The translation of the title is, ‘Your heavenly Father feeds them’, and maybe it is no surprise that Robert Hawker was a clergyman. he was born in 1803 in Plymouth and was a Cornishman through and through. He is not well-known at all, and yet his famous song The Song of the Western Men, with its well-known line ‘And shall Trelawny die? / Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men / will know the reason why!’ is almost a Cornish anthem. He was only twenty-two when he wrote it and he went on to write many more poems.
In his time he was well-known for burying drowned seamen, if he hadn’t they may have just been left for the sea to take them again or be given an unmarked burial on the beach. He also introduced the idea of harvest thanksgiving, which is such an important festival in the church today.
Pater Vester Pascit Illa
Our bark is on the waters! wide around
The wandering wave; above, the lonely sky:
Hush! a young sea-bird floats, and that quick cry
Shrieks to the levelled weapon’s echoing sound:
Grasp its lank wing, and on, with reckless bound!
Yet, creature of the surf, a sheltering breast
To-night shall haunt in vain thy far-off nest,
A call unanswered search the rocky ground.
Lord of Leviathan! when Ocean heard
Thy gathering voice, and sought his native breeze;
When whales first plunged with life, and the proud deep
Felt unborn tempests heave in troubled sleep,
Thou didst provide, even for this nameless bird,
Home and a natural love amid the surging seas.
Robert Stephen Hawker