1. Jesus, the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills mt breast; But sweeter far Thy face to see And in Thy presence rest. 2. No voice can sing, no heart can frame, Nor can the memory find A sweeter sound than Thy blest name, O Savior of mankind. 3. O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek, To those who fall, how kind Thou art! How good to those who seek! 4. But what to those who find? Ah, this Nor tongue or pen can show; The love of Jesus, what it is None but His loved ones know. 5. Jesus, our only joy be Thou, As Thou our prize wilt be; Jesus, be Thou our glory now And thru eternity.
Lyrics: Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux
Music: John Bacchus Dykes
Tune: ST. AGNES
Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091–1153
English Translation—Edward Caswall, 1814–1876
This hymn text comes from the height of the Middle Ages, a period of history often called “The Dark Ages.” The spiritual and moral darkness of the church had reached a new blackness. The institution founded by Christ some 1,000 years prior was mainly degenerate and corrupt. The moral standards of many of its prominent leaders were characterized by disgrace and shame. Yet within this system of religious confusion, God laid it upon the heart of a dedicated monk to write a devotional poem about his Lord.
At an early age Bernard was known for his piety and scholarship. With his natural charms and talents, he had many opportunities open to him for a successful secular life. While still in his early 20s, however, he chose the life of a monk at the monastery of Citeaux, France. Within three years Bernard’s forceful personality, talents, and leadership qualities were recognized, and he was asked to form other branches of this order throughout Europe. Within Bernard’s lifetime, 162 other such orders were founded. One of these new monasteries was at Clairvaux, France, where Bernard was made its abbot. He remained there until his death in 1153.