Old hymn by John Newton (1725-1807), with minor revisions

How tedious and tasteless the hours when Jesus no longer I see!
Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers have all lost their sweetness to me.
The mid-summer sun shines but dim, the fields strive in vain to look gay.
But when I am happy in Him, December’s as pleasant as May.

His name yields the richest perfume, and sweeter than music His voice. 
His presence disperses my gloom and makes all within me rejoice. 
I’d have nothing to wish or to fear if He was always this near. 
No mortal as happy as I, my summer would last all the year.

Content with beholding His face, my all to His pleasure resigned,
No changes of season or place would make any change in my mind.
While blessed with a sense of His love, a palace would have no allure.
And prisons would palaces be, if Jesus would dwell with me there.

Dear Lord, if indeed I am Yours, if You are my sun and my song,
Then why do I languish and pine, and why are my winters so long?
Oh, drive these dark clouds from my sky, Your soul-cheering presence restore.
Or take me to heaven on high, where winter and clouds are no more.


When I was a student in Bible college, we sang an old hymn in chapel that was unfamiliar to me, “How tedious and tasteless the hours.” At the time I didn’t appreciate its tongue-twisting first line; and I found the hymn depressing. Rediscovering it recently, I now value the hymn’s realistic expression of what believers experience when they do not feel close to God. Even more, I love the contrasting description of how beautiful Jesus is to us when we are in a close relationship with Him and aware of His presence in our lives. This is a hymn that I can sing as a lament when I long for a closer relationship with God, and a song of praise when I want to adore my loving Savior’s name, face, voice….

I’ve changed a few words to update the language but left the poetic structure intact. I hope you will find it useful in your private worship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s