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sought to make itself heard above the din of Salvation Army cymbals and drums. It has been sung in prisons and in jailyards, while the poor convict was waiting to be launched into eternity, and on hundreds of funeral occasions. One man writes me that he has led the singing of it at one hundred and twenty funerals. It was sung at my dear boy's funeral, who sat on my knee when I wrote it. It is my prayer that God may continue its solace and comfort. I have books containing the song now printed in seven different languages.”
A writer in the Golden Rule (now the Christian Endeavor World) calls attention to an incident on a night railroad train narrated in the late Benjamin F. Taylor's World on Wheels, in which “this hymn appears as a sort of Traveller's Psalm.” Among the motley collection of passengers, some talkative, some sleepy, some homesick and cross, all tired, sat two plain women who, “would make capital country aunts.... If they were mothers at all they were good ones.” Suddenly in a dull silence, near twelve o'clock, a voice, sweet and flexible, struck up a tune. The singer was one of those women. “She sang on, one after another the good Methodist and Baptist melodies of long ago," and the growing interest of the passengers became chained attention when she began
"I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far-away home of the soul,
While the years of eternity roll.
O, that home of the soul, in my visions and dreams
Its bright jasper walls I can see;
Between the fair city and me." “The car was a wakeful hush long before she had ended; it was as if a beautiful spirit were floating through the air. None that heard will ever forget. Philip Phillips can never bring that 'home of the soul' any nearer to anybody. And never, I think, was quite so sweet a voice lifted in a storm
In an autograph copy of her hymn, sent to the editor, Mrs. Gates changes “harps” to “palms." Is it an improvement ? "Palms" is a word of two meanings.
O how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
To meet one another again.
“THERE'S A LAND THAT IS FAIRER THAN DAY”
This belongs rather with “Christian Ballads" than with genuine hymns, but the song has had and still has an uplifting mission among the lowly whom literary perfection and musical nicety could not touch-and the first two lines, at least, are good hymn-writing. Few of the best sacred lyrics have been sung with purer sentiment and more affectionate fervor than “The Sweet By-and-By." To any company keyed to sympathy by time, place, and condition, the feeling of the song brings unshed tears.
As nearly as can be ascertained it was in the year 1867 that a man about forty-eight years old, named Webster, entered the office of Dr. Bennett in Elkhorn, Wis., wearing a melancholy look, and was rallied good-naturedly by the doctor for being so blue-Webster and Bennett were friends, and the doctor was familiar with the other's frequent fits of gloom.
The two men had been working in a sort of partnership, Webster being a musician and Bennett a ready verse-writer, and together they had created and published a number of sheet-music songs. When Webster was in a fit of melancholy, it was the doctor's habit to give him a “dose” of new verses and cure him by putting him to work. Today the treatment turned out to be historic.
"What's the matter now," was the doctor's greeting when his “patient" came with the tell-tale face.
“O, nothing,” said Webster. "It'll be all right by and by.”
“Why not make a song of the sweet by and by?” rejoined the doctor, cheerfully.
"I don't know,” said Webster, after thinking a second or two. “If you'll make the words, I'll write the music.”
The doctor went to his desk, and in a short time produced three stanzas and a chorus to which his friend soon set the notes of a lilting air, brightening up with enthusiasm as he wrote. Seizing his violin, which he had with him, he played the melody, and in a few minutes more he had filled in the counterpoint and made a complete hymn-tune. By that time two other friends, who could sing, had come in and the quartette tested the music on the spot. Here different accounts divide widely as to the immediate sequel of the new-born song.
A Western paper in telling its story a year or two ago, stated that Webster took the "Sweet By and By”in sheet-music form), with a batch of other pieces, to Chicago, and that it was the only song of the lot that Root and Cady would not buy; and finally, after he had tried in vain to sell it, Lyon and Healy took it "out of pity,” and paid him twenty dollars. They sold eight or ten copies (the story continued) and stowed it away with dead goods, and it was not till apparently a long time after, when a Sunday-school hymn-book reprinted it, and began to sell rapidly on its account, that the “Sweet By and By” started on its career round the world.
This seems circumstantialenough, and the author of the hymn in his own story of it might have chosen to omit some early particulars, but, untrustworthy as the chronology of mere memory is, he would hardly record immediate popularity of a song that lay in obscurity for years. Dr. Bennett's words are, “I think it was used in public shortly after [its production), for within two weeks children on the street were singing it."
The explanation may be partly the different method and order of the statements, partly lapses of memory (after thirty years) and partly in collateral facts. The Sunday-school hymn-book was evidently The Signet Ring, which Bennett and Webster were at work upon and into which first went the "Sweet By and By”—whatever efforts may have been made to dispose of it elsewhere or whatever copyright arrangement could have warranted Mr. Healy in purchasing a song already printed. The Signet Ring did not begin to profit by the song until the next year, after a copy of it appeared in the publishers' circulars, and started a demand; so that the immediate popularity implied in Doctor Bennett's account was limited to the children of Elkhorn village.
The piece had its run, but with no exceptional result as to its hold on the public, until in 1873 Ira D. Sankey took it up as one of his working hymns. Modified from its first form in the “Signet Ring" with pianoforte accompaniment and chorus, it appeared that year in Winnowed Hymns as arranged by Hubert P. Main, and it has so been sung ever since.
Sanford Filmore Bennett, born in 1836, appears to have been a native of the West, or, at least, removed there when a young man. In 1861 he settled in Elkhorn to practice his profession. Died Oct., 1898.
Joseph Philbrick Webster was born in Manchester, N.H. March 22, 1819. He was an active