Sunday, June 11, 2017

Eternal rest desired

The following, according to The Life and Work of William Augustus Muhlenberg by Anne Ayres, "is the authentic version entire and as last revised by [the author]."

I Would Not Live Alway (Eternal rest desired) Job vii. 16.

1. I would not live alway—live alway below!
Oh no, I'll not linger when bidden to go:
The days of our pilgrimage granted us here,
Are enough for life's woes, full enough for its cheer:
Would I shrink from the path which the prophets of God,
Apostles, and martyrs, so joyfully trod?
Like a spirit unblest, o'er the earth would I roam,
While brethren and friends are all hastening home?
2. I would not live alway: I ask not to stay,
Where storm after storm rises dark o'er the way;
Where seeking for rest we but hover around,
Like the patriarch's bird, and no resting is found; 
Where Hope when she paints her gay bow in the air,
Leaves its brilliance to fade in the night of despair,
And joy's fleeting angel ne'er sheds a glad ray,
Save the gleam of the plumage that bears him away.
3. I would not live alway—thus fettered by sin,
Temptation without and corruption within;
In a moment of strength if I sever the chain,
Scarce the victory's mine, ere I'm captive again;
E'en the rapture of pardon is mingled with fears,
And the cup of thanksgiving with penitent tears:
The festival trump calls for jubilant songs,
But my spirit her own miserere prolongs.
4. I would not live alway—no, welcome the tomb, 
Since Jesus hath lain there I dread not its gloom;
Where he deigned to sleep, I'll too bow my head,
All peaceful to slumber on that hallowed bed.
Then the glorious daybreak, to follow that night,
The orient gleam of the angels of light,
With their clarion call for the sleepers to rise
And chant forth their matins, away to the skies.
5. Who, who would live alway? away from his God,
Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode
Where the rivers of pleasure flow o'er the bright plains,
And the noontide of glory eternally reigns;
Where the saints of all ages, in harmony meet
Their Saviour and brethren, transported to greet,
While the songs of salvation exultingly roll
And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul.
6. That heavenly musick! what is it I hear?
The notes of the harpers ring sweet in mine ear!
And see, soft unfolding those portals of gold,
The King all arrayed in his beauty behold!
Oh give me, oh give me, the wings of a dove
To adore him—be near him—enrapt with his love;
I but wait for the summons, I list for the word—
Alleluia—Amen—evermore with the Lord.

Most hymn books have a shortened version.

1. I would not live alway: I ask not to stay
Where storm after storm rises dark o'er our way;
The few lurid mornings that dawn on us here
Are enough for life's woes, full enough for its cheer.
2. I would not live alway, thus fetter'd by sin,
Temptation without, and corruption within:
E'en the rapture of pardon is mingled with fears,
And the cup of salvation with penitent tears.
3. I would not live alway; no, welcome the tomb:
Since Jesus hath lain there, I dread not its gloom;
There sweet be my rest, till He bid me arise
To hail Him in triumph descending the skies.
4. Who, who would live alway, away from his God;
Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode?
Where the rivers of pleasure flow o'er the bright plains,
And the noontide of glory eternally reigns;
5. Where the saints of all ages in harmony meet,
Their Saviour and brethren, transported, to greet:
While the anthems of rapture unceasingly roll,
And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul.

Mühlenberg, William Augustus, an eminent Episcopal minister, was born in Philadelphia September 16, 1796, being the son of Rev. Frederick Muhlenberg, D.D., who was at first a Lutheran clergyman, but entered Congress and became Speaker of the House of Representatives in the first Congress; and was the grandson of Rev. Henry M. Muhlenberg, D.D., who was the revered patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America. He was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1814, and was ordained priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1820. Subsequently he established St. Paul's College at Flushing, Long Island. From 1846 to 1859 he was recter of the Church of the Holy Communion, in New York City. In 1855 he founded St. Luke's Hospital in New York City, and was its pastor and superintendent until his death. He also founded in 1865 St. Johnland, a home for the needy. Dr. Muhlenberg was one of the committee that edited Hymns Suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church, 1826. He died April 6, 1871. -- Hymn Writers of the Church

I would not live alway. Eternal rest desired. Four texts of this poem are extant: 1st the Original; 2nd the version given in the Prayer Book Collection, 1826; 3rd the author's revised version of 1859; and 4th his rewritten text of 1871, the second of these being that known to the hymnbooks. The history of the poem is somewhat complicated. We quote it here as given by us in the History of the American Episcopal Church, 1885, p.637, as we have nothing further to add thereto:-—
"The most famous of these (Dr. Mühlenberg's hymns) was probably first written. 'I will not live alway' has an intricate history, which was not simplified by the author's lapse of memory in his later years. In his brief ‘story of the hymn,' printed with its ‘evangelized’ text in 1871, every date is wrong by two or three years; and his assertion, ‘The legend that it was written on an occasion of private grief is a fancy,' hardly agrees with the clear and minute recollections of persons of the highest character, still living, and who knew the circumstances thoroughly. The date of composition assigned, 1824, is probably (not certainly) correct; it was written at Lancaster, in a lady's album, and began:—
I would not live alway; no, no, holy man, Not a day, not an hour, should lengthen my span.'
In this shape it seems to have had six eight-line stanzas. The album was still extant in 1876, at Pottstown, Pa., and professed to contain the original manuscript. Said the owner's sister, ‘It was au impromptu. He had no copy, and, wanting it for some occasion, he sent for the album.' In 1826 he entrusted his copy to a friend, who called on him on the way from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, to carry to the Episcopal Recorder, and in that paper it appeared June 3, 1826 (not 1824). For these facts we have the detailed statement of Dr. John B. Clemson, of Claymont, Del., the Ambassador mentioned, who also chances to have preserved that volume of the paper. Thus appearing (without name) it was adopted by the sub-committee [of the Prayer Book Collection, 1826]. When their report was presented to the entire committee in 1826—-not 1829, as Dr. Mühlenberg had it—-'each of the hymns was passed upon. When this came up one of the members remarked that it was very sweet and pretty, but rather sentimental, upon which it was unanimously thrown out. Not suspected as the author, I voted against myself. That, I supposed, was the end of it.’ The committee, which sat until late at night at the house of Bishop White, agreed upon their report to the Convention, and adjourned. But the next morning Dr. Onderdonk (who was not one of their number, but who, on invitation, had acted with the sub-committee, which in fact consisted of him and myself), called on me to inquire what had been done. Upon my telling him that among the rejected hymns was this one of mine, he said, 'That will never do,' and went about among the members of the committee soliciting them to restore the hymn in their report, which accordingly they did; so that to him is due the credit of giving it to the Church.' As thus adopted it was a small and altered selection from the original lines, made by Dr. Onderdonk ‘with some revision' by the author. He was never satisfied with these texts, but revised the poem in 1859, and re¬wrote it in 1871….The authorship of this, as of many another popular lyric, has been disputed. The claim of Henry Ward, a printer of Lichfield, Conn., has been vehemently urged, and revived but a few years ago. Of course it is unsupported by adequate evidence. When Dr. Mühlenberg was asked to assure ‘some of his brethren, editors of Church papers,' of his paternity, his manly reply was, ‘If they thought I was capable of letting the work of another pass for so many years as my own, they would not be sure of anything I might say.'" --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907), pp. 774ff

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