Forgotten Verses #5: There Is A Fountain

In our previous entry in the Forgotten Verses column, we discussed the publication of the hymnal Olney Hymns, by John Newton and William Cowper. Two of the greatest hymns in the history of the church were introduced in this hymnal. One, “Amazing Grace,” we discussed in the last column. Today, let’s look at the other, “There Is A Fountain.”

Cowper originally penned seven verses. Five are relatively familiar:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.

Two things jump out. First, the repeats were added later. Second, editors of modern hymnals switch out the couplets of verse five, because you simply cannot end a song of this nature with “When this poor lisping, stammering tongue / lies silent in the grave”!

But, you see, that wasn’t an issue for William Cowper, because he did not originally end with verse five. He wrote two more:

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared,
Unworthy though I be,
For me a blood-bought free reward,
A golden harp for me!

’Tis strung and tuned for endless years,
And formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears
No other name but Thine.

To his credit, Michael Booth recorded both of these verses on his 2011 solo project Everlasting Faith (reviewed here; retrospectively, thought the review was favorable, the CD holds up so well that it deserved even higher praise.) Booth’s decision to include these verses is an excellent example of one of the easiest ways to add a fresh twist to a hymns project: Record forgotten verses deserving of another chance in the spotlight.

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  1. Score one for the Methodists. No, they don’t include the two missing verses, but in both the Cokesbury and the United Methodist Hymnal, verse 5 ends the way in which it was intended. No surprise with the Cokesbury, but the UM Hymnal was a pleasant discovery, given our leadership’s tendency to fix what isn’t really broken — lyrically speaking, anyway.

  2. Wasn’t it Cowper who wrote “There is a Fountain?”

    As a side note: I really enjoy your whole blog, and especially this column! This is my all time favourite hymn, so thank you for showing us the mostly forgotten verses.

    • Oops; I identified him correctly at one point, but not at another. I fixed the one mistake. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this series of blogs. It amazes me how much “meat” has been left out of these hymns with our “singing on the wall” culture.