Posted by: rcottrill | April 1, 2010

Today in 1872 – The Brewing of Soma published

It is not unique for one of our hymns to be taken from a longer poem. But the poem that gave us one by John Greenleaf Whittier is somewhat unusual. In the April edition of the Atlantic Monthly his poem The Brewing of Soma first appeared. It describes how some heathen priests brewed and drank a powerful drug called Soma, in an attempt to have a religious experience and connect with their god.

“Drink, mortals, what the gods have sent,
Forget you long annoy.”
So sang the priests, From tent to tent
The Soma’s sacred madness went,
A storm of drunken joy.

But then, lest his readers begin to look down their noses at such folly, Whittier makes an application to the religious extremists of his day. His words have relevance still, for those who would try to manipulate and stir up emotion in the name of worshiping God! (A “fane” is a temple or house of worship.)

And yet the past comes round again,
And new doth old fulfil;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
The heathen Soma still!

Then come the words that have become our hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. It is a call to sanity and spiritual maturity in worship.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
Thy beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the hearts of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be numb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

(For a bit more about John Whittier and another of his hymns, see Today in 1892.)

(2) Today in 1893 – Of All in Earth or Heaven published
Nathan Atkinson Aldersley was a Methodist preacher for a time, joining the Salvation Army in his early fifties. Aldersley also sold earthenware to help pay the bills. He moved to New Zealand in 1884, living in Christchurch and Wellington. Though he became largely housebound due to severe arthritis, he continued to be a blessing to others through songs he wrote that appeared in the Army’s War Cry magazine. An example is Of All in Earth or Heaven, a simple little song appearing in the April 1st, 1893 issue. It is sung to the tune of the old Scottish ballad Annie Laurie.

Of all in earth or heaven,
The dearest name to me,
Is the matchless name of Jesus,
The Christ of Calvary.

The Christ of Calvary,
The dearest name to me,
Is the matchless name of Jesus,
The Christ of Calvary.

I cannot help but love Him,
And tell His love to me;
For He became my ransom,
The Christ of Calvary.

(3) O Say But I’m Glad (Data Missing)
The words for this joyful gospel song were written around 1930, by an American clergyman named James P. Sullivan.  He was born in Nebraska, around 1878, and his daughter Mildred Ellen Sullivan, born about 1916, composed the tune for the song. There is little more data available concerning either of them.

As the psalmist says, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1). And “Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises” (Ps. 98:4). If anyone has cause to sing joyful songs, it’s the saints of God–especially on this side of the cross. “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11).

There is a song in my heart today,
Something I never had;
Jesus has taken my sins away,
O! say, but I’m glad.

O! say, but I’m glad, I’m glad,
O! say, but I’m glad,
Jesus has come and my cup’s overrun;
O! say, but I’m glad.

Wonderful, marvelous love He brings,
Into a heart that’s sad;
Through darkest tunnels the soul just sings,
O! say, but I’m glad.

Won’t you come to Him with all your care,
Weary and worn and sad?
You, too, will sing as His love you share,
O! say, but I’m glad.


  1. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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