Hymn Stories – Dorothy Frances Gurney
O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
lowly we kneel in prayer before thy throne,
that theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
whom thou in sacred vow dost join in one.
O perfect Life, be thou their full assurance
of tender charity and steadfast faith,
of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
with childlike trust that fears no pain or death.
Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife;
grant them the vision of the glorious morrow
that will reveal eternal love and life.
Dorothy Frances Gurney was an English poet and hymn writer. Born in London in 1858,
Dorothy and her Anglican clergyman husband, Gerald Gurney, converted to Catholicism
Although best known for her poem God’s Garden which is the source of the verse often
seen on garden plaques, bird baths and sundials: One is nearer God’s heart in a garden/Than
anywhere else on earth, she also wrote the hymn Oh Perfect Love, all Human Thought
Transcending for her sister's wedding in 1883. It soon became popular, especially
in London, where it was used at many fashionable weddings, including those of royalty.
Spiritual insight into the meaning of hymns isn't always easy. However, in his book
The Gospel in Hymns, Albert Bailey points out that in this hymn, 'the Lord Jesus
Christ is given two titles that are of special significance in marriage - 'perfect
love' and 'perfect life'. He concludes that these titles speak of two great ideals
which are important in every marriage; motive and performance. If these ideals are
honoured and obeyed they will yield joy and peace in any marriage.
Perhaps it's also worth noting that Mrs Gurney certainly brought out the truth that
human love cannot begin to compare with God's love; which 'transcends all human thought'.
She died in 1932 and the London Times printed the following tribute: 'Thousands of
people at thousands of weddings must have sung, or heard sung, O Perfect Love, without
ever knowing that Mrs Gurney was the writer.'