Harrow School and brother of Haileybury's first master Arthur Gray Butler.
The hymn begins with Lift up your hearts, from the Holy Communion Service.
These words are said as the introduction to the prayer for the blessing of the Bread and Wine.
Members of the congregation are encouraged to lift their hearts in the adoration of God, a fitting hymn for Haileybury whose motto, Sursum Corda, carries the same meaning.
In the hymn, Butler puts side by side the glorious and the inglorious to evoke the optimism of service to God.
Butler talks of ‘the mire of sin, the slough of guilty fears'; 'doubt that destroys love'; 'subterfuge and shame'; 'deeds and thoughts that undermine honour'; and 'the halting tongue that dares not to tell the whole truth'.
Yet his hymn is far from negative. Butler refers to negative reference points as a way to emphasise the glory of a life lived well.
It reminds us of the gifts we have: life itself; companionship; a fine heritage and wonderful opportunity.
These gifts find their full expression when they are lifted up to God again – a clear thankfulness for God’s generosity - and the commitment to use the gifts in the service of God, his world and his people.
The gifts lie low, unless they are lifted up – recognised, received with thanksgiving and applied in the service of others.
This, for Butler, was the purpose of education: not just to fill young minds with knowledge but to awaken the young to an appreciation of the gifts and talents they already possess. The bounding heart, the teeming brain, that mounts to God again.
Our hymn is tremendously optimistic. It carries within it the hope of all teachers for their pupils – that their gifts and talents will flourish, that they will embrace life and every opportunity, and live gloriously.
The full words of Butler's hymn are given below; it is sung to the tune of Woodlands, by the Cambridge-educated Walter Greatorex (1877 - 1949):
'Lift up your hearts!' We lift them, Lord, to thee;
Here at thy feet none other may we see:
'Lift up your hearts!' E'en so, with one accord,
We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord.
Above the level of the former years,
The mire of sin, the slough of guilty fears,
The mist of doubt, the blight of love's decay,
O Lord of Light, lift all our hearts to-day!
Above the swamps of subterfuge and shame,
The deeds, the thoughts, that honour may not name,
The halting tongue that dares not tell the whole,
O Lord of Truth, lift every Christian soul!
Lift every gift that thou thyself hast given;
Low lies the best till lifted up to heaven:
Low lie the bounding heart, the teeming brain,
Till, sent from God, they mount to God again.
Then, as the trumpet-call, in after years,
'Lift up your hearts!' rings pealing in our ears,
Still shall those hearts respond, with full accord,
We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord!'
Like his father, Henry Montagu-Butler had also been Headmaster of Harrow.
It is said that he once fell asleep in a meeting at school. He suddenly awoke and said emphatically, “A strong case. Tellingly put”. Forward thinking and dynamic, he was to transform Harrow into a well equipped, contemporary school. He was the right man at the right time.
He wrote only one hymn. Our hymn. We sing it often.
Old Haileyburians love to sing it with gusto, and it is a favourite choice for OH Weddings.