William Williams, 1717-1791

Julian's account of W. Williams:

William Williams of Pontycelyn, was the sweet singer of Wales. He was born at Cefn-y-Coed, in the Parish of Llanfair-y-bryn, near Llandovery, in 1717. He was ordained a deacon of the Established Church in 1740, by Dr. Claget, Bishop of St. Davids, and for three years he served the curacies of Llanwrtyel and Llanddewi- Alergweryn. He never received "Priest's Orders". He became early acquainted with the revivalist Daniel Rowlands, and for 35 years he preached once a month at Llanllian and Cais and Llansawel, besides the preaching journeys he took in North and South Wales. He was held in great esteem as a preacher. In 1744 his first book of hymns appeared under the title of "Hallelujah", and soon ran through three editions. In 1762 he published another book under the title of "Y Mor o Wydr", which soon went through five editions. His son John published an excellent edition of his hymns in the year 1811. In addition to his Welsh hymns Williams also published several in English as:- 1). "Hosannah to the Son of David; or Hymns of Praise to God for our glorious redemption by Christ. Some few translated from the Welsh Hymn Book, but mostly composed on new subjects", by William Williams, Bristol: Printed by John Grabham in Narrow Wine Street, 1759. This contains 51 hymns of which 11 are translated from his Welsh hymns. This little book was reprinted by D. Sedgwick in 1859. 2). "Gloria in Excelsis: or Hymns of Praise to God and the Lamb", by W. Wiliams ...Carmarthen. Printed for the author by John Ross, removed to Priory Street, near the Church MDCCLXXI. This contains 70 hymns, not including parts. Williams died at Pontycelyn, Jan. 11th. 1791.

Ewald says "Hebrew poetry has a simplicity and transparency that can scarcely be found anywhere else, and a natural sublimity that knows but little of fixed forms of art; that even when art comes into play, it ever remains unconscious and careless of it. Compared with the poetry of other nations and ancient people, it appears to belong to a simple and childlike age of mankind, overflowing with an internal fulness and grace that troubles itself but little with external ornament and nice artistic law". Much of this is applicable to Welsh religious poetry. In spirit, character, figures of speech, and emotional language, it may be aptly compared with the Hebrew. Williams of Pontycelyn and others especially turned to the world of nature, attentively regarded it and used it; and entered into deep fellowship with it in various phases, not for itself alone, but (like the Hebrew prophet) on account of its relation to their own souls. Nature to them spoke the language of heaven; all forces, animal, vegetable and physical, attracted them to God. Williams of Pontycelyn, in some of his hymns, makes the most beautiful use of the floral world, as well as of the physical. Nothing could excel the faithfulness to nature, the vividness and graphic powers in these hymns. Williams' true and intense admiration of the beauties of nature, and his reverence for its sublimities may be seen in the use he made of it to express his own experience, which indeed has been the experience of humanity in all ages of the world.

Williams has two hymns in 'Spiritual Songs', no 276, "Guide us, O Thou gracious Saviour", and no. 381, "Saviour lead us by Thy power".

Both hymns are in all the editions of the Little Flock Hymn Book from 1856 to 1978. No. 276 is an adaptation from Williams well-known hymn. "Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah". The first translation of Williams' Welsh hymn into English was by Peter Williams, 1771. The first verse is similar to the rendering in no. 276 of 'Spiritual Songs', but the other verses have no resemblance to it. "Feed me 'till I want no more", is the last line of P. Williams' translation. No. 276 has "Feed me now and evermore". Williams' hymn no 381, "Jesus lead us by Thy power", has a heading to it: "In Temptation – Security in Jesus".

Hymns by William Williams