One thing I love about hymns is that the words and melodies have a way of coming to my mind in stressful situations, and when I sing them out loud, I usually find comfort, joy, and (a little more) peace. The third verse of this traditional Marian hymn has given me strength through difficult times.
This song dates back to a period in history when the restrictions on Catholics in England were starting to be lifted. (For example, one law that was repealed was the “Test Acts”, enforced in 1673, which restricted Catholics by not allowing them to hold public office.) Here’s a little more history about the hymn from Wikipedia:
“Hail, Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star” is a Marian hymn written by Father John Lingard (1771–1851), a Catholic priest and historian who, through the works of William Cobbett, helped to smooth the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act in England. Loosely based on the medieval Latin plainchant Ave Maris Stella, the hymn is generally sung to a specially modified traditional English melody.
The tune was written by Henri Frederick Hemy (1818-1888). Hemy played the organ at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in Newcastle, and later taught music at Tynemouth and at St. Cuthbert’s College, in Ushaw, UK. Fun fact about Hemy? He might have composed the tune we know as “Jingle Bells.”
If I had to choose a favorite verse, I think I’d chose the first. It reminds me of the Memorare, in that we are putting all our trust in Mary to help us choose good and avoid evil, and that without her lighting the way to Christ, it is easy to get lost as we wander through life.
Enjoy learning this hymn if it is new to you! May Our Lady bless you!
Sheet Music and Audio
Sheet music in a lower key here. (This is the version I play in the recording below.)
Hail, Queen of heaven, the ocean star,
Guide of the wanderer here below,
Thrown on life’s surge, we claim thy care,
Save us from peril and from woe.
Mother of Christ, Star of the sea
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me.
O gentle, chaste, and spotless Maid,
We sinners make our prayers through thee;
Remind thy Son that He has paid
The price of our iniquity.
Virgin most pure, Star of the sea,
Pray for the sinner, pray for me.
Sojourners in this vale of tears,
Blest advocate, to thee we cry,
Assuage our sorrows, calm our fears,
And soothe with hope our misery.
Refuge in grief, Star of the sea
Pray for the mourner, pray for me.
And while to Him Who reigns above
In Godhead one, in Persons three,
The Source of life, of grace, of love,
Homage we pay on bended knee:
Do thou, bright Queen, Star of the sea,
Pray for thy children, pray for me.