Hymn Story

O Perfect Love

Hymn lists by book of Bible

O Perfect Love

Dorothy Gurney (1858-1932) was the daughter of an Anglican clergyman and the granddaughter of the Bishop of London.  (NOTE:  Her maiden name was Blomfield, and she wrote this song while still single.)

In 1883, shortly before her sister was to be married, they were enjoying an evening of hymn singing.  After singing a song with a tune that her sister particularly enjoyed, her sister said, “What a pity the words of this beautiful song should be unsuitable for a wedding.”  She prevailed on Dorothy, who was known for her poetry, to write words for that tune to be used at the sister’s wedding.  Dorothy took pen and paper, and fifteen minutes later was able to show her sister the final copy.

The sister was delighted with Dorothy’s poem, which is a prayer for a married couple.  It asks “that theirs may be the love which knows no ending” and that they will possess “tender charity and steadfast faith, …patient hope and quiet, brave endurance, with childlike trust that fears no pain or death.”  It further asks that God might grant the couple “the joy which brightens earthly sorrow” and “the peace which calms all earthly strife.”

A perfect song to celebrate marriage, it quickly gained popularity for use at weddings.

In 1858, Joseph Barnby composed a new tune to be used with Gurney’s words.  It was sung at the wedding of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, and Barnby’s tune became the standard for this song.
Copyright, 2015, Richard Niell Donovan