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I am interested in the oldest Anglican hymns that are still in use either in the 1940 or the 1982 Episcopal hymnals.

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    – agarza
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 22:54
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    I must observe that the world-wide Anglican church uses other hymnals than the ones you are citing, which makes the question ambiguous. I myself grew up on the "English Hymnal", which includes mediaeval hymns. "O come all ye faithful" is a translation of ADESTE FIDELES. Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 19:50
  • I cannot find the 1942 Episcopal hymnal, I think you meant 1940. Availability is also confirmed by Wikipedia list. Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 4:56
  • There are several metric psalms such as O God our help in Ages Past and The Lord's My Shepherd. Would they count?
    – davidlol
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 8:10

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I'll get us started. The hymn called "Saint Patrick's Breastplate" ("I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity") was written in 1889, not that long ago, but the lyrics are based on an 11th Century prayer.

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I don't have access to the books requested, so this answer is necessarily more general. It's also unclear whether the question asks for hymns that were written by Anglicans (and so must be post-1540) or for hymns which are more ancient and still in use by Anglicans.

A hymn which satisfies both criteria is All people that on earth do dwell, which is probably by William Kethe and was published in Day's Psalter of 1560–61. There may be other translations from that psalter still in use, too.

Hymns which are original and not a translation are likely to have been composed as poetry. One such is Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begin by John Donne (1573–1631); another is You that have spent the silent night by George Gascoigne (c.1525–77) and of course works by George Herbert (1593–1633).

Hymns which are more ancient are likely not to have been written originally in English, but translations could still be in use. Probably the most ancient hymn is Φως ίλαρόν, Phos hilaron, which was quoted by St Basil (d. 379) as being of unknown authorship and date. It's still in use in Keble's translation Hail gladdening light and Robert Bridge's translation O gladsome light, O grace.

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