By being sung with just the voice, this version of Lead, Kindly Light is able to really emphasize the lyrics and meaning of the song powerfully. The pleas to be led in "the encircling gloom" are underscored by a chorus of voices that beg "Lead Thou me on!", making the plea hit with more force.
The words to the song were written in 1833 by Saint John Henry Newman first as poem called "the Pillar of the Cloud". The context of when it was written helps give a reason for some of the imagery he chose. He was sick and unable to travel for nearly 3 weeks; when he was finally able to travel and boarded a ship, they were stuck in the Mediterranean Sea for a whole week for lack of wind. He wrote the words while stuck there. The landscape imagery to be led "o'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent" seems appropriate for his circumstances. The image of a harsh, rocky terrain serves as a great metaphor for life's obstacles. If God has power to still a storm he can surely guide His children through troubled waters or introduce wind to carry them through the torrents.
A very powerful theme of humility is expressed in the song as the peril of the situation feels more imminent. Much like the apostles who feared for their lives asking "Master, carest thou not that we perish?", the singer senses the danger in their circumstance. In one request to "keep thou my feet", the sense of uneasiness comes out more obviously. That phrase appears in the first verse, and confidence seems to grow with each new verse. In the second verse the statement is admitting that they hadn't prayer in the past for guidance, "Pride ruled my will", but now, please don't remember those times because help is needed. In the third verse it's recognizing "Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on". Much like the man born blind from John 9, it takes time to understand that "one step [is] enough" to be guided to the point where it's easy to declare "Lord, I believe".
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