Guest poem sent in by Suresh Ramasubramanian
(Poem #806) Nearer, my God, to Thee
Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee! E'en though it be a cross That raiseth me; Still all my song would be, Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee! Though like the wanderer, The sun gone down, Darkness be over me, My rest alone. Yet in my dreams I'd be Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee! There let the way appear Steps unto heav'n; All that Thou sendest me In mercy giv'n; Angels to beckon me Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee! Bright with Thy praise, Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise; So by my woes to be Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee! Or if on joyful wing, Cleaving the sky, Sun, moon, and stars forgot, Upwards I fly, Still all my song shall be, Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!
(1841) Sarah Flower was born in Harlow, Essex, was an actress (playing Lady Macbeth in the 1837), a dramatic poet (who wrote "Vivia Perpetua" - about a Christian martyr - in 1841). More to the point, she was a Unitarian hymn writer. She was one of the earliest feminists. When she married William Bridges Adams in 1834, she insisted on a "no housekeeping" pact with him. She was a close friend of Shelley, and continued with the increasingly unfashionable ideals of romantic poetry (especially as this was the era when gritty realism, as seen in Dickens and Carlyle, was becoming more popular) She was particularly associated the influential but eccentric, and eventually forgotten school of poets satirized by William Aytoun as "Spasmodics". The first poem I thought of when I read this hymn was William Ernest Henley's "Invictus". And then Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night". Sheer guts in Invictus, bitter and dogged resistance in "Do not go gentle ...", compared with absolute faith in God in this hymn. "Do not go gentle..." in particular, stands out in stark contrast to this poem, with its last, angry stanza - And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Now for a little more, rather interesting, trivia :) "Nearer, my God, to Thee" is supposed to have been the hymn the band on the RMS Titanic played when it sank after hitting an iceberg on 14 April 1912. Wallace Hartley, the bandleader of the Titanic, an employee of the White Star Line, who, like all the musicians on board, went down with the ship, was reportedly particularly fond of this hymn, and wished it to be performed at his funeral. There is, however, a controversy about whether "Nearer, my God ..." was even played on the Titanic that night. The other contenders for "last song" are Songe d'Automne (a waltz by Archibald Joyce) and the episcopalian hymn Autumn. Even among the adherents to the "Nearer, my God .." theory, there's another (national and denominational) schism. Protestant Americans are familiar with the tune (known as "Bethany" written by Lowell Mason, and this is the tune played both in James Cameron's recent turkey er...umm... hit movie, and the 1953 Eugene Negulesco movie "Titanic", which was the first Hollywood movie on the Titanic. However, Wallace Hartley was an Englishman, and would doubtless have preferred (and been much more familiar with) the British tune (called "Horbury"), which was composed by the venerable John B Dykes, an Episcopalian clergyman. For what it's worth, British director Roy Baker's 1958 Titanic movie, "A Night to Remember" plays Horbury :) The Methodists prefer another tune altogether, "Propior Deo", written by Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan). I doubt if any movie has been made featuring this tune though :) However, shipboard services were nominally Church of England, and Hartley, the bandleader, was brought up a methodist (and this was the tune his father, a choirmaster, used at church for over thirty years). So "Propior Deo" is just as likely as the other two. Confusion worse confounded, Sir Arthur Sullivan has _another_ tune for this grand hymn, which apparently goes under the name "St.Edmund". A lot of this has been filched from several pages, but mostly summarized from the excellent article at [broken link] http://www.beanpaste.com/bsg/nearer.html which includes links to MIDI files of all the contenders to the Titanic's swan song. -suresh Biography: Sarah Flower was born in Harlow, Essex, and married William Bridges Adams in 1834. Harold William Stephenson wrote a biography of this actress--Lady Macbeth, 1837--dramatic poet (Vivia Perpetua, 1841) and Unitarian hymn writer in The Author of Nearer my God to Thee in 1922. "Nearer my God to Thee" was one of thirteen hymns published by William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) in his Hymns and Anthems in 1841. They were originally sung in services at his South Place Chapel. -- http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/adamssf.html#notes