Henry Lyte (1793-1847) knew he was dying when he wrote this hymn. The words, "Fast falls the eventide" refer not to the close of day but to the evening of life.
For 25 years Lyte had been vicar of the Devonshire fishing village of Lower Brixham. However by the age of 54, his health had broken and he was preparing to leave for the south of France. His immortal hymn was written shortly before his departure from Lower Brixham after taking his final service. He died of consumption at Nice in southern France 3 weeks later. So this is a hymn about death, but also about faith.
At Lower Brixham, Henry Lyte helped educate Lord Salisbury, who would become British prime minister no less than 3 times.
The words are normally sung to the tune of "Eventide," composed by William H Monk in 1861 rather than Lyte's original music. "Eventide" was included in the compilation of "Hymns Ancient and Modern" (1859-1861), the most popular English hymnal ever published and still in common use in the Church of England. It was created to compile all the individual songs of the Anglican church of the 1st half of the 19th century and the second edition was edited by William H Monk.
This hymn was one of the songs repeatedly played by the seven musicians performing on the Titanic as the ship went down. No member of the band survived.
This was sung at the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. It is also sung at the annual Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand. Since 1927 it has been sung just before the start at the English FA Cup Final.
Suggestion credit: Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above
"Abide With Me" provided much comfort to Edith Cavell (1865-1915), the British World War 1 nurse, who was imprisoned and condemned to death by the Germans for helping wounded soldiers to escape. Permission was given for the English chaplain, Stirling Graham, to visit her in her cell the night before she was to be shot and together they recited the words of this hymn.
Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sande performed the song during the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. Her version reached #44 on the UK singles chart in the week after the event. She said: "I researched how the song was written and how much it meant to people, so that made me even more nervous about getting the lyrics right. It was Gandhi's favorite song." (Source Q magazine)