The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Hymn: A song of praise, usually written in verse. The word hymn comes from the Greek hymnos, meaning a song of praise to a god, human hero, or idea. Religious hymns praise God or another deity. Literary hymns may make religious references or employ religious terminology but are frequently written solely in praise of some secular ideal, attitude, person, figure, or object. They are often very similar to odes and are meant to be read rather than sung. The widespread use and popularity of hymns had a significant impact on versification, particularly in English, German, and the Romance languages.
EXAMPLES: Noted religious hymns include John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” (1779), later set to the traditional tune “New Britain”; “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” written by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1865 and set to Arthur Sullivan’s “St. Gertrude” in 1871; and “Morning Has Broken” (1931), written by Eleanor Farjeon, set to the Scottish-Gaelic tune “Bunessan,” and perhaps best known through folk singer Cat Stevens’s 1971 rendition.
Literary hymns include Edmund Spenser’s Four Hymns (1596); Pierre Ronsard’s Les hymnes (Hymns) (1555—56); Raphael Thorius’s Hymnus Tabaci (1625), in praise of tobacco; John Henry Newman’s “The Pillar of the Cloud” (1833), which is better known as the religious hymn “Lead, Kindly Light”; and Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “Hymn to Proserpine” (1866). Mark Bryant’s Literary Hymns: An Anthology (1999) collects more than two hundred literary hymns.