Frances Alexander

Writer of All Things Bright and Beautiful and Once in Royal David's City

Cecil Frances Humphreys (1818-1895) was born in Miltown House, country Tyrone, Ireland. Her husband was appointed Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 1867. Whilst in Derry the writer was much involved with the Derry Home for Fallen Women and with the establishment of a district nurses service.

She began writing verse at a young age and later wrote poetry under various pseudynoums for magazines. Tennyson said of one of these poems - Burial of Moses - that he wished he had written it himself.

She is most famous, however, for her hymns. She wrote almost 400 of these including, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Once in Royal David’s City and There is a Green Hill. She died on October 12, 1895.

Her works include Verses for Holy Seasons (1846), Hymns for Little Children (1848), The Lord of the Forest and his Vassals (1847), Moral Songs, &c. (1849), Narrative Hymns for Village Schools (1853), Hymns for Village Schools (1854), Poems of Subjects in the Old Testament (1854), Hymns, Descriptive and Devotional (1958), The Legends of the Golden Prayers, and Other Poems (1859), Easy Questions on the Life of Our Lord (1891) and Hymns for Children (1894). Her poems were posthumously collected and edited with a memoir by her husband in 1896.

This poem entitled The Siege of Derry is from a collection of poems written by Alexander:

Twas the Lord who gave the word when his people Drew the sword For the freedom of the present, for the future that awaits. O child! Thou must remember that bleak day in December When the ‘Prentice-Boys of Derry rose up and shut the Gates.

There was tumult in the street, and a rush of many feet - There was discord in the Council, and Lundy Turn’d to fly, For the man had no assurance of Ulstermen’s endurance, Nor the strength of him who trusteth in the arm of God Most High.