Imágenes de páginas

peace of eternity. Everywhere in the song the note of heavenly hope interrupts the wail of disappointment, and the chorus returns to transport the soul from the land of emotional whirlwinds to unbroken rest.


Mr. Bradbury wrote an admirable tune to this hymn, though the one since composed by Mr. Stebbins has in some localities superseded it in popular favor. Skill in following the accent and unequal rhythms produces a melodious tonepoem, and completes the impression of Bonar's singular but sweet lyric of hope which suggests a chant-choral rather than a regular polyphonic harmony. W. A. Tarbutton and the young composer, Karl Harrington, have set the hymn to music, but the success of their work awaits the public test.



The words were written by Rev. John Atkinson, D.D., in January, 1867, soon after the death of his mother. He had been engaged in revival work and one night in his study, “that song, in substance, seemed,” he says, “to sing itself into my heart.” He said to himself, “I would better write it down, or I shall lose it.”

“There,” he adds, “in the silence of my study, and not far from midnight, I wrote the hymn.”

We shall meet beyond the river

By and by, by and by;
And the darkness will be over

By and by, by and by.
With the toilsome journey done,

And the glorious battle won,
We shall shine forth as the sun

By and by, by and by. The Rev. John Atkinson was born in Deerfield, N. J. Sept. 6, 1835. A clergyman of the Methodist denomination, he is well-known as one of its writers. The Centennial History of American Methodismis his work, and besides the above hymn, he has written and published The Garden of Sorrows, and The Living Way. He died Dec. 8, 1897.

The tune to “We Shall Meet,” by Hubert P. Main, composed in 1867, exactly translates the emotional hymn into music. S. J. Vail also wrote music to the words. The hymn, originally six eight-line stanzas, was condensed at his request to its present length and form by Fanny Crosby.


Phebe Cary, the author of this happy poem, was the younger of the two Cary sisters, Alice and Phebe, names pleasantly remembered in American literature. The praise of one reflects the praise of the other when we are told that Phebe possessed a loving and trustful soul, and her life was an honor to true womanhood and a blessing to the poor. She had to struggle with hardship and poverty in her early years: “I have cried in the street because I was poor,” she said in her prosperous years, “and the poor always seem nearer to me than the rich.”

When reputation came to her as a writer, she removed from her little country home near Cincinnati, O., where she was born, in 1824, and settled in New York City with her sister. She died at Newport, N.Y., July 31, 1871, and her hymn was sung at her funeral. Her remains rest in Greenwood Cemetery.

“One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” was written in 1852, during a visit to one of her friends. She wrote (to her friend's inquiry) years afterwards that it first saw the light“ in your own the little back third-story bedroom, one Sunday after coming from church.” It was a heart experience noted down without literary care or artistic effort, and in its original form was in too irregular measure to be sung. She set little value upon it as a poem, but when shown hesitatingly to inquiring compilers, its intrinsic worth was seen, and various revisions of it were made. The following is one of the best versions-stanzas one, two and three:

One sweetly solemn thought

Comes to me o'er and o'er,
I am nearer home to-day,

Than I ever have been before.

Nearer my Father's house,

Where the many mansions be,
Nearer the great white throne,

Nearer the crystal sea.

Nearer the bound of life,

Where we lay our burdens down,
Nearer leaving the cross

Nearer gaining the crown.

THE TUNE. The old revival tune of "Dunbar," with its chorus, “There'll be no more sorrow there,” has been sung to the hymn, but the tone-lyric of Philip Phillips, “Nearer Home,” has made the words its own, and the public are more familiar with it than with any other. It was this air that a young man in a drinking house in Macao, near Hong-Kong, began humming thoughtlessly while his companion was shuffling the cards for a new game. Both were Americans, the man with the cards more than twenty years the elder. Noticing the tune, he threw down the pack. Every word of the hymn had come back to him with the echo of the music.

“Harry, where did you learn that hymn ?”
“What hymn ?”
“Why the one you have been singing.”

The young man said he did not know what he had been singing. But when the older one repeated some of the lines, he said they were learned in the Sunday-school.

"Come, Harry,” said the older one," here's what I've won from you. As for me, as God sees me, I have played my last game, and drank my last bottle. I have misled you, Harry, and I am sorry for it. Give me your hand, my boy, and say that, for old America's sake, if for no other, you will quit this infernal business.”

Col. Russel H. Conwell, of Boston, (now Rev. Dr. Conwell of Philadelphia) who was then visiting China, and was an eye-witness of the scene, says that the reformation was a permanent one for both.



One day, in the year 1865, Mrs. Ellen M. H. Gates received a letter from Philip Phillips noting the passage in the Pilgrim's Progress which describes the joyful music of heaven when Christian and Hopeful enter on its shining shore beyond the river of death, and asking her to write a hymn in the spirit of the extract, as one of the numbers in his Singing Pilgrim. Mrs. Gates complied—and the sequel of the hymn she wrote is part of the modern song-history of the church. Mr. Phillips has related how, when he received it, he sat down with his little boy on his knee, read again the passage in Bunyan, then the poem again, and, turning to his organ, pencil in hand, pricked the notes of the melody. “The Home of the Soul,"” he says, “seems to have had God's blessing from the beginning, and has been a comfort to many a bereaved soul. Like many loved hymns, it has had a peculiar history, for its simple melody has Aowed from the lips of High Churchmen, and has

« AnteriorContinuar »