The College Anthem: ii - "The Church of God"
krm & rcl, 1997

The hymn which inspired Mrs. Marion E. Walls to write the Naparima anthem has an interesting history.

Around 1742, God Save the King, the world's first national anthem, was written. In 1757, alternate words for this anthem, under the title Come, thou Almighty King, appeared by an anonymous author, who evidently did not wish to incur the displeasure of the Crown, but wished to make the point that the true "king" was a spiritual one. These words acquired popularity in their own right.

In 1769, a separate tune was composed for these popular words by an Italian violinist who spent his career in London, Felice Giardini. Perhaps Giardini wrote it at the request of his aristocratic friends, to remove the confusion with the national anthem. This tune, used 160 years later for the Naparima College hymn, was known by the name of Italian Hymn, and later Moscow.

In 1813, John Marriott, an Anglican priest and minor poet, wrote new words which he titled Thou Whose Almighty Word. Thematically, his verses clearly derive from Come Thou Almighty King; but are poetically superior. The combination of Marriott's new words and Giardini's tune was "harmonized", or musically produced, around 1863, under the title The Church of God, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), renowned English cathedral composer.

The hymn entered the 19th-century anglican (and presbyterian) hymnary, and could easily be a rallying call for evangelical and missionary zeal, given its particular words and theme.

When Mrs. Walls came to write words for a school that epitomized everything the missionaries to Trinidad stood for, namely, the dispersal of darkness with the light of the truth, The Church of God must have seemed to be a natural basis. Naparima was a pinnacle of the missionary endeavour in Trinidad, a real and living exemplification of Marriott's abstract call to action. Mrs. Walls composed a new poem that projected her own experience of the lifetime mission of her husband and herself - Naparima College as a vital agent in the establishment of orderliness and discipline out of what the church saw as chaos, and the dissemination of the light of knowledge in place of the darkness of ignorance.

Mrs Walls was thinking particularly of the role of the college within the island community of Trinidad; but today, past pupils of Naparima can be found throughout the English-speaking world. To them the college anthem evokes not mere nostalgia, but engenders a magical, almost mystical union that transcends time, distance, and circumstance. This may be likened to the holy spirit uniting its children, wherever they may be, within a single church of God.

Thus, our college hymn is something of a mantra that resonates through many dimensions of history, sociology, spirituality, christianity, human endeavour and aspiration - and school days!

Main NC-Forever Page