Divine Air: "Breathe on Me, Breath of God"
"Breathe on Me, Breath of God" is an uplifting English Christian hymn. Its words were written by Edwin Hatch (1835-1889). Hatch was a Church of England vicar and the Professor of Classics at the University of Trinity College in Canada. The hymn has two publishing dates. Its first publication in 1878 was private in Between Doubt and Prayer. Its public publishing was in Henry Allon's The Congregational Psalmist (1886). In 1890, there is another publication of the hymn by Hatch's widow in Towards Fields of Light: Sacred Poems. The hymn enjoys wide popularity, appearing in 286 hymnals.
The hymn has a maximum of four stanzas with four lines. Each verse begins with the title/first line. The hymn derives inspiration from Ezekiel 37:5 and 36:2, coaxing the Holy Spirit to dwell on the believers. With the call of the Holy Spirit, the hymn beseeches this personification of God to transform the believer's life with love, new life, obedience, purity, inspiration, surrender, and eternal life.
The hymn is reinforced by the tune when it is sung. There are four tunes ascribed to the hymn. The most common are John Chetham and S.S. Wesley's 1718 "Aylesbury." "Carlisle" by London organist Charles Lockhart is also a crowd favorite. Other noteworthy tunes were Sir John Stainer's Veni Spiritus" and Robert Jackson's "Trentham."
Edwin Hatch attended King Edward's School, Birmingham under the tutelage of James Prince Lee, who became the future Bishop of Manchester. He later attended Pembroke College at Oxford University and graduated in 1857. Hatch joined the Anglican Church in 1859 and then traveled to Toronto where he served as a professor of classics at Trinity College until 1862. He later returned to England but not before serving as the rector of the High School of Quebec. The lyricist also became a professor of Classics at Morrin College, in Quebec City.