You may have noticed that some versions of the hymns in our series of Desert Island Hymns are different from those that appear in our current Hymnbooks. I have attempted, where possible to quote the version nearest to that penned by the author. Many hymns have passed through a number of iterations, often to hone a more theological alignment with a particular denominations belief system.
Today’s hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, is my Desert Island Hymn choice, with it’s first verse often on my lips.
It is not unique for one of our hymns to be taken from a longer poem. But the 17 verse poem that gave us this hymn by John Greenleaf Whittier a Quaker Poet, is somewhat unusual. In the 1872 April edition of the Atlantic Monthly, his poem “The Brewing of Soma” first appeared. Whittier discovered that Soma was used as a sacred ritual drink in some ancient Indian religions, and used its alleged effects as a metaphor for evoking the sensual in some expressions of Christianity. He was thinking of music, incense, vigils and trances – all very far removed from the stillness and selflessness associated with the Quakerism he himself practised. Here are just two other verses for his poem.
“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!
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!
The poem ends with six verses that were that were adapted by Garrett Horder in his 1884 Congregational Hymns. In the United Kingdom, the hymn is usually sung to the tune "Repton" by Hubert Parry.
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.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
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
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
I wonder whether Greenleaf had 1 John 4:1-3 in mind when writing his poem. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”