Posted by: rcottrill | August 3, 2010

Today in 1858 – Maltbie Babcock Born

Maltbie Davenport Babcock belonged to a socially prominent family in Syracuse, New York. After graduating from university there, he took seminary training and became a Presbyterian pastor in Lockport. Later, serving a church in Baltimore, he became so popular with the students at Johns Hopkins University that the school set aside a room for his use, where he could meet with them. In his own college days, Babcock was involved in both music and athletics (baseball and swimming). Even as a pastor he tried to stay fit. Sadly, Pastor Babcock died of a bacterial infection at the age of 43, while on a trip to the Holy Land.

Babcock had definite gifts as a poet. Consider these beautiful and insightful lines:

Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
And back of the flour the mill;
And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower,
And the sun and the Father’s will.

In Lockport, when heading out for his daily jogs, he used to say, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” It was that phrase that the pastor turned into a poem. From its 16 stanzas, 3 have been used for the familiar hymn, This Is My Father’s World. (For a bit about the composer of the tune, see the second item under Today in 1838.)

Graphic Nature SceneDeceptively simple, the hymn is carefully structured and beautifully written. The second stanza makes use of a figure of speech with the tongue-twister name onomatopoeia–which refers to using words that produce the sound being described. We can hear the hissing whisper of grass in the wind, with the repeated “s” in the line, “In the rustling grass I hear Him pass.”

The concluding stanza turns our attention from nature to the imperfections of the moral world, and to God’s final triumph over evil.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.

(2) Risen! (Data Missing)
Here is a little resurrection hymn, first published in 1903. To hear William H. Doane’s tune for Risen! check the Cyber Hymnal.

See, the seal is rudely broken!
Lo! the stone is rolled away!
Kept is every sign and token,
He is risen, angels say.

Lo, the tomb is standing open
And the Marys weeping near,
Angel tones within are spoken,
He is risen, do not fear!

Hark! the joyful tidings ringeth!
Christ hath triumphed o’er the grave!
Joy to all His followers bringeth,
Christ hath risen!—lives to save!


  1. […] Sheppard became president of the Presbyterian Board of Publication. In 1911, he served on the committee that produced the Presbyterian Hymnal, and in 1915, he edited the denomination’s song book, Alleluia. We know him in hymn history today chiefly for the hymn tune Terra Beata, to which we sing the hymn This Is My Father’s World. (For more on the writing of this song, see Today in 1858.) […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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