Christianity,  Music

Hymn to God the Father

One of my favorite poems of all time is “Hymn to God the Father” by John Donne. If you are not familiar with this poem, you need to be. Donne composed this piece near the end of his life when he was facing death (circa 1631). As he contemplates his demise, he is overcome with a sense of his own sinfulness, and he wonders how he will stand at the judgment. Donne evokes all the anguish of the “wretched man” in Romans 7:24 before he sounds a final note of hope that Jesus will rescue him at the last day.

There is a wonderful play on the word “done” in this poem, and you’ll note that it can either mean “done” or “Donne” (as in John Donne). It really is beautiful, and you can read the full text below.

Some believe that this poem was originally composed to be accompanied by music. Indeed, since 1631, composers have done just that. Jolly Napier‘s version is my favorite. Lead singer Myles Roberts gave me permission a few years ago to share the song on this site. So press the play button and listen to the music as you read the text. When you’re finished with that, you can download the song for yourself here.

Hymn to God the Father

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sins their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow’d in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore:
And having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.


  • Christiane Smith

    some phrases from ‘A Litany’ by John Donne

    ” … come
    And re-create me. . . . .
    that new-fashioned,
    I may rise up from death
    before I’m dead. “

  • barryjoslin

    I just recorded an online Hermeneutics class this week, and always use this in class – and plug this song! I have always loved what Miles and team did with the melody and how the music “opens up” at the end of v.3, and “I fear no more.” One of my fav. songs of all time. Still get weepy reading Donne’s lyrics in class.

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