O Sanctissima

O Sanctissima. This is a hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, of uncertain date and origin. It is believed to have been sung by Sicilian fishermen at the end of each day. The first known printing seems to have been in a London periodical, The European Magazine (1792) as part of a series whimsically called ‘Drossiana’ contributed by the anecdotist William Seward (1747-1799), a benevolent but odd member of the literary circle around Dr Samuel Johnson, whose epitaph he helped to compose. The original circumstances of the hymn, which Seward may have heard in his travels in Italy, gave rise to the name of the tune, SICILIAN MARINERS. The four stanzas are a plea to the Blessed Virgin Mary, described...

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