From whence doth this union arise,
"The Puritans took their pleasures seriously," and this did not cease to be true till at least two hundred years after the Pilgrims landed or Boston was founded.
Time, that covered the ghastly faces on the old grave-stones with moss, gradually stole away the unction of minor-tune singing.
The songs of the great revival of 1740 swept the country with positive rather than negative music. Even Jonathan Edwards admitted the need of better psalm-books and better psalmody.
Edwards, during his life, spent some time among the Indians as a missionary teacher; but probably neither he nor David Brainerd ever saw a Christian hymn composed by an Indian. The following, from the early years of the last century, is apparently the first, certainly the only surviving, effort of a converted but half-educated red man to utter his thoughts in pious metre. Whoever trimmed the original words and measure into printable shape evidently took care to preserve the broken English of the simple convert. It is an interesting relic of the Christian thought and sentiment of a pagan just learning to prattle prayer and praise:
In de dark wood, no Indian nigh,
God send Him angel take me care;
So me lub God wid inside heart;
When me be old, me head be gray,
Few days, den God will come to me,
The above hymn, which may be found in different forms in old New England tracts and hymn-books, and which used to be sung in Methodist conference and prayer-meetings in the same way that old slave-hymns and the "Jubilee Singers" refrains are sometimes sung now, was composed by William Apes, a converted Indian, who was born in Massachusetts, in 1798. His father was a white man, but married an Indian descended from the family of King Philip, the Indian warrior, and the last of the Indian chiefs. His grandmother was the king's granddaughter, as he claimed, and was famous for her personal beauty. He caused his autobiography and religious experience to be published. The original hymn is quite long, and contains some singular and characteristic expressions.
The authorship of the tune to which the words were sung has been claimed for Samuel Cowdell, a schoolmaster of Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, 1820, but the date of the lost tune was probably much earlier.
In the early days of New England, before the Indian missions had been brought to an end by the sweeping away of the tribes, several fine hymns were composed by educated Indians, and were used in the churches. The best known is that beginning --
When shall we all meet again?
It was composed by three Indians at the planting of a memorial pine on leaving Dartmouth College, where they had been studying. The lines indicate an expectation of missionary life and work.
When shall we all meet again?
Though in distant lands we sigh,
When these burnished locks are gray,
When the dreams of life are fled,
This parting piece was sung in religious meetings as a hymn, like the other once so common, but later, --
"When shall we meet again,
-- to a tune in B flat minor, excessively plaintive, and likely to sadden an emotional singer or hearer to tears. The full harmony is found in the American Vocalist, and the air is reprinted in the Revivalist (1868). The fact that minor music is the natural Indian tone in song makes it probable that the melody is as ancient as the hymn -- though no date is given for either.
Tradition says that nearly fifty years later the same three Indians were providentially drawn to the spot where they parted, and met again, and while they were together composed and sang another ode. Truth to tell, however, it had only one note of gladness, and that was in the first stanza:
Parted many a toil-spent year,
The remaining three stanzas dwell principally on the ravages time has made. The reunion ode of those stoical college classmates of a stoical race could have been sung in the same B flat minor.
"AWAKED BY SINAI'S AWFUL SOUND."
The name of the Indian, Samson Occum, who wrote this hymn (variously spelt Ockom, Ockum, Occam, Occom) is not borne by any public institution, but New England owes the foundation of Dartmouth College to his hard work. Dartmouth College was originally "Moore's Indian Charity School," organized (1750) in Lebanon, Ct., by Rev. Eleazer Wheelock and endowed (1755) by Joshua Moore (or More). Good men and women who had at heart the spiritual welfare of a fading race contributed to the school's support and young Indians resorted to it from both New England and the Middle States, but funds were insufficient, and it was foreseen that the charity must inevitably outgrow its missionary purpose and if continued at all must depend on a wider and more liberal patronage.
Samson Occum was born in Mohegan, New London Co., Ct., probably in the year 1722. Converted from paganism in 1740 (possibly under the preaching of Whitefield, who was in this country at that time) he desired to become a missionary to his people, and entered Eleazer Wheelock's school. After four years study, then a young man of twenty-two, he began to teach and preach among the Montauk Indians, and in 1759 the Presbytery of Suffolk Co., L.I., ordained him to the ministry. A benevolent society in Scotland, hearing of, his ability and zeal, gave him an appointment, under its auspices, among the Oneidas in 1761, where he labored four years. The interests of the school at Lebanon, where he had been educated, were dear to him, and he was tireless in its cause, procuring pupils for it, and working eloquently as its advocate with voice and pen. In 1765 he crossed the Atlantic to solicit funds for the Indian school, and remained four years in England and Scotland, lecturing in its behalf, and preaching nearly four hundred sermons. As a result he raised ten thousand pounds. The donation was put in charge of a Board of Trustees of which Lord Dartmouth was chairman. When it was decided to remove the school from Lebanon, Ct., the efforts of Governor Wentworth, of New Hampshire, secured its location at Hanover in that state. It was christened after Lord Dartmouth -- and the names of Occum, Moore and Wheelock retired into the encyclopedias.
The Rev. Samson Occum died in 1779, while laboring among the Stockbridge (N.Y.) Indians. Several hymns were written by this remarkable man, and also "An Account of the Customs and Manners of the Montauks." The hymn, "Awaked by Sinai's Awful Sound," set to the stentorian tune of "Ganges," was a tremendous sermon in itself to old-time congregations, and is probably as indicative of the doctrines which converted its writer as of the contemporary belief prominent in choir and pulpit.
Awaked by Sinai's awful sound,
When to the law I trembling fled,
* * * * *
But while I thus in anguish lay,
The rugged original has been so often and so variously altered and "toned down," that only a few unusually accurate aged memories can recall it. The hymn began going out of use fifty years ago, and is now seldom seen.
The name "S. Chandler," attached to "Ganges," leaves the identity of the composer in shadow. It is supposed he was born in 1760. The tune appeared about 1790.
"WHERE NOW ARE THE HEBREW CHILDREN?"
This quaint old unison, repeating the above three times, followed by the answer (thrice repeated) and climaxed with --
Safely in the Promised Land,
-- was a favorite at ancient camp-meetings, and a good leader could keep it going in a congregation or a happy group of vocalists, improvising a new start-line after every stop until his memory or invention gave out.
They went up from the fiery furnace,
Sometimes it was --
Where now is the good Elijah?
-- and, --
He went up in a chariot of fire;
-- and again, --
Where now is the good old Daniel?
He went up from the den of lions;
-- and so on, finally announcing --
By and by we'll go home for to meet him, [three times] Safely in the Promised Land.
The enthusiasm excited by the swinging rhythm of the tune sometimes rose to a passionate pitch, and it was seldom used in the more controlled religious assemblies. If any attempt was ever made to print the song the singers had little need to read the music. Like the ancient runes, it came into being by spontaneous generation, and lived in phonetic tradition.
[Footnote 22: Mr. Hubert P. Main believes he once saw "The Hebrew Children" in print in one of Horace Waters' editions of the Sabbath Bell.]
A strange, wild paean of exultant song was one often heard from Peter Cartwright, the muscular circuit-preacher. A remembered fragment shows its quality:
Then my soul mounted higher
There is a tradition that he sang it over a stalwart blacksmith while chastising him for an ungodly defiance and assault in the course of one of his gospel journeys -- and that the defeated blacksmith became his friend and follower.
Peter Cartwright was born in Amherst county, Va., Sept.1, 1785, and died near Pleasant Plains, Sangamon county, Ill., Sept., 1872.
"THE EDEN OF LOVE."
This song, written early in the last century, by John J. Hicks, recalls the name of the eccentric traveling evangelist, Lorenzo Dow, born in Coventry, Ct., October 16, 1777; died in Washington, D.C., Feb.2, 1834. It was the favorite hymn of his wife, the beloved Peggy Dow, and has furnished the key-word of more than one devotional rhyme that has uplifted the toiling souls of rural evangelists and their greenwood congregations:
How sweet to reflect on the joys that await me
The words and tune were printed in Leavitt's Christian Lyre, 1830.
The same strain in the same metre is continued in the hymn of Rev. Wm. Hunter, D.D., (1842) printed in his Minstrel of Zion (1845). J.W. Dadmun's Melodian (1860) copied it, retaining, apparently, the original music, with an added refrain of invitation, "Will you go? will you go?"
We are bound for the land of the pure and the holy, The home of the happy, the kingdom of love;
The old hymn-tune has a brisk out-door delivery, and is full of revival fervor and the ozone of the pines.
"O CANA-AN, BRIGHT CANA-AN"
Was one of the stimulating melodies of the old-time awakenings, which were simply airs, and were sung unisonously. "O Cana-an" (pronounced in three syllables) was the chorus, the hymn-lines being either improvised or picked up miscellaneously from memory, the interline, "I am bound for the land of Cana-an," occurring between every two. John Wesley's "How happy is the pilgrim's lot" was one of the snatched stanzas swept into the current of the song. An example of the tune-leader's improvisations to keep the hymn going was --
If you get there before I do, --
And then hymn and tune took possession of the assembly and rolled on in a circle with --
O Cana-an, bright Cana-an!
-- till the voices came back to another starting-line and began again. There was always a movement to the front when that tune was sung, and -- with all due abatement for superficial results in the sensation of the moment -- it is undeniable that many souls were truly born into the kingdom of God under the sound of that rude woodland song.
Both its words and music are credited to Rev. John Maffit, who probably wrote the piece about 1829.
"A CHARGE TO KEEP I HAVE."
This hymn of Charles Wesley was often heard at the camp grounds, from the rows of tents in the morning while the good women prepared their pancakes and coffee, and
was invariably old "Kentucky," by Jeremiah Ingalls. Sung as a solo by a sweet and spirited voice, it slightly resembled "Golden Hill," but oftener its halting bars invited a more drawling style of execution unworthy of a hymn that merits a tune like "St. Thomas."
Old "Kentucky" was not field music.
"CHRISTIANS, IF YOUR HEARTS ARE WARM."
Elder John Leland, born in Grafton, Mass., 1754, was not only a strenuous personality in the Baptist denomination, but was well known everywhere in New England, and, in fact, his preaching trip to Washington (1801) with the "Cheshire Cheese" made his fame national. He is spoken of as "the minister who wrote his own hymns" -- a peculiarity in which he imitated Watts and Doddridge. When some natural shrinking was manifest in converts of his winter revivals, under his rigid rule of immediate baptism, he wrote this hymn to fortify them:
Christians, if your hearts are warm,
He found use for the hymn, too, in rallying church-members who staid away from his meetings in bad weather. The "poetry" expressed what he wanted to say -- which, in his view, was sufficient apology for it. It was sung in revival meetings like others that he wrote, and a few hymnbooks now long obsolete contained it; but of Leland's hymns only one survives. Gray-headed men and women remember being sung to sleep by their mothers with that old-fashioned evening song to Amzi Chapin's tune --
The day is past and gone,
-- and with all its solemnity and other-worldness it is dear to recollection, and its five stanzas are lovingly hunted up in the few hymnals where it is found. Bradbury's "Braden," (Baptist Praise Book, 1873,) is one of its tunes.
[Footnote 23: Amzi Chapin has left, apparently, nothing more than the record of his birth, March 2, 1768, and the memory of his tune. It appeared as early as 1805.]
Elder Leland was a remarkable revival preacher, and his prayers -- as was said of Elder Jabez Swan's fifty or sixty years later -- "brought heaven and earth together." He traveled through the Eastern States as an evangelist, and spent a season in Virginia in the same work. In 1801 he revisited that region on a curious errand. The farmers of Cheshire, Mass., where Leland was then a settled pastor, conceived the plan of sending "the biggest cheese in America" to President Jefferson, and Leland (who was a good democrat) offered to go to Washington on an ox-team with it, and "preach all the way" -- which he actually did.
The cheese weighed 1450 lbs.
Elder Leland died in North Adams, Mass., Jan.14, 1844. Another of his hymns, which deserved to live with his "Evening Song," seemed to be answered in the brightness of his death-bed hope:
O when shall I see Jesus
"AWAKE, MY SOUL, TO JOYFUL LAYS."
This glad hymn of Samuel Medley is his thanksgiving song, written soon after his conversion. In the places of rural worship no lay of Christian praise and gratitude was ever more heartily sung than this at the testimony meetings.
Awake, my soul, to joyful lays,
With its queer curvet in every second line, had no other name than "Loving-Kindness," and was probably a camp-meeting melody in use for some time before its publication. It is found in Leavitt's Christian Lyre as early as 1830. The name "William Caldwell" is all that is known of its composer, though he is supposed to have lived in Tennessee.
"THE LORD INTO HIS GARDEN COMES."
Was a common old-time piece sure to be heard at every religious rally, and every one present, saint and sinner, had it by heart, or at least the chorus of it --
Amen, amen, my soul replies,
The anonymous "Garden Hymn, as old, at least, as 1800," has nearly passed out of reach, except by the long arm of the antiquary; but it served its generation.
[Footnote 24: A "Rev." Mr. Campbell, author of "The Glorious Light of Zion," "There is a Holy City," and "There is a Land of Pleasure," has been sometimes credited with the origin of the Garden Hymn.]
Its vigorous tune is credited to Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1838).
The Lord into His garden comes;
"THE CHARIOT! THE CHARIOT!"
Henry Hart Milman, generally known as Dean Milman, was born in 1791, and was educated at Oxford. In 1821 he was installed as university professor of poetry at Oxford, and it was while filling this position that he wrote this celebrated hymn, under the title of "The Last Day." It is not only a hymn, but a poem -- a sublime ode that recalls, in a different movement, the tones of the "Dies Irae."
Dean Milman (of St Paul's), besides his many striking poems and learned historical works, wrote at least twelve hymns, among which are --
Ride on, ride on in majesty,
O help us Lord; each hour of need
When our heads are bowed with woe,
-- which last may have been written soon after he laid three of his children in one grave, in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey. He lived a laborious and useful life of seventy-seven years, dying Sept.24, 1868.
There were times in the old revivals when the silver clarion of the "Chariot Hymn" must needs replace the ruder blast of Occum in old "Ganges" and sinners unmoved by the invisible God of Horeb be made to behold Him -- in a vision of the "Last Day."
The Chariot! the Chariot! its wheels roll in fire
* * * * *
The Judgment! the Judgment! the thrones are all set, Where the Lamb and the white-vested elders are met; There all flesh is at once in the sight of the Lord, And the doom of eternity hangs on His word.
The name "Williams" or "J. Williams" is attached to various editions of the trumpet-like tune, but so far no guide book gives us location, date or sketch of the composer.
"COME, MY BRETHREN."
Another of the "unstudied" revival hymns of invitation.
Come, my brethren, let us try
What is this that casts you down.
This colloquial rhyme was apt to be started by some good brother or sister in one of the chilly pauses of a prayer-meeting. The air (there was never anything more to it) with a range of only a fifth, slurred the last syllable of every second line, giving the quaint effect of a bent note, and altogether the music was as homely as the verse. Both are anonymous. But the little chant sometimes served its purpose wonderfully well.
"BRETHREN, WHILE WE SOJOURN HERE."
This hymn was always welcome in the cottage meetings as well as in the larger greenwood assemblies. It was written by Rev. Joseph Swain, about 1783.
Brethren, while we sojourn here
The tune was sometimes "Pleyel's Hymn," but oftener it was sung to a melody now generally forgotten of much the same movement but slurred in peculiarly sweet and tender turns. The cadence of the last tune gave the refrain line a melting effect:
Child, your Father calls, "Come home."
Some of the spirit of this old tune (in the few hymnals where the hymn is now printed) is preserved in Geo. Kingsley's "Messiah" which accompanies the words, but the modulations are wanting.
Joseph Swain was born in Birmingham, Eng. in 1761. Bred among mechanics, he was early apprenticed to the engraver's trade, but he was a boy of poetic temperament and fond of writing verses. After the spiritual change which brought a new purpose into his life, he was baptized by Dr. Rippon and studied for the ministry. At the age of about twenty-five, he was settled over the Baptist church in Walworth, where he remained till his death, April 16, 1796.
For more than a century his hymns have lived and been loved in all the English-speaking world. Among those still in use are --
How sweet, how heavenly is the sight,
Pilgrims we are to Canaan bound,
O Thou in whose presence my soul takes delight.
O happy day that fixed my choice.
These were voices as sure to be heard in converts' meetings as the leader's prayer or text, the former sung inevitably to Rimbault's tune, "Happy Day," and the latter to a "Western Melody" quite as closely akin to Wesley's words.
Edward Francis Rimbault, born at Soho, Eng., June 13, 1816, was at sixteen years of age organist at the Soho Swiss Church, and became a skilled though not a prolific composer. He once received -- and declined -- the offer of an appointment as professor of music in Harvard College. Died of a lingering illness Sept, 26, 1876.
"COME, HOLY SPIRIT, HEAVENLY DOVE."
This was the immortal song-litany that fitted almost anywhere into every service. The Presbyterians and Congregationalists sang it in Tansur's "St. Martins," the Baptists in William Jones' "Stephens" and the Methodists in Maxim's "Turner" (which had the most music), but the hymn went about as well with one as with another.
The Rev. William Jones (1726-1800) an English rector, and Abraham Maxim of Buckfield, Me., (1773-1829) contributed quite a liberal share of the "continental" tunes popular in the latter part of the 18th century. Maxim was eccentric, but the tradition that an unfortunate affair of the heart once drove him into the woods to make away with himself, but a bird on the roof of a logger's hut, making plaintive sounds, interrupted him, and he sat down and wrote the tune "Hallowell," on a strip of white birch bark, is more likely legendary. The following words, said to have inspired his minor tune, are still set to it in the old collections:
As on some lonely building's top
[Footnote 25: Versified by Nahum Tate from Ps.102:7.]
Maxim was fond of the minor mode, but his minors, like "Hallowell," "New Durham," etc., are things of the past. His major chorals and fugues, such as "Portland," "Buckfield," and "Turner" had in them the spirit of healthier melody and longer life. He published at least two collections, The Oriental Harmony, in 1802, and The Northern Harmony, in 1805.
William Tansur (Tans-ur), author of "St. Martins" (1669-1783), was an organist, composer, compiler, and theoretical writer. He was born at Barnes, Surrey, Eng., (according to one account,) and died at St. Neot's.
"COME, THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING."
This hymn of Rev. Robert Robinson was almost always heard in the tune of "Nettleton," composed by John Wyeth, about 1812. The more wavy melody of "Sicily" (or "Sicilian Hymn") sometimes carried the verses, but never with the same sympathetic unction. The sing-song movement and accent of old "Nettleton" made it the country favorite.
Robert Robinson, born in Norfolk, Eng., Sept.27, 1735, was a poor boy, left fatherless at eight years of age, and apprenticed to a barber, but was converted by the preaching of Whitefield and studied till he obtained a good education, and was ordained to the Methodist ministry. He is supposed to have written his well-known hymn in 1758. A certain unsteadiness of mind, however, caused him to revise his religious beliefs too often for his spiritual health or enjoyment, and after preaching as a Methodist, a Baptist, and an Independent, he finally became a Socinian. On a stage-coach journey, when a lady fellow-passenger began singing "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," to relieve the monotony of the ride, he said to her, "Madam, I am the unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago; and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, if I could feel as I felt then."
Robinson died June 9, 1790.
John Wyeth was born in Cambridge, Mass., 1792, and died at Harrisburg, Pa., 1858. He was a musician and publisher, and issued a Music Book, Wyeth's Repository of Sacred Music.
"A POOR WAYFARING MAN OF GRIEF,"
Written by James Montgomery, Dec., 1826, was a hymn of tide and headway in George Coles' tune of "Duane St.," with a step that made every heart beat time. The four picturesque eight-line stanzas made a practical sermon in verse and song from Matt.25:35, telling how --
A poor wayfaring man of grief
-- and in the second and third stanzas the narrator relates how he entertained him, and this was the sequel --
Then in a moment to my view
When once that song was started, every tongue took it up, (and it was strange if every foot did not count the measure,) and the coldest kindled with gospel warmth as the story swept on.
[Footnote 26: Montgomery's poem, "The Stranger," has seven stanzas. The full dramatic effect of their connection could only be produced by a set piece.]
"WHEN FOR ETERNAL WORLDS I STEER."
It was no solitary experience for hearers in a house of prayer where the famous Elder Swan held the pulpit, to feel a climactic thrill at the sudden breaking out of the eccentric orator with this song in the very middle of his sermon --
When for eternal worlds I steer,
With cheerful hope her eyes explore
Elder Jabez Swan was born in Stonington, Ct., Feb.23, 1800, and died 1884. He was a tireless worker as a pastor (long in New London, Ct.,) and a still harder toiler in the field as an evangelist and as a helper eagerly called for in revivals; and, through all, he was as happy as a boy in vacation. He was unlearned in the technics of the schools, but always eloquent and armed with ready wit; unpolished, but poetical as a Hebrew prophet and as terrible in his treatment of sin. Scoffers and "hoodlums" who interrupted him in his meetings never interrupted him but once.
[Illustration: James Montgomery]
The more important and canonical hymnals and praise-books had no place for "Sonnet," as the bugle-like air to this hymn was called. Rev. Jonathan Aldrich, about 1860, harmonized it in his Sacred Lyre, but this, and the few other old vestry and field manuals that contain it, were compiled before it became the fashion to date and authenticate hymns and tunes. In this case both are anonymous. Another (and probably earlier) tune sung to the same words is credited to "S. Arnold," and appears to have been composed about 1790.
"I'M A PILGRIM, AND I'M A STRANGER."
This hymn still lives -- and is likely to live, at least in collections that print revival music. Mrs. Mary Stanley (Bunce) Dana, born in Beaufort, S.C., Feb.15, 1810, wrote it while living in a northern state, where her husband died. By the name Dana she is known in hymnology, though she afterwards became Mrs. Shindler. The tune identified with the hymn, "I'm a Pilgrim," is untraced, save that it is said to be an "Italian Air," and that its original title was "Buono Notte" (good night).
No other hymn better expresses the outreaching of ardent faith. Its very repetitions emphasize and sweeten the vision of longed-for fruition.
I can tarry, I can tarry but a night,
* * * * *
There the sunbeams are ever shining,
* * * * *
Of that country to which I'm going,
The same devout poetess also wrote (1840) the once popular consolatory hymn, --
O sing to me of heaven
-- sung to the familiar tune by Rev. E.W. Dunbar; also to a melody composed 1854 by Dr. William Miller.
The line was first written --
When I am called to die,
-- in the author's copy. The hymn (occasioned by the death of a pious friend) was written Jan.15, 1840.
Mrs. Dana (Shindler) died in Texas, Feb.8, 1883.
"JOYFULLY, JOYFULLY ONWARD I MOVE."
The maker of this hymn has been confounded with the maker of its tune -- partly, perhaps, from the fact that the real composer of the tune also wrote hymns. The author of the words was the Rev. William Hunter, D.D., an Irish-American, and a Methodist minister. He was born near Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ire., May, 1811, and was brought to America when a child six years old. He received his education in the common schools and at Madison College, Hamilton, N.Y., (now Madison University), and was successively a pastor, editor and Hebrew professor. Besides his work in these different callings, he wrote many helpful hymns -- in all one hundred and twenty-five -- of which "Joyfully, Joyfully," dated 1842, is the best. It began originally with the line --
Friends fondly cherished have passed on before,
-- and the line, --
Home to the land of delight I will go.
-- was written, --
Home to the land of bright spirits I'll go.
Dr. Hunter died in Ohio, 1877.
Rev. Abraham Dow Merrill, the author of the music to this triumphal death-song, was born in Salem, N.H., 1796, and died April 29, 1878. He also was a Methodist minister, and is still everywhere remembered by the denomination to which he belonged in New Hampshire and Vermont. He rode over these states mingling in revival scenes many years. His picture bears a close resemblance to that of Washington, and he was somewhat famous for this resemblance. His work was everywhere blessed, and he left an imperishable influence in New England. The tune, linked with Dr. Hunter's hymn, formed the favorite melody which has been the dying song of many who learned to sing it amid the old revival scenes:
Death, with thy weapons of war lay me low;
"TIS THE OLD SHIP OF ZION, HALLELUJAH!"
This may be found, vocalized with full harmony, in the American Vocalist. With all the parts together (more or less) it must have made a vociferous song-service, but the hymn was oftener sung simply in soprano unison; and there was sound enough in the single melody to satisfy the most zealous.
All her passengers will land on the bright eternal shore, O, glory hallelujah!
Both hymn and tune have lost their creators' names, and, like many another "voice crying in the wilderness," they have left no record of their beginning of days.
"MY BROTHER, I WISH YOU WELL."
My brother, I wish you well,
Echoes that remain to us of those fervid and affectionate, as well as resolute and vehement, expressions of religious life as sung in the early revivals of New England, in parts of the South, and especially in the Middle West, are suggestive of spontaneous melody forest-born, and as unconscious of scale, clef or tempo as the song of a bird. The above "hand-shaking" ditty at the altar gatherings apparently took its tune self-made, inspired in its first singer's soul by the feeling of the moment -- and the strain was so simple that the convert could join in at once and chant --
When my Lord comes I trust I shall
-- through all the loving rotations of the crude hymn-tune. Such song-births of spiritual enthusiasm are beyond enumeration -- and it is useless to hunt for author or composer. Under the momentum of a wrestling hour or a common rapture of experience, counterpoint was unthought of, and the same notes for every voice lifted pleading and praise in monophonic impromptu. The refrains --
O how I love Jesus,
O the Lamb, the Lamb, the loving Lamb,
I'm going home to die no more,
Pilgrims we are to Canaan's land,
O turn ye, O turn ye, for why will you die,
Come to Jesus, come to Jesus, just now,
-- each at the sound of its first syllable brought its own music to every singer's tongue, and all -- male and female -- were sopranos together. This habit in singing those rude liturgies of faith and fellowship was recognized by the editors of the Revivalist, and to a multitude of them space was given only for the printed melody, and of this sometimes only the three or four initial bars. The tunes were the church's rural field-tones that everybody knew.
Culture smiles at this unclassic hymnody of long ago, but its history should disarm criticism. To wanderers its quaint music and "pedestrian" verse were threshold call and door-way welcome into the church of the living God. Even in the flaming days of the Second Advent following, in 1842-3, they awoke in many hardened hearts the spiritual glow that never dies. The delusion passed away, but the grace remained.
The church -- and the world -- owe a long debt to the old evangelistic refrains that rang through the sixty years before the Civil War, some of them flavored with tuneful piety of a remoter time. They preached righteousness, and won souls that sermons could not reach. They opened heaven to thousands who are now rejoicing there.