Thou Lovely Source of True Delight -Anne Steele


This hymn was written by Anne Steele (1716-1778) and first published in 1760 in her “Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional.”

Prior to the 19th century women didn’t have a place of prominence among hymn writers. During the spiritual revivals that spread throughout Europe and America from 1800 to 1875, many gifted women also wrote poems that were set to music and became inspirational hymns. England had Francis Havergal; America had Fanny Crosby, and Sweden had Lina Sandell-Berg. England’s Catherine Winkworth translated many German hymns into English.

The names of these women appear in hymnals today, but their forerunner and the pioneer female hymn writer, Anne Steele, is relatively unknown. Anne was born in the village of Broughton, Hampshire, near the southern coast of England and lived there her entire life. She became interested in writing poetry at a young age, but she never had the desire to become a famous writer. She wrote only for her own enjoyment and personal devotions until her father William Steele, pastor of a Particular Baptist Church, began using her hymns in their church. Anne wasn’t willing to have her name before the public, but she finally consented to publication by using the pseudonym “Theodosia,” a Greek name meaning “God’s Gift.” Her works were published in 3 volumes and included 144 hymns, forty-eight Psalm settings and about 50 miscellaneous poems, prose and letters. It’s reported that she gave all her profits to charity.

Steele’s hymns became very popular during the 18th century’s “golden age of hymnody.” The Independents had Isaac Watts; the Methodists had Charles Wesley; the Evangelicals had William Cowper and John Newton, and the Baptists had Anne Steele. As Watts was known as the “father of English hymnody,” Steele was called the “mother of the English hymn.”

Hymns written in that day were usually sung to the few tunes familiar to the congregation; hymnbooks didn’t include music. Over time, hymnal editors and composers began to set the words to music. “Thou Source of True Delight” has used several tunes, but one common tune is “Rodmell,” which is based on a traditional English melody from “The English Hymnal with Tunes,” published in 1906.

“Thou Lovely Source of True Delight” is the expression of a woman of deep faith desiring to know more about Christ. The more that one has fellowship with the Saviour through prayer and reading the Word, the more the believer is compelled to love Him! The poet referred to the Lord in various ways in her writing:

Stanza 1 -  “Thou lovely source of true delight”

Stanza 2 -  “My bleeding, dying Lord”    

Stanza 5 -  “Jesus, my Lord, my life, my light.

Anne Steele’s hymns should be sung by congregations more than they are. They present a beautiful, simple expression of a believer’s experience, including the same doubts, suffering and fears that one faces. These rich hymns are easily understood and can be a blessing, even though they were written almost 3 centuries ago.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul (Psalm 94:19).

Thou lovely source of true delight,
Whom I unseen adore,
Unveil thy beauties to my sight,
That I may love thee more.
Thy glory o’er creation shines;
But in thy sacred word
I read, in fairer, brighter lines,
My bleeding, dying Lord.
’Tis here, whene’er my comforts droop,
And sins and sorrows rise,
Thy love, with cheerful beams of hope,
My fainting heart supplies.
But ah, too soon, the pleasing scene
Is clouded o’er with pain;
My gloomy fears rise dark between,
And I again complain.
Jesus, my Lord, my life, my light,
O come with blissful ray,
Break radiant through the shades of night,
And chase my fears away.
Then shall my soul with rapture trace
The wonders of thy love;
But the full glories of thy face
Are only known above.


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