The Traveller Unknown

Another hymn echoing the experience of the Hermit is “Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown” by Charles Wesley (1707 –1788), an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley. He was father of musician Samuel Wesley and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley.
“Originally published under the title Wrestling Jacob, “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown” is a poem and hymn on the Nature of God which appears in some Protestant hymnals. The hymn is generally considered to be Charles Wesley’s greatest work. It focuses on the change that can occur in one’s own heart and is based on Genesis 32:24-32, which is the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel sent by God at Peniel.
jacob wrestling
It is sung to one of several tunes, including “Candler” (a traditional Scottish tune), “Wrestling Jacob” (by Samuel Sebastian Wesley) and “David’s Harp” (by Robert King). It is hymn number 386 in The United Methodist Hymnal (set to “Candler”); hymn number 434(i) (to “Wrestling Jacob”) and 434(ii) (to “David’s Harp”) in Hymns and Psalms, among others.”,_O_Thou_Traveler_Unknown

Come, O thou Traveller unknown, Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone, And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay, And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am, My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name, Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou? Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free, I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me? The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go, Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell; To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go, Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung, Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain, And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain, When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail, I shall with the God-man prevail.

Contented now upon my thigh I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move: Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

My strength is gone, my nature dies, I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise; I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak, But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak, Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move, And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me! I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee, Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face, I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Saviour, who Thou art. Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart. But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee My soul its life and succour brings;
My help is all laid up above; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey, Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way, And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The United Methodist Hymnal. Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House. 1989. pp. 386–7

For Wesley’s remarkable output of hymns, see “A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists” (1780), available on-line at
wesley hymns
A beautiful version is sung by Maddy Prior (accompanied by the Carnival Band) on “Paradise Found. A Celebration of Charles Wesley 1707-1788” [Park Records, 2007]:

“A leader of the early Methodist movement, Charles Wesley is perhaps best remembered today for his enormous number of hymns. As part of his career, Wesley wrote the words for over 7,500 hymns, 2,000 of which are still sung and 150 of which are included in the standard Methodist hymnbook. Interestingly, Wesley wrote only the words for his hymns, expecting that congregations would pick their own favorite tunes to go with them. As this 2007 disc containing 15 of Wesley’s best-known hymns shows, those tunes could come from just about anywhere: from folk songs, popular songs, and Psalms tunes as well as from pieces by contemporary composers like Handel, earlier composers like Purcell, and later composers like Parry.
To play this eclectic mix of musical sources, Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band use an eclectic mix of musical instruments. In addition to a core group made up of an acoustic guitarist who also plays mandolin, a drummer who also plays violin, and a double bassist who just plays double bass, the Carnival Band includes a violinist who also plays recorder and a clarinetist who also plays bassoon and recorder. On top of the band, Prior sings Wesley’s words in her trademark clear, penetrating soprano, though she’s often joined by four of the instrumentalists adding harmony vocals behind her.”


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